Newspaper article China Post

A Lifetime Love Affair Leaves Crowd after Crowd Laughing Long and Loud

Newspaper article China Post

A Lifetime Love Affair Leaves Crowd after Crowd Laughing Long and Loud

Article excerpt

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TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The stage wasn't especially big. The lighting was simple. There were hardly any props or stage scenery. The actors? They were just wearing T-shirts and jeans. Yet the audience howled with laughter, fully engaged in the show and apparently unfazed by the low-budget production values. O-ya took to the stage to lead his troupe for a two-hour performance using only props and ideas supplied by the audience. They acted out storylines that had not existed until that moment.

Working as a full-time speaker on communication skills and human relations during the day, O-ya becomes quite the comedian at night. Fulfilling his dreams by doing his favorite thing - making people laugh - O-ya fills his leisure time with practicing improv in acting clubs, teaching at community colleges and coaching stress-relief workshops. "I've always been a big fan of comedy," O-ya said, "especially improv comedy. It just captivated me."

Though many people in Taiwan are unfamiliar with the improv theater format, O-ya was fascinated by the challenges and chemistry that it produces. According to O-ya, improv, short for improvisation, was initially used as a warmup exercise for actors to help them hone their abilities before they appeared on stage. It was not intended to become its own form of performance.

Influenced by the innovator of improv theater, Viola Spoling, O-ya began studying and creating his own improv formats in Taiwan, and then teaching them at community colleges. "I would open stress-relief classes and just have people play improv games that I had learned or created," he said. The group grew, developing into a more structured club, and eventually became the NG Improv Club ([...]), which now holds regular performances.

"Rather than simply acting out scripts, I like how improv performances are so fast-paced and unpredictable. No two shows are ever the same," he explained.

Indeed, their performances often require audiences to supply props, lines, plots and roles for them to act out. For example, in a recent performance O-ya used an umbrella given to him by an audience member to portray the character of Captain Hook from "Peter Pan." "It's a major challenge for the actors, but it's also a lot of fun," O-ya said with a laugh.

The Long and Difficult Road

Ever since elementary school, O-ya has enjoyed telling jokes, participating in acting clubs, making people laugh and simply having fun. "I realized that comedy was my passion and it was what I wanted to do," he said.

Yet, growing up with traditional parents, O-ya found it difficult to persuade them that it would make a good career. Reflecting on his senior year of college,

O-ya remembered walking home excitedly one day, eager to tell his parents about a comedy gig he had been offered. …

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