I have been to a number of Point of No Return Improv shows over the years, and full disclosure, my son Robert has recently joined the troupe as an apprentice. When he came home from rehearsal one evening and asked about the possibility of the Akronist shining a light on the occasion I readily agreed, not because he is in the troupe, but because the troupe is the kind of thing the Akronist likes to promote.
While PNR’s home base is not in Akron, but in neighboring Cuyahoga Falls, many of its current and former cast members have Akron roots. A number of them have gone on to form/perform in Akron-based improv troupes.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit in on a PNR rehearsal and get a preview of what is in store for its audience on Feb. 20. I expected a lot of laughs, which I got. PNR is full of wacky, hilarious surprises, and its humor is recommended for the PG-13 audience. Beyond the humor, the evening revealed a couple of unexpected insights about PNR.
First, PNR’s fearless leader, Executive/Creative Director Bob Coppedge, is more than just a really funny guy. He is an excellent teacher. Coppedge, one of the last graduates of Second City’s Conservatory in Cleveland, has a true understanding of what makes for good improv. More than that, Coppedge knows the importance of trust and support among troupe members. There is a warmth and connection among the cast that, like good improv, looks easier than it is.
Second, PNR’s longtime cast members are just as committed as Coppedge to nurturing less experienced performers and helping them hone their skills. PNR cast member Ruben Ryan, also a cast member in The Beck Center’s Something Dada Improv and Akron’s Just Go With It Improv, has an innate grasp of the art form. He observes with laser focus all that takes place on the PNR stage, and offers up positive, constructive criticism to his fellow performers in a way that builds their skills – and their trust. That combination of his own ability and the trust built with his colleagues may be why scenes with Ryan in them tend to be some of the funniest on the PNR stage.
Rob Walter, another longtime cast member, is an accomplished actor and improvisational performer who has worked with Chicago’s famed Second City. Walter has a great physicality and an innately giving nature as a performer. He offers his criticisms in a gentle and collaborative way, which not only educates, but also empowers his fellow cast members.
The complete current cast includes Jennifer Betz, McCartney Betz, Michael Betz, Bob Coppedge, Tracy Cubbal, Caleigh Desko, Richard Harrison, Ruben Ryan, Phil Skoff and Rob Walter.
PNR apprentices are Abby Darin, Rollin Devere, Sean Gilbow, Al Mothersbaugh and Robert Williams.
Whatever you are doing this Saturday night, I encourage each of you to make Point of No Return’s anniversary performance a part of it!
PNR offers two shows a month, and they have a performance calendar on their website (see link below). Admission is $5, and proceeds benefit various local charities.
To learn more about Saturday’s show, go to www.facebook.com/events/158812677832094/.
To learn more about Point of No Return Imrov, go to www.pnrimprov.org/.