Fri, Apr 23, 2010 - Page 14 News List

COMEDY: Just say yes



Improvisational comedy is spontaneous theater, made up on the spot. So why have the actors from Taichung Improv, who have a live show tomorrow night, been in rehearsal all month?

“You have to rehearse the improvisational skill to be able to think on your feet,” said founder and performer Josh Myers, who majored in method acting. “The most important rule in improv is to say ‘Yes!’ If you say no it kills the seed, nothing can happen. If you say yes you can see where it takes you.”

Actors use audience-generated ideas in different games to come up with quick-witted comedy routines. “Improv is storytelling in disguise, using a lot of gimmicks,” said Myers. “Do it using questions only, tell it one word at a time, tell it backwards.” He uses simplified versions of the games to help with teaching English.

Though the group uses an interpreter to give an introduction to all the games in Chinese, and explain the rules, not everything is translated. “The Taiwanese audience, though not used to improv, seems to get it immediately,” said Myers. “It’s very physical to accommodate local audiences and we make it less wordy with more games, though some do challenge verbal dexterity.”

Myers, Sarah Zittrer and Cathy Wilson, who work together in the group, all felt strongly from the beginning that it should be cross-cultural: “We try to go for humor that is universal,” said Myers. “We choose our games very carefully, mixing wordy games with physical and high-energy [ones].”

The cast comes from a variety of theatrical backgrounds. Matt Bronsil is a ventriloquist and also does stand-up comedy. Jenny McManus is a dancer, while Nick Ford writes and directs his own material, and Sophie Bleunven is a mime artist.


WHAT: Improv Comedy: International Night of Unpredictiliciousness

WHERE: The Londoner (倫敦公園), 143, Huamei W St Sec 1, Taichung City (台中市華美西街一段143號). Tel: (04) 2314-6919

WHEN: Tomorrow at 10pm

ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$300 in advance and NT$350 at the door (both prices include one drink)


DETAILS: For more information contact Josh Myers at 0912-129-654

Thomas van Niekerk, who has studied theater, and Katie Parlow, who is doing her MFA in Taipei, are also

in Taipei Players. Jean Lee is a drama teacher, and

Sarah Weinstein, who acts as stage manager, is also a theater major.

Taichung Improv will be joined tomorrow by members of Seoul City Improv, who held a fund-raiser in Seoul to help cover travel expenses. Actress Mandy Roveda lived in South Korea prior to Taiwan and facilitated the collaboration.

Those familiar with improv or with the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? will recognize popular games Story Story Die, Questions Only, Showstopper, and Genre Replay.

It will be a “feel-good show, inspirational, all those positive things,” said Myers. “We put a high premium on making it audience-friendly.” Those who want to get more than friendly with the group can join in an open rehearsal/workshop on May 1. There is an advanced workshop on May 15.

The “pressure cooker of the stage” is terrifying, warns Myers. “But that’s why we love it — the best things in life are exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.”

“Sometimes doing improv feels like a religion, awakening something in you that is already there.” Saying yes becomes a habit, spilling over into everyday life, and leads to “some surprising discoveries,” he said.

“To be able to make people laugh is very rewarding,” said Myers. “The audience gives us so much back it’s like a drug ... No, it’s better than drugs!”


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