Let’s play a game: Charlotte improv
If you haven’t dug into Charlotte’s improv comedy scene yet, now’s a great time to do it.
Each improv group has its own style and mission, but in the past year, several have teamed up for special events. In April, Blumenthal Performing Arts started hosting Queen City Improv Room, a monthly show that’s been playing to sold-out crowds. Each month has a theme and features a few of Charlotte’s improv troupes.
The next one is Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. The series is held at the Stage Door Theater at 155 N. College St. and tickets are $10. For tickets and information on the 8 p.m. performance, go to http://www.blumenthalarts.org/events/detail/queen-city-improv-room-family-friendly-improv-show.
Queen City Comedy Festival is another collaborative project that gives the troupes an opportunity to showcase multiple talents in a weekend-long event. The second one of its kind is planned for September 2018 at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
Access to regular performances, classes and practices at various venues around the city attract a wide variety of people to the art of improv. Some are drawn to perform; others are happy to sit in the audience, give a suggestion and enjoy the unpredictability of the show.
Interested in what’s available? We asked five troupes for a test drive: Observer readers offered some words and phrases via social media, and we sprung a few on them to see what would happen. The video above combines people from all five in what’s called a line game: People step forward as an idea strikes them. Below are videos showing what each troupe did with the same simple suggestion: “Pizza Guy.”
Charlotte Comedy Theater
Keli Semelsberger started Charlotte Comedy Theater (CCT) 16 years ago. At CCT, they teach and perform a variety of improv styles. Short-form improv is like the TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?”; long-form creates scenes, games and stories from one suggestion from the audience. They perform at 8 p.m. on most Saturdays in Wet Willies’s VIP Room at the NC Music Factory.
Comedy Arts Theater of Charlotte (CATCh) is new to Charlotte, but its founders Carey Head and Kevin Shimko were students at CCT when they decided they wanted to create a “hub for improv community events.” Their mission is to provide a permanent space for shows, practices and classes for improv and sketch comedy groups. CATCh uses long-form improv. “We perform a patient, character-driven style of scene work which results in slower and more theatrical shows,” Head said. While on the lookout for space, they perform at various locations around Charlotte.
Erin Fede is passionate about the purpose of Improv Charlotte – “to serve the community through comedy.” One hundred percent of the proceeds from every show go to charitable organizations. More than $30,000 has been given to more than 40 charities in the past 10 years, she said. Shows are family-friendly and use long- and short-form improv. Improv Charlotte performs every third Saturday of the month at the Charlotte Art League in South End.
Elizabeth Byland or “EB” directs Mom’s Adhesive, a long-form improv troupe with a name that represents the mom-like bond that keeps things together. Their sets begin with a real story or even a confession that connects the audience to the improvisers. That storytelling format inspires the scene. Mom’s Adhesive performs monthly at the Basement Theatre in Acting Out Studio in Ballantyne.
Now Are The Foxes
This improv group’s name is a nod to Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd’s “Two Wild and Crazy Guys” SNL skit from the late 1970s. According to Cale Evans, the group’s leader, Now Are The Foxes are the the Avengers of the Charlotte comedy community: “Despite the all-star nature of the cast, we’re really just together because we like each other’s company. We’re friends (in real life), and I think that comes across in our performance,” Evans said. The troupe uses short-form games and gimmicks, but they’ve recently started experimenting in musical improvisation. He said, “This is a different muscle to exercise.” Now Are The Foxes perform at various locations in Charlotte.