Friday, Oct. 2, 2009

After School Special At The Alchemist Theatre

Unconventional Comedy In A Familiar Format

By Russ Bickerstaff
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When I was talking with local playwright/comedy guy  Patrick Schmitz last week, he’d invited me to a show that I will be unable to make it to this coming Sunday. It’s kind of a big disappointment that I can’t make it. Schmitz’s work teaching improv with First Stage Children’s Theatre has been really successful in the past . . . his most prominent success being Organized Chaos--the performance end of those improv classes, which made a really impressive showing at The Milwaukee Comedy Fest this past August. It’s sort of the Menudo of local improv . . . there’s some real talent there and a good chance that some of the performers could end up being involved in more advanced improv later on.


The latest fruit of Schmitz’s work with kid’s improv performs this coming Sunday at the Alchemist as After School Special makes it to the stage on October 4th at 7pm. The group includes Joel Boyd, Kevin Gerrity, Anna Wolfe, who had been in Schmitz's Christmas show Rudolph The Pissed-Off Reindeer. The format, as described to me by Schmitz over coffee last week goes a little something like this: It’s long form improv from a suggestion taken at the beginning of the performance. The group then takes that suggestion and weaves a comic improv sketch around the suggestion . . . done in a format that is reverently mocking the style of the old After School Specials on TV.  It’s a clever format that has room for both comedy AND some honest, heartfelt moments, which make for a really interesting dynamic.

 

The cool thing about kid’s inmprov groups is the fact that, so much of what makes for easy laughs with an adult improv group is the kind of “R-Rated” material that kids couldn’t get away with anyway . . .  so they’re kind of forced to be more creative, even for the easy laughs. And adult improv would have a great deal of difficulty going for a “cute” moment. Kids can go for “cute” and be successful without making ‘em laugh . . .which opens things considerably. With “cute” open to them, they can also go for other emotions in improv . . . emotions that more traditional improv groups would shy away from for fear of the silence . . . Schmitz told me that when After School Special performed at the comedy festival this past August . . . they got a standing ovation. That’s something you don’t normally get out of improv. . . . and that’s what I’m disappointed to be missing this Sunday at 7pm . . . . this is a kid's act, but it should be a really unique comedy experience for anyone with some time free this coming Sunday . . .

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