Throwback Program 2013-2014

I am immensely proud and pleased with the 2013-2014 Throwback Program (which I refer to as The Throwgram due to my love of portmanteaus). We had 30 talented improvisers cast in 3 different teams, and they came together and created some of the year’s best improv.

Casting began in September of 2013, and we closed our final show at the end of June 2014. It’s been a long road, but the outcome has been tremendous.

In the fall, the teams were created and assigned a classic improv form.  The Juice Tigers took on the Harold, Colossus did the Deconstruction, and He/She/Them did Close Quarters. In part 2 of The Throwgram, teams were tasked to work with me and create a brand new form from scratch.  Colossus had #hashtag, He/She/Them did Us/Them/Here (confusing I know), and Juice Tigers had Dr. Harold.

The creation process for these new forms included recognizing what it is each team did best, and combined that with what they worked on in their original Throwback forms. It has been a process that has lasted nearly an entire year, and it has paid off handsomely.

With #hashtag, Colossus took their innate natural organic tendencies, and used that to explore a trending topic picked out from a random Twitter feed. The hashtag was deconstructed in the first half using the classic Deconstruction form, and then the rules were thrown out in the second. Using their organic energies, they explored everything that came out in the first half, using an organic form that eschewed all the “rules” of improv. The forest for the trees here was what patterns can we explore, and how can we do it without any boundaries.

He/She/Them took their love of exploring slices of life and having stories inspire and intersect with each other, while literally traversing time and space, and created Us/Them/Here. It was a location and time based form that allowed them to explore interpersonal relationships while revolving around specific points in space and time.

The Juice Tigers had a mad energy when it came to group interactions and games, so it was only natural that they went from The Harold to Dr. Harold. A form that explored the various “elephants in the room” of personal relationships, culminates in a 12 Angry Men/Breakfast Club type cagematch of emotional honesty.

I am in love with the work these 3 groups have done, and the effect it has had on our community. I’ve always been a big fan of things that have weight and meaning, no matter how seemingly trivial. When I was a student, I once had a teacher tell me “Just because the audience is laughing, doesn’t mean you are doing the right thing.” This has stuck with me throughout the years. I found it to be an incredibly profound thing to think about, specifically in this arena of improvisation. What we are doing is comedy, no doubt… but comedy is nothing unless it has a base to stand on. The stronger the base, the more rewarding the shows. I have said many times in classes and rehearsals that the best improv shows I have ever seen were not ones that made me simply laugh really hard, but made me laugh while simultaneously thinking “holy shit, that was amazing”.

All 3 Throwback groups embodied this philosophy, and resulted in many performances that hopefully remind the audience that while funny, improv is also an art form capable of more than just laughs.  I can’t wait for the next Throwgram!  Stay tuned for audition dates…

 

-Nels