When Creede Repertory Theatre’s improv troupe, Boomtown, riffs on a single word, the players make high-flying connections. Like trapeze artists, the young, energetic actors toss words and ideas around, making unexpected catches.
Only two weeks ago, the troupe completed its summer residency in Creede. Now, it starts the 31st annual outreach tour through several Western states.
The Durango Arts Center’s Theresa Carson jumped again at the chance to host the troupe early in the tour. Performances are on Friday at the DAC Theatre: the kids show, “Pants on Fire” at noon and two performances of “Boomtown” in the evening. If you love comedy and are curious about theater improv, here’s a chance to see real pros at work.
I went to Creede for the final, home-plate improvs in late August. “Boomtown” started with a fast warm-up, the actors riffing on a random suggestion from the audience: life-savers. Two-minute sketches ranged from candy to kindergarten. The players picked up a word, an idea or a gesture from each other and went off in new directions. Some of the humor was dark, some silly and all of it inventive. With high-energy 20 and 30-somethings, you can expect Life Saver Man to end up in a Star Wars bit.
A second audience suggestion, marbles, sent the actors off on more two-minute riffs and more elaborate scenes, lifting and transporting characters or ideas from earlier sketches. It’s a tangled web that somehow makes comedic sense in the end.
On occasion, musical improviser Joe Montelione tossed in a pulse or a possible melody line. Actors took the cue, stopped and invented lyrics to fit or extend the made-up situation.
The hour-long, unscripted show unfolds before your eyes and ears. Bits may or may not fit together into some kind of fantasy whole, but in Creede, they did. An odd, invented romance emerged to face several obstacles then wrapped up with a song and one more unexpected twist. Both brought the house down in big-hearted applause.
“Pants on Fire” is the kids show put on by some of the players in Boomtown. Like the parent show, the hour-long musical is entirely invented, quirky and particularly enticing for a young audience.
After a lively musical prologue, suggestions are elicited from the audience to build a story. The musical follows as the players continue to ask the audience for new clues or directions.
In Creede, the children and their parents filled the theater with a small, group-huddled, pajama-party style on the floor in front of the stage.
The hour goes by fast, and on leaving, children are encouraged to make up their own stories out of odd bits of ideas, words and materials. You have the feeling that’s just what will happen at home or at school given this level and quality of stimulation.
The noon presentation at DAC is primarily for school kids, but Carson says seats are still available for parents who want to bring their children. The two evening performances by Boomtown Improv are at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday. Carson made sure ticket prices are reasonable: $10 for DAC members, $15 for nonmembers. For more information, call 259-2606, ext. 19 or visit www.DurangoArts.tix.com.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, art historian and arts journalist.