Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sheet forts and improv groups

Last year sometime, shortly after we moved here, we went to a performance of a local improv troupe and were less than impressed.  The audience seemed to like it, but with my Big City background and Doug's actual improv training, plus with our general judgmental natures, we found much to complain about.

Yet, it was the only game in town, so we went again a few weeks ago and were equally unimpressed.  We walked home feeling like snobs--we'd *wanted* to like them, we had hope they had perhaps improved over the year, and the audience was even larger and more enthusiastic than last year.  Obviously they are catering to their audience well, and if the goal is to make money, they look like they are having some success.  But we felt many of the games went on too long, they gave too much power to the audience (e.g. don't TELL the audience what the nouns and adjectives are going to be used for, that's less funny!), etc.

Then, miraculously, the tide turned.  In reading the Fayetteville Flyer, I learned about some "fringey" (word used by the artistic director herself) theatre company in town called Artists Laboratory Theatre who are hosting a month of shows in a sheet fort. Yes, you heard me, a sheet fort.  They have a small space rented out that they've draped sheets all over, and put up some lights to make a stage.  They're doing all kinds of fun stuff, from long form musical improv (more on that in a second) to viewing movies (Goonies! In a sheet fort!) to open mic storytelling nights, etc.  The company also does "secret theatre" where 10 audience members are taken to a random location for a special performance. It's just the kind of fun, fringey types of theatre that I've always enjoyed, and very local.

It was a performance-heavy week for us, as we saw shows three nights in a row.  First the movie Amour (the last best picture nominee--I've now seen all 9!), the next night the touring production of Hair, and then musical improv.  While I'm here, we had fun at Hair, although Doug was perturbed about the cast interacting with the audience.  I thought it was fun, and we both got up and danced on stage with the cast at the end.

The sheet fort show was really fun.  A beer company donated beer that they sold for super cheap, lights bouncing off the sheets, performers peeking their heads through gaps in the sheets to be was a lighthearted, fun performance.  They did two "long form" improvs, one beginning with a song and the other incorporating music throughout.  We had a great time.  Afterward I went up to talk to the Artistic Director of the Artists Laboratory Theatre (who we've seen in several shows in town) and chatted with her for awhile.  We're going to go back to their storytelling night next week, and Doug may attend a rehearsal of the improv group; he's been hoping/wishing to get back into that and this may be an opportunity.

In short, yay for the sheet fort!

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