By Troy Hasselman, April 26 2020 —
The Kinkonauts, the Calgary-based long-form improv troupe has moved their shows online using broadcasts on Instagram Live in light of the recent COVID-19 caused closures. The improv lab has offered shows based on cultural touchstones like Shakespeare, Clue and Black Mirror with the goal of training improvisers as well as entertaining crowds, keeping in with their mission statement “To delight audiences, develop improvisers and build community.”
The idea to move the show came together quickly after the cancellation of all upcoming live performances because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the inspiration coming from the format of a call-in advice show done previously by Kinkonaut James “Jimbo” Jordan.
“It happened right away when we had to shut our theatre down and weren’t able to continue on with the show’s we had planned for the rest of the season,” Jordan says. “I immediately thought of my improv duo that played with the format of a call-in romance-advice show. We just decided to go on Instagram live right away with it. It was a knee-jerk reaction.”
The shows have been successful so far, with the first few broadcasts well-attended. The Instagram Live format has posed challenges with group improv, however, as it only allows for two different people to be broadcasting at once, as opposed to a platform like Zoom which allows up to 100 people on a call.
“The first few shows were very-well attended, we had close to 60 or 70 people watching it on the live stream,” Jordan says. “Then we started experimenting with more shows throughout the week, some solo ideas and group shows, but the problem we’re facing with it is we can only do duos. With Instagram Live there can only be one person hosting and one person calling in, whereas we usually do a cast of six to seven improvisers doing Shakespeare. We figured that out with Zoom during rehearsal but we haven’t figured out a way to broadcast it quite yet.”
One of the hardest aspects of self-isolation for so many is being away from the people close to them. The Kinkonauts are no different, with one of the main motivating factors behind moving the shows to Instagram Live is simply that the performers would miss each other during quarantine.
“When we created this online show and the idea of going live it was mostly because we were going to miss each other,” Jordan says. “We’ve been rehearsing non-stop all year through all of these shows then suddenly not only were the shows cut off but rehearsal too. These beautiful people that we spent so much of our time with were suddenly cut out of our lives but we just missed each other so much that we had to create these shows so we had an excuse to hangout with each other and call each other everyday.”
Live shows are happening regularly on the Kinkonauts Instagram page, with Jordan hosting an education based show called Home Room at 4 p.m. every Friday.
“I do a home education program where we have different guests call in for each subject — Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts — and we play improv games inspired by those subjects,” Jordan says. “We don’t really teach anything of value but we do teach you how to play these really fun improv games so that hopefully you can take them back to your family and can play these weird one-on-one improv games where all you need is your voice.”
Saturdays and Sundays are also busy times one the Kinkonauts Instagram page.
“Every Saturday and Sunday about 8 p.m. somebody is doing something live on our livestream. Because it’s live it goes into our story so you can also check us out at the Instagram story and see it for 24 hours after it aired,” Jordan says.
Kinkonauts live streams can be found on their Instagram page @kinkonauts. More information about the streams and a schedule can be found on the Kinkonauts website.