Quick thinking leads to easy laughs
October 11, 2005
It may not be great theater in the sense of “Hamlet,” but the Improv Kids will leave you laughing at their annual show Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Brewery Arts Center.
Of course, you know what improv is – creating something on the spur of the moment on a stage with other improv actors.
The 20 kids involved in this year’s show, 12 to 17 years old, have been learning about improv for all of this week under the tutelage of veteran improv master Gerry Orton. Orton currently works with an improv group out of South Lake Tahoe, but is happy to come to town to push the kids along the comedy route.
“What’s improv all about?” he asks. “Being uninhibited. Spontaneous. Reacting to new stimulus. Being always about to say ‘yes’ to an offer.”
(An offer is a question or situation where action is needed; from the response, the ad hoc skit continues, often in a different direction.)
“Improv demands a good memory. It’s all without props or a set. An action begins, maybe six people on stage. The first one may walk into an imaginary set, open an imaginary door, goes through the motions of brushing teeth at an imaginary sink, combing hair, then turning around and leaving.
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“The actor has to remember which way the door opened, left or right. And the next actor comes onto the apron and has to open the door the same way, remember where the sink is, what the actor ahead did. He or she can’t walk over a sink; the audience will remember, and it will ruin the illusion.
“Sometimes an actor will forget where something is and walk right through it, but that can trigger an offer from someone else in the cast. And the skit goes on.”
During Monday rehearsals in the Brewery’s upstairs ballroom, the actors started out in a circle, introducing themselves. Then Orton had them do a physical maneuver. The next actor was to do the same move and add to it, and so forth around the circle. That makes them think on their feet.
A critical part of rehearsals is that they have to be fun. And fun is what was happening during practice sessions this week.
As a matter of fact, producer Pat Josten, who directs the BAC Stage Kids, who are sponsoring the show with the Brewery, said at one point Monday night, “The rehearsals are as much fun as the shows.”
If you’re lucky, you might be able to sneak in on a rehearsal for a preview of the show. But you’ve only got one rehearsal, as the show opens Friday. And be wary. Audiences are often involved in these shows, so you might be called up. Just remember to accept the offer.
Tickets are $5 at the Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St.