Theatre by the seat of your pants

It's easy to imagine improv being similar to jumping off a 50-foot cliff into an unseen ocean. You may be confident you know how to swim, but you'll never know exactly how it's going to go until you hit the water.

It’s easy to imagine improv being similar to jumping off a 50-foot cliff into an unseen ocean.

You may be confident you know how to swim, but you’ll never know exactly how it’s going to go until you hit the water.

“Absolutely, it’s a little bit crazy.”

Director Joshua Beaudry says that with a huge smile on his face. He’s the kind of guy who clearly relishes that unknown moment.

Now he’s helping 10 Yukon improv actors prepare to face that challenge this March as part of the Guild’s latest offering, The Improv Project.

Modern improv is most commonly associated with short scenes and games seen in TV shows like Whose Line is it Anyways?

But the Improv Project is different. The show isn’t about short scenes with one or two punchlines. Instead Yukon’s actors will be creating one episode a night in a series that will stretch out over two weeks.

That’s one story from beginning to end with no script. Completely. From. Scratch.

Like an improvised soap opera, or an episode of a cartoon series, each night the same set of actors and characters will take the stage.

“The premise is a bunch of people were abducted on to a spacecraft and now they’re subjected to sci-fi adventures,” Beaudry says.

Beyond that, the nature of improv means there’s not much more he can say. It will be up to tips from the audience and the skill of the actors to decide what happens next.

If, by the end of episode one, the group is stranded on a planet inhabited by man-eating plants they’ll pick up from there on day two.

Each show will be its own self-contained story while also hopefully allowing the larger plot to grow, Beaudry says. But there won’t be confusion for audience members who show up on only one day having missed earlier shows.

“It’s kind of like watching The Simpsons. Sometimes there’s repercussions to things (from episode to episode) and sometimes it’s just a reset.”

Shows will run at the Guild Hall in Porter Creek from March 3 to 12 every Tuesday to Saturday, with an extra matinee on Saturday.

Each show will be between 60 and 90 minutes long, starting with some improv games followed by the long-form show.

That is, Beaudry admits, a lot of improv.

“They are going to do more improv in those 12 shows than I will do with my own company in an entire year,” he says.

Beaudry is a member of Saskatchewan’s famed Saskatoon Soaps, an improv troupe that has been doing this kind of long-form work for 30 years.

For him, improvised shows can be less nerve-wracking than the scripted plays he’s done, he says.

With scripted plays, there’s the risk of blanking and completely forgetting a line. “But when you don’t have anything to forget, that’s freeing. Every line you say is the right line.”

Beaudry says he was approached by the Guild to bring this style of improv to the Yukon.

“(Artistic director Anthony Trombetta) has done some improv, and he knows that he’s got some brilliant people, like George Maratos, Brian Fidler, Mary Sloan. They’re all very interested in improv, so it’s kind of a natural fit.”

The rest of the cast is made up of Mercedes Bacon-Traplin, Jason Westover, Al MacLeod, Greg Murdoch, Carolyn Westberg, Stephanie Aube and Erica Bigland.

Beaudry held a two-day workshop earlier this month as an audition for actors. He was looking for people who are spontaneous and willing to jump in to try new things.

“I want a certain confidence,” he says.

But how does a troupe prepare to take on this amount of acting without any sort of script to work from?

Beaudry said they’ve been meeting most nights playing games so that the actors can learn to trust each other and feel confident together.

“What we’re trying to do is build a sort of group-think or group mind, so that there’s this anticipation that you know what the person’s going to come forward with.”

But it’s the unanticipated moments that are sometimes the best ones, he says.

“You can anticipate, but you can’t control and you have to make everything work.

“So if somebody says something absurd, well, how can you make that work? What can you do with that?”

When it comes to the audience, the goal is just to make sure everyone has a good time.

“A win is just a new experience. Something they haven’t seen before. I don’t think you’ve had a lot of episodic improv here or anything longer than a five-minute scene. They might be constructing a 45-minute show in the long-format production. From scratch.”

Tickets for the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday shows are $23. Shows on Friday and Saturday night are $25. The nightly shows all start at 8 p.m.

The matinees on Saturday, March 5 and March 12 are $15 and start at 2 p.m.

Tickets available in advance at improvproject.brownpapertickets.com, and in limited quantities at Whitehorse Motors.

Tickets will also be available at the door on the night of a performance, but advance ticket purchase is recommended to avoid disappointment.

Preview shows will be happening on March 1 and 2. Those shows start at 8 p.m. and the $10 tickets will only be sold at the door.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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