Shows I Knew And Loved

The show I was just in, Who Is T Henry Baudecliffe, just ended. I was sad to see this one go, because it was so very different than most improv shows.

The most common question I get when I tell people I do improv is, "So is that like Who's Line Is It Anyway?" And sometimes I explain how what I do is not like that, and sometimes I just say, "yes."

Narrative longform improv is more like storytelling than games (though small games can be part of a scene). Each cast of a show rehearses for 4-6 weeks building the world of that story, developing types of characters, and deepening personal relationships so that when given suggestions on the night of a show, we can create a full world with a basic structure that we then riff off of, like jazz I suppose.

Most of us understand stories and story structure. Or at least we know it when we see it. Our casts study the structure and then play with it. We wind up with a show of about 90 minutes, give or take, with heroes, villains, supporting cast, music (at times), dance, narration and more. No show is the same show, even if the theme is the same.

Some shows, like Dusk (a parody of Twilight) hit very familiar traditional beats each show. Others, like One More Night (based on the tales of Scheherazade) used a wildly different storytelling form. T. Henry, was quite different as well and I think that's why I found One More Night and T. Henry so compelling to be a part of.

Each show used dance/movement and music profoundly to set tone and scene. One More Night used and "Stacking Dolls" kind of structure where from Narrator into the middle of the show, stories passed from one teller to the next and then back out again. T Henry had a built in trope that no story of the author was ever fully finished, so the cast's "job" was to create a full narrative from pieces of information. This meant that many surreal turns were taken.

Both were very freeing and I think the level of creativity from the performers was heightened.

Using the body and voice in a stylized way to tell stories. Using narrative devices like Stacking Dolls and only have a fraction of "the story" to go on, this allowed for a freedom I relished on stage.

I look forward to more shows in that fashion, and I think audiences will too. Those shows surprised people, many of whom had a very stagnant idea of what improv "is."

Improv, as it turns out, can be a whole lot more.


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