‘Consensual Improv’ comedy group debuts in Carbondale
If the audience enjoys Thunder River Theatre’s new improv comedy show as much as the those on stage do, it’s bound to be a hit.
“I have fun the whole time,” said member Miller Ford. “I come out happier.”
The unrated 8 p.m. show follows a 7:30 p.m. cash bar on Nov. 18 and 19 at Thunder River’s theater in Carbondale. Tickets are $10 and available at thunderrivertheatre.com. Dubbed “Consensual Improv,” the troupe is the brainchild of former Hollywood actor Jeff Patterson.
“I just wanted to have a group to play with, and there just wasn’t anything so I decided to create it myself,” he said. “I’ve never directed anything, so this is a little different. It was such an incredible challenge and growth experience for me.”
Patterson pitched the idea to singer-songwriter and sometime-thespian Jan Garrett, who immediately signed up.
“Everything that I’ve been taught about drama is that it’s based on conflict. Comedy improv is based on agreement. It’s a whole different world,” she observed. “You never say no. You say yes, and…”
The same attitude brought frequent local performers Nina Gabianelli, Cassidy Willey, Mike Monroney, Gerald DeLisser and Corey Simpson as well as stand up comedian Don Chaney to the stage. “It’s something different,” DeLisser said “It takes twists and turns it never would in life or theater.”
Some of the group had previous improv experience, but it was by no means a requirement. In fact, Ford thinks bartending may have prepared him better than drama would have.
“There’s a lot of on-your-feet responses. This is exactly what I’ve been doing, but with a little bit more rules,” he said. “I think not having any scripted training helped me dive headlong into the improv life.”
For Patterson, the variety in the group is one of its biggest assets.
“We all chip in and give feedback,” he said. “There’s so many unique backgrounds, so you get this real beautiful mix of life.”
For those unfamiliar with the format, improv comedy shows are basically a series of skits and games based on suggestions from the crowd.
“It’s authentic,” Ford said. “The audience is basically as big of a player as we are.”
Whether they’re turning gibberish into interpretive dance or competing through rhyme and song, it’s just not behavior you generally expect to see from adults. Although the format is prepared, the results are often unexpected and, ideally, humorous.
“You have all these minds in kind of a collective soup. The scenes take on the energy of the people in the room,” Patterson said. “We really need an audience to give us that fire.”
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