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Improv actors, audience are ready for anything


Andy Jenkins, Erica Barr, Mark Ogle and Sam Benty in an improve scene at the Empress Theatre.


Andy Jenkins, Erica Barr and Greg Wilson perform a singing game during an improv show at the Empress Theatre.

Lethbridge Drama Nutz will have to be ready for anything Friday night at the Empress Theatre.
Spontaneity and the ability to think on one’s feet will be key elements in the first of two Improv comedy shows this month.
“The beautiful thing about improv is anything and everything can go wrong,” said Greg Wilson of the Drama Nutz. “That’s part of the fun — digging yourself into a hole and climbing out of it. The audience comes along for the ride and its pretty funny.”
Wilson, Andy Jenkins, Erica Barr, David Gabert and John MacBurnie along with host Kevin Goodman take to the Empress stage at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10.
Television viewers familiar with the show starring Drew Carey, Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles will know what they’re getting themselves into Friday night.
“We like to compare ourselves to that show,” Wilson said.
Audience members will have an active role in the hour-long show of improvisational comedy.
“All of the games are based on suggestions from the audience,” Wilson explained. “We need the help of the audience to make the show happen. The more people who are there, the better.”
Audience participation, or the lack thereof, can be an improvisational actor’s worst nightmare.
“The worst thing is when the audience doesn’t give us any suggestions,” Wilson said. “We ask, and they don’t make any suggestions.”
Improv originated with touring Italian troupes who would travel from town to town, usually in a wagon. The troupe had set characters, costumes and masks, but every show was completely improvisational.
Wilson, who is a student at the University of Lethbridge and a veteran of the Empress Theatre’s summer program, said improv is challenging for an actor.
“It’s terrifying. You have to be sharp as a tack to make it through the show, but having improv skills is important.”
That’s because in live theatre things often go wrong, and actors have to be ready to work every mistake into the show.
People forget lines or miss their cues and props don’t work, leaving actors hanging in front of live audiences.
“Improv teaches you to accept it (mistake) and justify it and carry on,” Wilson said.
As challenging as it can be, improv is also rewarding to an actor.
“Thinking up a joke off the top of your head and in the moment, and it’s a good, clever one, and hearing the laughter roll over the audience is very rewarding,” Wilson said. “The most rewarding aspect of improv is affecting the audience by using their suggestion, making them feel something.”
The second improv show is Saturday, Aug. 24 at 8 p.m. at the Empress Theatre.
Lethbridge Drama Nutz will also perform a 15-minute set during Jungle Vaudeville at the Empress at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17.