Where: Studio III, Broadway Center,
Cost: Free with registration (online or at box office)
, muhgrogzoo.com Improv? Isn't that the comedy night where guys run around with silly voices and exaggerated gestures?
Actually, no -- or at least, not in
But then the
Utley's brought his improv sensibility to the rest of his work as a teaching artist and education/events associate for the Broadway Center, even presenting
Q: Why did you try long-form improv in the first place?
A: I've been doing improv for 10 years. (Early on) I was asked to be part of a group that did short-form comedy improv; that's how I initially got involved. Doing that, I kept thinking that there could be so much more storytelling, more human emotions and interaction. I realized that both my (theater) students and myself were yearning for that kind of connection. So we began
Q: First of all, tell us about the name.
A: Well, there's a different story about that each time! At the beginning we each wrote down a one-syllable word on pieces of paper and turned them face-down. Then we mixed them up and randomly turned them over, reading out each syllable. And we got "
Q: So tell us how it's different from short-form comedy improv.
A: It's a one-act play with a story arc and characters you can actually connect to. We all play multiple characters during the performance. And it gets serious -- it's palpable that everyone's involved.
We start by introducing ourselves and the group, giving a disclaimer that we honor all emotions and we don't quite know what's going to come out of our mouths. (Editor's note:
Q: What happens if you get a very specific word -- like, say, a title: "The Importance of Being Earnest"? (Which isn't one word, but you know what I mean.)
A: We would think about the theme, or the importance of being earnest itself, or cucumber sandwiches even, and build a story on that. What we do doesn't have to be about the word, just inspired by it.
Q: What's the best word suggestion you've ever had?
A: It's difficult -- I love every show we do. But maybe my favorite word was "coffee." I started as a coffee expert sniffing beans and, based off my postures, the other players started to bring in voices in the coffee expert's head. It turned into the slow devolution of his sense of self and what he was actually doing.
Q: And being a four-man team, what do you do about female characters?
A: It's not a problem -- we play them all the time. Sometimes we even play each other's characters.
Q: Isn't that confusing for the audience?
A: Not at all. It's about the way we speak and hold our bodies. The audience loves that we do that; it means we're not falling into patterns, and it's more of an environment to play with.
Q: What about props?
A: We have no props, just some chairs.
Q: How long does it take you to wind down after a show?
A: Good question! Collectively, up to 21/2 hours. Because we go into this zone, and we get off stage and have no idea what just happened.
Q: Do you record any shows, just so you can see what did happen?
A: Actually, I'm attracted to the ephemerality of it. I love the fact that those stories will never be told again -- at least not by us. Also, theater doesn't usually translate well to film. That's why it's live theater. That's why it's so important.
Q: What's the hardest thing about long-form improv?
A: Well, it's not really hard, because of how much training we've done. It's like the best party you've ever been to -- you never feel lost, never feel like you messed up. But maybe the hardest thing is to trust that your spontaneity is the right answer. Most people are going to wonder why they said certain things, but it doesn't matter why -- the others will pick it up and make something of it. There's no wrong answer.
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