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Posts Tagged ‘Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater’

How Are You FEELing?

Posted August 18th, 2018

The Fringe wouldn’t be the Fringe without Bobbi Block. The artist and producer has been in EVERY SINGLE Fringe Festival since its foundation in 1997. This year, Block adds two more shows to her impressive Fringe resume: she’s dancing in Sylvain Emard’s Le Super Grand Continental on the Art Museum steps and producing another sure-to-be-a-hit improv theater piece by Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater.  

In FEEL, T&G is asking audiences “How are you feeling” and really wanting to know: they will improvise a show based on the feelings of the audience. To put the audience at ease, they’re offering free massages before every show. Now that feels good!

FringeArts asked Block how she was feeling, and other questions about her upcoming Fringe shows.

FringeArts: How are you feeling today and why?

Bobbi Block: Today? Today I’m feeling joyful and optimistic about my current artistic endeavors. You?

FringeArts: Oh, FringeArts Blog is doing just fine. Why ask audiences that question?

Bobbi Block: Well, first I’ll explain why Tongue & Groove asks that question of each other. For eleven years now, T & G begins every rehearsal and performance with an “Emotional Check-in”—we report how we’re feeling. This accomplishes two goals: 1. It “stirs the pot” of emotional fodder so that real feelings are readily available for us to use as inspiration for our improvised characters and scenarios, and 2. Sharing feelings is vulnerable, and vulnerability and transparency builds trust.

So why ask the audience? We’ve asked the audience so many questions over the years: “What secret are you keeping?” “What do you want to do before you die?” “Who are you?” The answers are written anonymously on cards and used to inspire our improvised work. We figured it was time to ask the most basic question—and possibly most difficult to answer. Most people do not get a lot of practice exercising emotional literacy. We are socialized not to talk about our real feelings—and we assume no one really wants to know. Rarely does someone ask “How are you feeling?” (unless you’re ill); we ask “How are you?” or “How ya doin?” The typical answer is “Fine,” and then we quickly move on, thinking we’ve satisfied our social connection obligation. Even if we’re craving to connect with each other, many of us follow this social norm because we’re afraid to speak the truth.

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Making Art in 2017: Bobbi Block on Tongue and Groove

Posted August 26th, 2017

Name: Bobbi Block

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!

FringeArtsTell 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.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Bobbi Block

Posted September 2nd, 2016
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Bobbi Block (photo by JJ Tiziou)

Name: Bobbi Block

Type of Artist: Theater Artist; Producer; Director; Dancer; Drummer

Companies: Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater; LunchLady Doris; ComedySportz; P3: People’s Percussion Project; Unidos da Filadelfia

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in: I have produced and performed in every single Fringe Festival since the first one, including many years when I produced and performed in multiple shows. There was only one year when I didn’t produce, though I did perform with my band one night that year, so I’m counting that as participating in every single Festival! My memory sucks, so thank god the Fringe Guide Archive is online or I would not have been able to make this list!

  • The Improv Marathon, 1997 – producer, performer, host [Got every improv group that existed at that time to perform back to back, I think it was a grand total of 5!]
  • Debut of LunchLady Doris at the Quarry Street outdoor stage, 1998 — artist, co-producer [LLD was a 5 member longform improv company (the first in the city) that ran for 12 years, with Dave Jadico, Karen Getz, Kelly Jennings, Kevin Dougherty.]
  • Bingo Bedlam, BbBb Productions, 1999 – director, producer, actor [A 10-minute play in which ALL of the words start with the letter B; featuring Jen Childs, Tony Lawton, Pete Pryor]
  • Birth-day!, P3: People Percussion Project, 2002 – co-producer, co-choreographer, dancer [The debut of P3 as part of the curated Fresh Moves series, co-founded with Judy Freed]
  • Late Night Cabaret, 2002 — MC
  • P3: People Percussion Project, 2003-2004 – co-producer, choreographer, dancer
  • LEAP! The Actors’ Improv Experiment, produced by LiveArts, 2007 – conceived and directed [w/ Megan Bellwoar, Catharine Slusar, Ben Lloyd, Tom Byrn, Joe Guzman]
  • In Bed, Tongue & Groove, 2007 – producer, director actor [Fringe Debut of Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater*]
  • LunchLady Doris, 1998-2008 – actor, co-producer
  • Secrets, Tongue & Groove, 2008-2009 – producer, director, actor
  • UnSpoken, Tongue & Groove, 2010 – producer, director, actor
  • Six, Tongue & Groove, 2011 – producer, director, actor
  • Le Grand Continental, LiveArts produced, 2012 – dancer
  • WHO, Tongue & Groove, 2012 – producer, director, actor
  • Secrets, Tongue & Groove, 2014 – producer, director, actor
  • Unidos da Filadelfia, 2012-2015 – drummer
  • Groove, Tongue & Groove, 2015 – producer, director, actor [A collaboration with blues dancers and musicians]
  • Before I Die, Tongue & Groove, 2016 – producer, director, actor

*Current and Past Tongue & Groove ensemble members: Fred Andersen, Megan Bellwoar, Beth Dougherty, Adam Gertler, Noah Herman, Matt LydonJennifer MacMillan, Carol Moog, Ed Miller, Eoin O’Shea, Seth Reichgott, Josh Rubinstein, Fred Siegel, Rebecca Sharp,Carrie Spaulding, Jordan Stalsworth

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Tongue & Groove (photo by Aaron Oster)

First Fringe I attended and highlight: I was there at the very start (go on, Grandma). The highlight was the exciting community vibe in Old City. The first several years, with everything taking place within several blocks, it was just so much fun to hop from show to show. You’d bump into people, ask what they were about to see or what they just saw, and just dash off to the next performance without planning. You felt you could take a chance on just about anything, cause everything was only 5 bucks. There was no on-line sales back then, so the ticket-buying process was in person and very communal – the box office was the place to see and be seen. I also loved the cabaret in the old days when you would see snippets of shows as teasers and then decide whether or not you wanted to see the full production. The cabaret was one big love-fest, kinda like a family — with Scott Johnston as a very weird ‘Dad’ of us all — plus you never know what might happen there. You wouldn’t think to miss a night of the Cabaret or you might miss something everyone would be talking about the next day!

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