Sunday, February 5, 2012

Scared Scriptless …four dollar an hour funny on a Saturday night.

This empty nest thing is good for forcing one to expand horizons lest weekends be spent lounging around in a huggie-snuggie with cocktail in hand before the 6 o’clock news even gets to the local weather report. Hubbie and I decided to venture back downtown to watch a Scared Scriptless show that has been right under my own mushroom for several years now (aka the Kathleen Howland Theater at 2nd April). I don’t like to go to a movie or a show to cry, watch explosions or get flashed, I want to be entertained. Make me laugh, allow me to leave a theater feeling good and also feel like what I got was worth every penny, the entertainment has to have value rather than a long list of credit for hundreds of nobodies who make 5 actors look good. Eureka Watson! I have found my funny. 

Yes, I have been aware of the Scared Scriptless troupe for quite some time. Being a fan of the old “Whose Line is it Anyway” and various reincarnations of such, getting monthly updates about my cousin in the improve biz at 2nd City Chicago (and now in feeder classes at SNL in NYC), plus my own propensity to put into paint what I cannot say in words, it is only natural that I would at some point actually watch what these talented people have to “say” because funny is by far my favorite. 

Many of you are probably aware of them as well if you ever got accosted by a keystone cop on Cleveland Ave during a First Friday, or perhaps attended other local venues featuring comedy troupes, or perhaps took in a Christmas show at the KHT these past few years. These men and women, like most artists I would assume, have day jobs to fund the fun, so faces may look familiar…until they become distorted in some elastic expression that only actors can do effortlessly.  (I really wish I could capture some of those fascinating faces for a pastel drawing!)

So back to the show…. these monthly performances are held the first Saturday of each month (except for May this year) at 8pm in the KHT for $8 a ticket. Two hours will fly by as you watch (and contribute) to the antics of these 7 personalities. Judging by the size of the audience, word is getting out. About half were newbies like us and I bet half of them will return next month if not more.  The other half were the friends, co workers (not that coworkers can’t be friends), and perhaps family and groupies of the performers. At some point, I thought I had read that the shows were limited to 18 and over, but that is not printed in the handout. Nothing in the show seemed too offensive for teens or worse than anything done by an adolescent boy in a campfire skit before leaders could intervene, but if one is not happy about four letter words, bathroom humor or totally political incorrect-ness, then yes, stay home.  As for me, the less PC the better because somebody has to say out loud what many people probably really think anyway. Under the cloak of comedy and satire, rules do not apply. 

An opening act featured the Walsh University group Improve ‘n’ Cheese. They will be performing on Friday Feb 10 at Betzler Auditorium on the Walsh Campus with Scared Scriptless returning the favor of opening the show. (8pm and it is free).  

The troupe has two natural leaders, David Sponhour and Kevin Pond, who guide the show along introducing skits and gathering audience input. The other five performers, Mandy Altimus Pond, Matt Linek, Kaylene Williams, Andy Knode and Aaron Lee Jones, by virtue of their body build, vocal quality and/or personality, fill various character roles. Mandy could not pull off the offended terrorist role nor could Aaron be the whiny little girl. By playing to type, the show is all that much funnier because they are not fighting against visual association. Geeze…listen to me, I know diddly squat about theater outside of set design work, soooo……..speaking as a Missouri seat sitter (that would be the  “Show Me” state), make my four dollars an hour worth it or I shall smite thee.  But alas it is me who is smitten; I shall return when possible and bring friends. And next time I will be prepared.

Being a boy scout, one would figure that I should always be prepared, but there was no need for knots or fires or water purification, so not being quick enough of wit to out shout the locals with our suggestions, we shall be Obamanian and use a prompter (or cheat sheet) next time. If you attend a Scared Scriptless show, have a list of places, objects, quotes, items and occupations ready to go as these are the elements which drive the show. Improv only works when nobody knows what to expect and the actors have to think fast and funny on their feet.  Anything goes so be prepared to expect nothing sacred. 

The troupe has a website, a facebook page, a café press merchandise site and t-shirts for sale during the shows.  They also teach classes and workshops, raise thousands of dollars for non-profits and are as professional as any actors one would find in Toronto or Chicago or any number of other cities where I have attending improv comedy clubs. So why did it take so long for us to discover a gem in our own backyard? For the same reason many local artists are still “here” as well…the unfortunate reality that many people falsely believe that what is nearby is not really as good, as important or as professional as what (or who) is someplace else. For some reason, “here” is never as good as “there”. Scared Scriptless is just one example of an arts group that proves this line of thinking to be wrong, wrong, wrong. So snatch off the snuggie and venture downtown (parking is free on nights and weekends!) to take advantage of what lies within our own locale.

The next Scared Scriptless performance is Saturday Feb 25 to benefit the Friends of Stark County Library. I will venture that details about this and other shows is on their website…

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