When an eclectic group of singers, stand-up comics, and writers met on a sunny afternoon at a local improvisational comedy company, they were determined to create something different. The sketch comedy group Rock.Paper.Scissors (RPS) was created out of that gathering in April 1992.
Shows such as ‘Get A Job’ ‘Fear of Relationships’ ‘Unplugged and Draining’ and an early incarnation of ‘A Twisted Christmas Carol’ established Rock Paper Scissors as a comedy force to be reckoned with.
As their reputation grew, their demand as corporate entertainers increased. Companies such as IBM, BC Hydro, and Ballard hired RPS to make people laugh at their meetings and incentive trips. Audiences wanted more of RPS, and the company began to shift direction.
RPS needed to manage the transformation from being a performance troupe to becoming a successful business in demand across the country. In 1995, Diana Frances, an accomplished comedian and writer, joined founder David C. Jones as a performer and business manager. She set about establishing closer business relationships with corporations and event agencies.
“It was important to me to establish Rock.Paper.Scissors as an ethical and reliable company, not only to our clients but to the performers who worked for us,” says Diana Frances.
Over the next years, the company realized remarkable growth. Four RPS productions – The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), Blankety Blank – the Unknown Musical, A Twisted Christmas Carol and The New Adventures of Hamlet – were re-mounted by other professional theatre companies in Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. Also, RPS was asked to tour England and Scotland as part of The Spirit of Friendship tour (for the 2002 Commonwealth Games). They continue to be nominated for (and win) many local and national awards, and were invited to write and produce shows for television and radio.
At this time, RPS was performing for corporate conventions in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and across Canada. They were also the first ever improv comedy company to be asked to perform for Canada’s Peacekeepers in Bosnia, Egypt, Israel and Newfoundland. They proved so popular they were asked back to entertain Peacekeepers in Afghanistan.
In the spirit of giving back to community, RPS started performing at numerous charity events, helping to raise money for youth, health, and women’s issues. They produced Sketch in Time, a benefit for The ALS Society of BC that is now an annual event. The cabaret brought together some of the city’s finest comedy and musical acts–all people RPS is still honoured to call friends and colleagues.
In 2000, RPS was incorporated. Responding to critical and popular acclaim, the two founding artists decided to add a third partner who could lend perspective and balance to the company’s decision making process. Lee-Anne Ragan was approached.
Lee-Anne Ragan, an educator and trainer with a Masters degree in Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution, was a noted facilitator and trainer in great demand throughout the corporate and non-profit sectors. Her training company, Community Works, was based upon the principles of using fun, creativity, practical knowledge, and hands-on learning in the training and facilitation process.
Lee-Anne had worked as a consultant for RPS, leading an action-planning workshop for the company in 1999. When the workshop ended, Lee-Anne, David, and Diana all seized the opportunity to put their mutual ideas and ethics into action. Lee-Anne remembers the experience vividly: “While David and Diana were complimenting me on the workshop, I was praising their gregarious and engaging nature. Their sense of play drew me in. When the workshop ended, I wanted to do it all over again. We had such great fun.”
While David was teaching improv classes to promote teamwork and innovative thinking in the corporate sector, Lee-Anne was applying her training and facilitation skills in the community and non-profit sector. The logical fit was to combine their skills in a new series of workshops that incorporated the best of comedy and corporate training. The Laughing Matters workshop series triumphed. Audiences cheered and declared the workshops an undeniable hit.
Laughing Matters drew business profiles in The Vancouver Sun, and BC Report News Magazine. After appearing on several TV and radio programs, RPS was invited to lead seminars and training sessions for clients as diverse as Pfizer, ICBC, and The New Vista Society.
Although RPS was committed to delivering exceptional service, Lee-Anne incorporated evaluation techniques into all RPS services. The impact was profound. Using Lee-Anne’s innovative approaches, RPS now sought and incorporated detailed feedback from clients and workshop participants directly into their best practices and performances.
RPS also became instrumental in bringing together members of the various improvisation companies in the Lower Mainland in an open dialogue to foster better working relations and collaboration. RPS continues to sponsor international teaching forums in support of professional development and actively seeks out new talent to foster and train.
While RPS leaps ahead of trends, they remain true to their core business principles and services: corporate training, community training, and corporate entertainment that is fun, engaging, and interactive. In the fall of 2003, David, Lee-Anne, and Diana re-launched RPS to focus the company in three strategic divisions: Corporate Entertainment, Laughing Matters, and Community Works.
In December 2003, all three RPS directors won a Business in Vancouver 40 Under 40 Award. Spring 2004 saw change within the company as David moved on to pursue his own interests, while Rock Paper Scissors launched the First Annual Humour in the Workplace Awards to great success.
Today, RPS is flourishing under the leadership of its two dynamic directors who continue to challenge themselves to be creative and innovative, bringing out the best in people by sharing an infectious touch of laughter.