On The Spot
story: Joshua Corbelli photo: KaraStewartPhotography.com
FUN 'N’ GAMES WITH REDDING IMPROV PLAYERS
It would be a stretch to say that everybody on Earth likes to laugh. It might not, however, be such a reach to suggest that laughing is a universal language – something that transcends barriers of race, religious affiliation and countless other social barriers. Oftentimes, the funniest moments come unexpectedly, riding the wings of whim. Maybe that’s what makes the Redding Improv Players such a funny group.
For those who have never been to an improv show, it’s time to check it out. “I still meet people who have no idea we even exist,” says Samantha Clark, a founding member. “We’re going to step it up this year, try to get more in everybody’s face about it.”
Improv(isational) comedy is as unpredictable as live performances come. But perhaps more in this setting than other live performances, the likability of a show directly correlates with the levels of energy and participation of the audience. “I just like making people laugh. I was never that big of a fan of learning scripts and lines. Following blocking is more of a challenge,” says Joe Parks, who’s been with the group for eight years.
During a performance (for the past decade the group has performed at 8 pm the third Saturday of each month at Old City Hall), select members of the group participate in quick-witted games. Each month, the members rotate and take turns as host. The host chooses his or her favorite games to feature and then selects a cast who will best fit the games. Some of Parks’ favorites include “derailment” (a conversation between two people and when the host rings a bell the conversation topic must be changed on the fly), and the home shopping channel and dating games, which are mock versions of their TV counterparts. In a given night, the crew will run through 15 to 20 of these games.
Material is kept at a PG-13 level. In the past, the Players have allowed for one “blue performance,” where the material is more adult-oriented and risque. “For most of our shows, we kind of hold back with some of the material and language,” Clark says. “For that one show, it’s hard to make that switch. It sometimes feels like we say stuff just because. It’s funnier to walk the line than to completely jump over.”
The Players group has been around more than 10 years and includes: founding members Samantha Clark, Russell Piette, David Rutherford and Lisa Drafall; longtime members Joe Parks, Sean Sampson, Bryan Crum, Susan Daugherty, Cannon Knapp, Ablan Roblin, Larry Solberg, Scott Warriner; and newcomers Jonah Taylor, Chris Gomez and Bil Woodford, who have joined in the past four months.
“If everybody would come and see it (the performance), they would realize this place isn’t big enough for the talent,” Taylor says of the 150-capacity performance area upstairs at Old City Hall. New to the group, Taylor is enjoying his time with the Players. He says they can’t practice like, say, a baseball team: “You never know what the audience might throw at you,” and that’s what makes improv exciting, he says. But the experience is also a bit humbling. “Being quick and funny at work is easy. Here, not so much. You’ve really got to grow,” he says.
Traditionally, December is the off month for the group. However, last year was a different story. The Players - the majority of whom have extensive experience in performing arts – performed a play instead of the traditional comedy. The Players plan to do more performances of that style, eventually more than once a month. •
Who: Redding Improv Players. www.reddingimprov.com What: Improv comedy every month. When: 8 pm the third Saturday of each month. Where: Old City Hall. Cost: $5.