Can improv comedy change the world? Can it transfer society ahead, as a substitute of setting it again?
These are the questions Washington Improv Theater is asking over the course of the following month in its new collection now operating at Studio Theatre, Ask Me Something: Changemakers.
Every efficiency within the collection options an interview with a DMV resident who’s “working to make the world a greater place,” which the improvisers then use as inspiration for a comedic efficiency proper after. WIT has lined up a formidable slate of native activists, artists, and policymakers for the collection, and since every evening incorporates a completely different interviewee, each efficiency is exclusive for each the performers and the viewers.
A latest efficiency featured Erin Palmer, a DC activist who serves as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) — a hyperlocal elected volunteer place designed to advise the DC Metropolis Council (a job description that Palmer very helpfully defined to the viewers). She additionally not too long ago ran a surprisingly aggressive major problem in opposition to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
Within the interview portion of the present, Palmer described her background as a lawyer, the expertise of native politics, operating a marketing campaign in opposition to Mendelson, the modifications she’d wish to see in metropolis authorities, and what it’s like working with residents to enhance her neighborhood and the district at massive.
One resident, for instance, was obsessive about fixing the citywide rat downside, which meant Palmer wanted a rat platform.
“What’s your rat platform?” an viewers member instantly requested.
Palmer’s “rat platform” — dry ice, for what it’s price — led to a hilarious recurring bit in the course of the improv portion of the present through which the rats of the town campaigned to have their very own ANC. The candidate? John Quincy Ratams, who’s firmly anti-dry ice and pro-dumpster.
That’s only one instance of how the performers spun Palmer’s interview into a singular comedic efficiency that blended collectively typical improv strategies with particular native humor. The performers additionally poked some good-natured enjoyable at neighborhood cleanups, Palmer’s job as a lawyer, and Rock Creek Park.
“I used to be afraid entering into as a result of change-making — typically it’s very critical enterprise,” mentioned Invoice Nelson, one of many performers, after the present. As an alternative, Nelson discovered the dialogue to be low-stakes and conversational, so the viewers received to listen to each the “critical enterprise” and the sillier aspect of native politics, the latter of which offered inspiration to the improv performers.
The consequence was a present that took a usually difficult and critical subject and turned it into one thing accessible and humorous.
“I believe lots of people don’t look after native politics,” mentioned Palmer after the present. “If you put it in a manner that’s pleasant and straightforward to digest and humanizing, that may develop folks’s curiosity, and perhaps they’ll see one thing completely different that they didn’t see earlier than.”
Certainly, the hope for WIT is that the whole collection can have that impact — that the interviews and performances put collectively can function schooling and inspiration as a lot as they’re leisure.
“I believe it’s actually nice to get neighborhood members like Erin speaking about one thing so necessary that many individuals might not be invested in initially,” mentioned Eddison Wilkinson, one other performer. “It’s superior that you just get to have a pleasant, humorous evening in addition to study these fantastic, necessary issues in our neighborhood.”
Nelson and Wilkinson additionally mentioned they see a number of similarities between improv and native politics, and that hopefully a efficiency like this may help the 2 distinct fields inform one another.
“One of many key parts of improv — profitable improv — is shutting up and listening,” mentioned Nelson. “Clearly, on the earth of politics, there must be much more listening.”
It’s not simply native politics, although, that WIT intends to deal with via this manufacturing. Developing, WIT has exhibits that includes extremely acclaimed native artist and activist Holly Bass (November 26), trans activist Charlotte Clymer (December 9), and Dixon Osburn (December 10), who performed a pivotal position in dismantling “Don’t Ask, Don’t Inform.”
Because of the big variety of company, every evening shall be utterly distinctive. For the viewers, meaning a number of thrilling and distinct viewpoints on change-making. For the performers, it presents a singular problem and a possibility for studying and inspiration each onstage and off.
Onstage, Wilkinson mentioned, he tackles that problem by all the time considering: “What can I pay attention and take away from this individual to assist us push ahead and never simply be at a standstill or be at a second the place nobody can say something and nobody can transfer anyplace?”
That query, he mentioned, applies offstage too, and he hopes it’s the query viewers members take away from the present. It’s additionally the query embodied by the slate of company Washington Improv Theater has lined up.
“It turned very clear that Erin Palmer is simply an abnormal one who then noticed one thing that wanted change,” mentioned Nelson. “I hope that we will all take the concept that regardless of how abnormal we’re, we will take part. I believe that’s fairly inspirational.”
Operating Time (varies): One hour quarter-hour, with no intermission.
Ask Me Something: Changemakers performs Friday and Saturday evenings via December 17, 2022, offered by Washington Improv Theater performing within the Milton Theatre at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Buy tickets ($15 common admission, with a restricted variety of low cost tickets accessible) on-line.
COVID Security: Masks are required for all patrons in efficiency areas. WIT encourages the usage of medical-grade masks (like surgical masks). To be taught extra about Studio Theatre’s COVID security coverage, go to their well being and security web page.
For the entire schedule of WIT’s 2022/23 season at Studio, go to witdc.org/watch/.
Washington Improv Theater debuts at Studio and it’s don’t miss (overview by John Stoltenberg, October 4, 2022)