A night of family-friendly unpredictability, laughter, and joy is promised at Live Oak Theatre’s Improv Night, Friday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m., at the Carol & Frank Morsani Center for the Arts, 21030 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville. Doors open at 7 pm. Seats are $10 per person in advance and $15 at the door. Concessions will be available for purchase before the show and during intermission. Seating capacity has been enhanced for this performance.
Improv is the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever can be found. Improvisation in the performing arts is a very spontaneous performance without specific or scripted preparation. And this particular improvisational performance is being staged for a good cause. Indeed, Live Oak Theatre’s Improv Night is a fund-raiser set to contribute to the compensation of teachers and building operations at the Live Oak Conservatory.
“The Improv Night is designed to allow conservatory students to showcase their improvisational skills for a paying audience,” said Live Oak dramatic coach Kyle Marra, also an actor, director, and filmmaker. “This class is about encouraging students to think on their feet. What better way to do that than putting them in a showcase that is driven by audience prompts? It forces the students to take a theme, dialect, or scenario that is given to them on the spot and create a cohesive, fun scene with it. The audience, in turn, gets to react in real-time.”
And aside from being a benefit, this event is a live learning experience as well; not to mention pure entertainment for viewers. “The night will be a compilation of games that will act as prompts for the students as they work to build unique and hilarious scenes for our audience. There will be around eight students participating in the show itself,” said Marra. “Typically each scene/game will start with two of them, but as the story builds, the cast might too…”
The cast at this show, in fact, often grows to include the audience. “There is a bit of audience interaction. Throughout the night audiences will be polled by Esprit Herbert, our Improv Instructor, for prompts that students must then build scenes around. It is a show no one has ever seen, nor will it ever be seen again,” said Marra.
Encouraging cast members to think on their feet is all part of the educational experience at the Live Oak Conservatory, which features roughly 20 students involved in the conservatory improv classes, with classes ranging from middle school to adult. “Improv helps actors to be able to think on their feet no matter what situation they find themselves in. This can apply to our showcases, it can apply to other stage or film productions, and it can apply to life in general. We have all found ourselves in a situation at a loss for words. While it is not an end-all-be-all fix for every scenario, improv can help the mind to process information quickly so that a clear and concise response can be given. Maybe an actor forgets a line on stage and they have to make something up that is still in character to move the scene along. Maybe someone is in a job interview and the person conducting the interview asks an unexpected question, and the person is able to use their improv skills to generate a well-thought answer on the spot. These are just a few examples of the many practical applications. On top of that, it is just a great way to break out of your shell,” said Marra.
Marra invites community members to join in the fun. “If you come to one of our shows and are interested in getting involved, please don’t hesitate to ask. We love seeing new faces,” he said.
And above all, the folks at Live Oak just love to entertain. “The world is in a strange place right now. We have been fortunate enough to live in an area that is working hard to help businesses keep the doors open. Being a performing arts venue, we depend on full audiences to continue bringing joy to people in our community. With the current state of things, this has not been possible,” said Marra. “These types of events are great because they involve a smaller cast and work really well in intimate settings. Audiences can come, have a laugh, enjoy some concessions and get a brief reprieve from the stresses of everyday life. Their patronage helps us to continue to keep the doors open so that these students can continue to grow and let their creativity flourish. Aside from the financial benefits, events like the improv nights allow patrons to see first hand the tools that conservatory students are being taught, and they get to have a good laugh in the process!”