Posts Tagged ‘Improv’

Center City Fringe: Get into the GROOVE!

Posted August 17th, 2015

Philadelphia Fringe Festival favorite Tongue & Groove, Philly’s cutting-edge critically-acclaimed unscripted theater company, announces a first-time collaboration with blues dancers and musicians for a unique improvised performance based on personal information from the audience. Founded in 2006, Tongue & Groove has created nine unscripted show formats, including their popular SECRETS, in which the actors are inspired by the audience’s true secrets. Tongue & Groove has been invited to perform at the Kimmel Center for both Philadelphia International Festivals of the Arts. For PIFA 2013, Tongue & Groove collaborated with dance company RealLivePeople and developed THAT TIME. That collaboration was so successful that Tongue & Groove Artistic Director, Bobbi Block, was eager to find another project in which improvisational dance and music could share the stage with the actors. That desire is being realized with GROOVE


FringeArts: What can audiences expect when they come out for a performance of GROOVE?

Bobbi Block: When the audience arrives, they will be asked to anonymously write on a card their response to this prompt: “Describe a specific time when you were in the groove…with yourself, a partner, a group, or something you were doing.” The ensemble will draw random cards, read them aloud, and begin riffing off of the themes and characters submitted. Tongue & Groove is dedicated to exploring the collaboration between artist and patron, reflecting the spirit of each audience at every one-of-a-kind performance.

FringeArts: How do you use music and dance in the show?

Bobbi Block: GROOVE will follow Tongue & Groove’s signature format, creating a montage of scenes and monologues, both comic and dramatic. Interspersed in the montage will be blues dances that comment on and interpret the themes and characters created by the actors, inspired by the audience.

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Center City Fringe: Dangerous Fools & Nardo Are Making It up as They Go

Posted August 10th, 2015

DF&NImprovisational comedy may be pretty Dangerous, potentially Foolish, and possibly Nardo-y? for those of us clutching onto our ego and self-image. But, we’re glad to say that the members of the improv groups, Dangerous Fools and Nardo, just don’t operate under the same sort of anxieties that the rest of us do. Nope, the company of Thomas Fowler and Mary Carpenter (Dangerous Fools) and Steve Roney, Eoin O’Shea, and Joe Sabatino (Nardo), veer headlong into their wild brand of long-form improv as often as they can. All members of Dangerous Fools and Nardo have performed for years with the Philadelphia improv-centerpoint, ComedySportz in Center City. For this year’s Fringe Festival, they bring their comedy chops to the PlayGround stage at the Adrienne on Sansom Street. We posed a few questions for one half of the Dangerous Fools duo, Mary Carpenter.

FringeArts: What can audiences expect from Dangerous Fools & Nardo when you take the stage this summer?

Mary Carpenter: First and foremost, they can expect to laugh. I know I laugh every time I work with or watch any of these improvisers. Both groups do long-form improv, meaning they usually just take one suggestion and weave together a series of scenes and characters. With this group though, people should expect the unexpected.

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Talking about The Talkback: Interview with The Berserker Residents

Posted June 5th, 2014

“We are satirizing everyone we’ve ever worked with and also our own lives as artists. No one is safe.”

Clockwise: Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain, David Johnson

Clockwise: Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain, David Johnson

For the next three Sunday evenings, the Berserker Residents will present in-progress showings of The Talkback at FringeArts (140 N. Columbus Boulevard). Philadelphia-based artists Justin Jain, David Johnson, and Bradley K. Wrenn joined forces in 2007 and created The Berserker Residents, performing a fantastical blend of physical theater, puppetry, music, sketch, and prop comedy. The group is in residence at FringeArts in June to finesse their 2013 Fringe Festival hit, The Talkback, before taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

Part-scripted and part-improvisation, The Talkback begins at the end of a show the audience has never seen, leading the audience through a discussion of the unseen show, which then goes completely awry. Curious, we went to Justin, David, and Bradley for the inside scoop on creating The Talkback, and what they’ll be working on while at FringeArts.

FringeArts: What was the inspiration for The Talkback?

Brad: It started back when Justin was a FringeArts LAB fellow. We had found ourselves in a rut. We were making the same show over and over. We spent a week or so exploring new ideas and trying figure out how we could mix things up and make ourselves uncomfortable. We finally hit on the post-production discussion as a format.

