Making Art in 2017: Bobbi Block on Tongue and Groove
Company: Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater
Show in 2017 Festival: Tongue & Groove (that’s what’s listed in the Guide, tho the name of our show this year is QUESTIONS)
Past Festival shows: We’ve produced shows in the Festival for 9 years! Last year: Before I Die…; the year before that, a collaboration with blues dancers called Groove, and many others!
FringeArts: Tell us about your show.
Bobbi Block: Tongue & Groove is unscripted theater inspired by personal information anonymously submitted by the audience. Our mission is to create theater that combines the dramatic integrity of playwriting with the playful tension of improv. Through collaborative inspiration with the audience, we examine authentic relationships, and perform emotionally dynamic, physically intimate, serio-comic theater . . . that happens to be improvised!
The concept for creating T&G came from working with and teaching all different forms of improv: games, longform, Playback (communal storytelling). I was inspired by the work of world-class Chicago improvisers TJ & Dave who create beautiful one-act improvised plays that are both funny and dramatic. I wanted to create a hybrid of all those improv forms, and I wanted to explore regular realistic relationships. Ten years ago, when I founded T&G, I was tired of seeing improvisers avoid being vulnerable on stage—like they would be just about to kiss and then suddenly they make the whole thing surreal or into a wacky joke. There’s a place for that in the improv world—I love performing short-form games that are wacky—but I wanted to see if improvisers could explore human relationships more authentically.
After we honed our style (called Actors’ Improv), we realized that we wanted more interaction with the audience so we started asking them to anonymously reveal personal information (written on index cards and submitted pre-show). We found the collaboration and intimacy with the audience very fulfilling, and the audience loved seeing a piece of their real life turned into instant art. So now we combine our emotionally-grounded work with collaboration/intimacy with the audience.
Interesting you should ask this! While a typical T&G show asks one provocative question to the audience (What do you believe? What do you want to do before you die? Who are you? What have you always wanted to say to someone but haven’t? etc), THIS year we are turning the tables: we’re asking the audience to come up with the questions! Our question to the audience: “What question has been on your mind lately?” Personal or global, emotional or intellectual, mundane or spiritual. Questions we’ve gotten so far during rehearsals include: “Where else could I live?” “What is going on in our bodies that is is so important that we are supposed to sleep for 1/3 of our lives?!” “What would make you happy?” “Will we ever become a truly global society?” “Should I eat that?” So, yeah, we’re not really tackling one question: we’re tackling all the questions!
FringeArts: How have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?
Bobbi Block: I’ve been listening to my audience’s needs more.
FringeArts: Tell us about an instance from 2017 when your interaction with art provided some much needed solace or refuge from outside troubles.
Bobbi Block: I was in New Zealand when the inauguration happened. I was glued to my social media feed every damn morning, but I felt lucky that I was able to shake it off each day and go work with tons of improvisers and improv students to create emotionally grounded work with people who weren’t scared to death—they were scared, don’t get me wrong—but not as scared as most of my American friends and colleagues at home.
Tongue & Groove: Questions
Tongue and Groove
$18 / 65 minutes
Sept. 8-9, 14, 16, 22-23 @ The PlayGround at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street