By Terri Riggle
The Cedar Springs Community Players is pleased to announce its first annual comedy “Improv Night” debuting at the Kent Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Doors will open at 6:30 and the show begins at 7 p.m. Local talent will take to the stage to entertain their audience for 90 minutes. Cost is only $5 at the door. It’s not The Second City, but in the same fashion, it should be an evening of grins and giggles as performers quickly create characters and dialog in the spur of a moment!
Improvisational theater (now shortened to just Improv) is a form of live theater in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment. The most direct ancestor of modern improv is probably the Commedia Dell’Arte, which was popular throughout Europe starting in the mid-1500. Troupes of performers would travel from village to village, presenting shows in the public squares and on makeshift stages. They would improvise the dialog, within a framework provided by a set called a “scenario.”
During the 1920’s and 30’s, a woman named Viola Spolin developed a new approach to teach acting. It was based on a simple yet powerful idea that children would enjoy learning the craft if it were presented as a series of games.
Spolin’s son, Paul Sills, built on his mother’s work and was one of the driving forces of improvisational theatre centered at the University of Chicago in the mid-1950. Along with people like Del Close and David Shepherd, Sills created an ensemble of actors who developed a kind of modern “Commedia” which would appeal to the average man in the street. The goal was to create theatre that was accessible to everyone.
The group that sprang from the work of Sills, Shepherd and Close, called The Compass, was extremely successful. It brought people to the theatre who, in many cases, had never gone before. Eventually, it led to the development of a company called The Second City in Chicago, which opened its doors in December of 1959 and has since grown to become the world’s premier comedy club, theatre, and school of improvisation. The main focus of the theater was to provide a place where scenes and story were created improvisationally, using the same innovative techniques that Viola Spolin had developed and taught.
The Second City has been a launching pad for comedians, actors, directors and others working in show business. Notable alumni include Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, John Belushi, John Candy, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Bonnie Hunt, Richard Kind, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers, Amy Sedaris, Martin Short, George Wendt and Fred Willard, among many others.
The Players hope to form a permanent Improv troupe which would be able to perform in area locales all throughout the year. They encourage any persons interested in being a part of the troupe to attend the performance and leave your name at the box office or leave a comment on their website cedarspringscommunityplayers.org.