I love watching good improvisational theater. I like not knowing what will happen. I especially like it when the performers are so confident enough in their ability to act that they willingly take to the stage without a script, or even an idea of a script.
They spin theater out of words tossed at them from their audience, and we as the audience love tossing interesting words.
You never know what is going to happen; you might cry, you might laugh, or you might be inclined to do both or neither. Not even the actors know what you are going to get from them.
When I received an invitation to not only watch a performance by Just Go With It Improv, but to also participate in an improvisational workshop beforehand, I politely laughed and shook my head. Yes, I wouldn’t mind watching the show, but no I would most definitely not put myself out there as a would-be-performer. After all, I am not an actor (at least not a very good one). The improv group hosted a Wine and Improv event last Friday, which included participatory improv acting exercises followed by a performance by the group.
Being perennially curious, I decided to take a peek at what the workshop was all about before making my way to another show further up the street. I had enough time to catch two shows that night. Doubling back down Market Street for the 9 p.m. improv performance would be easy.
During my drive to the performing center a few things happened that pulled me out of my desire for entertainment. Frustrated and upset, I mulled the idea of parking the car somewhere and going for a quick run to clear my mind, but I wasn’t going to do that in 4-inch heels. Instead I continued on to the workshop. I would go in, take a few notes, and then head home.
Somewhere between the act of opening the front door and putting my foot on the first steep leading upwards I changed my mind. Maybe it was the laughter I heard the minute I opened the door, or seeing many friendly faces in the crowd, or walking in to a room full of excited individuals that changed my thought pattern. I don’t really know, but when I walked up to the counter I found myself paying for both the workshop and the performance.
It was the best entertainment decision I made all week.
I wasn’t totally comfortable at first. Matthew Dolan was shouting out people’s names, and in turn they were shouting back different things for us to do, like jumping, chicken dancing and volcano climbing.
I don’t know how to chicken dance. My volcano climbing abilities were pathetic. I looked like I was stuck on a broken escalator going sideways. Even my imaginary tree-climbing skills failed me, but I was starting to have fun. By the time we were searching for lost keys I was shaking out my blouse so hard I think the car salesman across the street was ready to make a purchase. I was so into it that I didn’t hear my name being called out until the last Y was uttered.
I froze. What about my keys? Everyone turned to look at me. I shook out my blouse one last time (making sure Cody’s keys hadn’t gotten in there somehow) and then casually lowered it so that it went back to keeping me decent. A second later the words “scuba diving” popped out of my mouth. The room filled with the sounds of respirators and popping bubbles just as quickly as it had gone silent.
The rest of the evening was a blast. We did word associations that left us giggling, made up stories that made us scratch our heads, and even considered that somewhere out there, there could be a sad little pimp named John (ironic, no?) who is sitting in his brothel, happily petting his hundred or so squirrels.
By the time we sat down to enjoy the show we were all primed for laughter. As usual, the troupe delivered a great performance and we all walked away happy. In fact, I was so thoroughly entertained and in the moment that I didn’t think at all about the frustration I had experienced moments before walking into the workshop.
Just Go With It Improv Wine and Improv workshop was presented by Kyle Jozsa (Wandering Aesthetics) for Akron’s Center for Art and Music Performance (ACAMP) and taught by actors Dean Coutris, Matthew Dolan, Ryan Dyke and Ruben Ryan.
ACAMP, located at 118 W. Market St., is a music, art and acting center open to educating people of all ages in the performing arts. For info, call (330) 607-5257.