The following is a lovely blog posted by Derek Miller on 07/29/10
I have never felt compelled to write about specific Improv shows. Perhaps because of its ephemeral nature or maybe because I feel like it’s an individual experience, as no two people will ever see it the same. My 17 years of witnessing stand-out shows will never translate to anyone but myself (believe me, I’ve tried) and I try to teach with the same prejudice, what you think is funny or topical is REAL… to you… but, through emotion, can be ciphered to even the most daft audience…
That said, I think the good fight was fought tonight in terms of creating improv from whence we came— perhaps without the improvisers’ cognizance… which is when this stuff gets really unapproachable to other art.
Though the members of Trophy Wife (in confidence) shrugged off as a “preamble” to DHT’s final show— they quite adeptly managed to put up a biting satire of America’s love affair with media. To open the show they graced the capacity crowd with promotional items from the soon to be released “Dinner With Schmucks.” How and why this occurred was a mystery to me and I was glad I didn’t know why (as I pull the “DFS” bottle opener from my pocket). They handed the gifts out with equal parts glee and disdain, which unknowingly(?) served as half their opening.
Their delicious take on the venerable “cocktail party” opening birthed sharp characters and a pace that is enviable by the taught-est of improvisers. Zabeth’s Grandmother’s love of the telly tubbies was an excellent companion to Kevin’s Doctor who had been so MOVED by the American remake of Dinner for Schmucks he couldn’t “perform” surgery or get to Thanksgiving on time. His heavy-handed-unabashed love for this yet-to-be-released yet still vital part of pop-culture was as much a fuck you as it was a necessary evil. The entire cast worked seamlessly to “stick it to the man” whilst nodding to us that there is something bigger here that we have to (even begrudgingly) respect.
Which was… A PERFECT MATCH to DHT’s final show…
I wish I could to speak to DHT’s storied 6 year history with authority, but I can’t. I have seen them in many incarnations over the years and I (much like the current cast) couldn’t give you a precise rundown of their evolution. Notwithstanding, their ire for being pre-maturely cut from iOWest’s mainstage roster was the suggestion— though the audience suggestion “forever” was ironically implemented, the vindication of their ousting was never far from reach.
DHT opened the show with a heartfelt slideshow which spoke to every actor in the audience who performs “for love of the game” and more importantly, the people they share the stage with. The video warranted an outpouring of audience support (I was told to please keep it down by Herb) and rightfully so. When can you ever start a show with that level of empathy? But it wasn’t needed. This show was to be grand and it was played as such.
The show struck an early uncomfortably note when the Elephant in the Room was quickly brought to light in the embodiment of the “faceless man”— who was in charge of time and was erasing this group from existence…DHT had a moment of apprehension (not to bite the hand that feeds?) but quickly adopted the entity as a beautiful critique of the theatre’s decision to make them obsolete. Their own personal fears and in-group obligations were gently masked to cover this bitter pill.
The first three scenes of the show was subtle nods to “corporations” and “higher ups” making impenetrable decisions. It was well crafted but smacked of disdain…which was precisely executed and never felt pushed or acerbic. Overall it was a gracefull release…and at the end even singing their way angelically out of danger.
Despite a missed light cue to hit a shaper ending, they plugged away compounding their frustration into something uncomfortable and real. Making this farewell a show to be talked about for years to come. It’s late and I could be more specific but this was an excellent hour of Improv.
I said a lot of things tonight which could be perceived as naive, like “Del would be proud”…. but honestly, this art form was always presented to me as a revolution and anti-authority and you can’t get more anti-authority than sarcastically promoting the summer’s biggest comedy (with one of Improv’s biggest alums) and then blatantly criticizing the theatre that bore you.
I was proud of this night and I really think this is important. We live in tenuous times, the internet threatens the death of cogent journalism – we are loosing the truth. It’s time to be angry. So many of my students loose their zeal by the time they hit levels 6 or 7. But that is the opposite reaction. We need to bite harder as we become better improvisers.
Improv has bloomed into a business, guys, it’s not a revolution, and the stupidist/best thing I said tonight as I left was “This is the diving board…not the pool” And don’t get me wrong…it’s a beautiful board.
Thank you all for an amazing night and reminding me why I should love this as much as I do.
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