We generally aren’t big fans of improv, it makes us weak in the knees just thinking about it. But our aim was to disrupt our usual patterns, and we love playing with an audience. The form also allowed us to be ourselves, literally. We aren’t playing characters really, we keep our real names and plop ourselves into a fake theater company at the end of a fake show.

Dave: We often rehearse long blocks of stream-of-consciousness improvisation that make us laugh and push the boundaries of our own comfort as far as what is funny—and go on way too long. At one point we thought: how can we make this a show?

FringeArts: How did The Berserker Residents form?

Brad: The Berserker Residents didn’t form. The Berserker Residents have always been. Just like time or love or war. We were forged in the heart of a dying star and we’ll be here long after this feeble experiment called humanity has been snuffed out.

Dave: Brad and Justin wanted to create a show and they knew something was missing. ME!

Justin: In 2006 we came together to make The Jersey Devil for the Fringe Festival of that year. We do divide the labor. An unseen Berserker is Meghan Walsh, who also takes on some of our administrative work.

David Johnson, Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain

David Johnson, Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain

FringeArts: What is the process for creating a show like The Talkback, which depends so much on the audience?

Dave: The Talkback is a lot like stand-up comedy. It cannot be created in a vacuum. The show lives and learns in front of a live audience. The early days of this show were like imagining the worst stand-up comic you have ever seen, bombing alongside two other crappy comics, and none of them know how to leave the stage. Now we have better material, more confidence, and ripped abs.

Brad: It’s maddening rehearsing this thing by ourselves. We have dummy questions on a chair in front of us as we rehearse, and we each take turns wandering into the audience to pretend we are asking questions.

Justin: I love seeing what has stuck since that first showing in 2012. The usher character, the way we fuck with audience members, the dance, the all-bets-are-off logic that the show takes in the middle. All of these things have survived each revision and are essential to the show. Creating an audience-participatory show without an audience in the rehearsal studio is extremely difficult.

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A Micromanaging Comedy Lover’s Golden Opportunity: Audience improv with Matt Holmes

Posted July 11th, 2013

Have you ever been to a comedy show and thought about how much more infinitely talented you were at the comedic arts than the performers onstage? Alas, acting classes cost hundreds and the emotional damage suffered from the season finale of Game of Thrones has left you marginally less extroverted than is required of a professional performer.

MattAnd-improvSince 2008, Co-founder of Rare Bird Show, Philly Improv Theater team member, and regular fixture in Philadelphia improv Matt Holmes has been jolting audiences from quietly disgruntled passivity in a whimsical experiment that plucks a single audience member from the crowd and plants them onstage to create a boisterous, hour-long improv comedy show. Matt&, quickly attracting buzz as must-see innovative comedy, has toured in eight states spanning the country. In its milestone 50th performance, Holmes brings the daringly probing comedic feat to the upcoming 2013 Fringe Festival, starring himself and, possibly, you. FringeArts recently stopped in with Matt Holmes to get insight on the upcoming show, its stylistic evolution thus far, and a look back on his improvisational career and inspirations.

FringeArts: How did you first get into improv?

Matt Holmes: I’ve always been really interested in comedy. I remember staying up to watch The Tracey Ullman Show and getting really into Laugh-In reruns and tapes from the first cast of Saturday Night Live one summer. I was an eight-year-old who knew every stand-up’s act from TV. But, I was pretty shy until I was like sixteen or seventeen. I started coming out of my shell slowly. Improv really opened me up and trained me to be personable when I have to. I was in a college improv group after trying out on a whim. Then I formed a group with some other did-improv-in-college types, also kind of on a whim. Along the way, I did a bunch of projects and a lot of teaching, and of course, was always learning more and more myself.

FringeArts: Do you remember where you were when you first realized that this was what you wanted to do?

Matt Holmes: I don’t think there was one specific instance where it all came together. There was probably a point where the loose creativity of improv clicked in my mind as a particularly good fit for me, and there was probably a point where a certain project really felt like it was working, but I can’t think of one exact moment. It’s been more like growing a plant than getting hit by a lightning bolt.

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