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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Orlando Improv Festival

Orlando Improv Festival
Presented by TheDailyCity.com
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Click here for schedules: http://orlandoimprovfestival1.blogspot.com/

Streaming Video at www.pjandfriends.com

Sunday, 9-19-2010 Day 0

I’ve been playing phone tag with Producer Mark Baratelli; he’s been furiously making posters, filling swag bags, and folding programs. He claims the process is un-photogenic, but I’m trying to get a behind the scenes look at producing a one man festival. It takes until Sunday dinner time to catch him, but by now the exciting world of paper cuts and scotch tape is replaced by a burning need to unload carloads of beer, Smart Water, and Fuze. I’m not sure what sort of molecules go into Fuze, but it’s always around when there are theater people. Technicians are preparing to stream the show live, and I’ll be posting that address soon. Mark seems flustered, but focused, and he has no idea if there are any presales. A discussion erupts over the happy hour; it will stop at 5 sharp. Todd Long has a special buzzer. Drink early, boys and girls.

Supplies are laid in.

More to follow…

Monday, 9-20-2010 Day 1I began to suspect his might be a hot when I tried to park. Normally it’s no more than a block’s walk to WPPH, even for a sellout Fred Astaire impersonator. But I’m three blocks away, and maybe should have walked. Monday isn’t a big theatre night, but the lobby is full, with a high percentage of regulars. Thomas Thorspecken sketches; I get my pass, and sit down in the theater. Brian Feldman sits next to me; he’s tweeting and laughing while I type in the dark. Curse that spell check! On stage “Offsides” appears, it looks like a collection of Sak alums and regulars, and they charge into a long form game called “Fast Facts.” If you don’t know the difference between long and short form, Short From demands a steady stream of audience suggestions, Long Form takes a very few at the beginning, and then fills half an hour with meandering story lines. Audience reaction is positive, particularly for an early show. God, sand, and the Dollar General store pull laughs and no one is fidgeting.

Early Bird specials, before the big rush.

Back in the lobby, the crowd has grown. A set for Dog Powered Robot appears, that’s was the unexpected hit of this spring’s Fringe. Feldman tells me this is the weirdest festival he’s attended, which is really saying a lot. The next group us is “Bears vs. Wizard,” another set of Sak Alums filling in for a missing Atlanta Group. They’re doing a scene re-exploration number. Audience reaction is muted, but more people flow in. I move back to the last row, behind the streaming camera, but people still crawl over me. I can’t get a live connection any more. Time to cycle power…

OK, back on the air. The sketch is picking up, they’ve done some gender swapping with the cast and finding more laughs in this domestic dramady, and now folding chairs are flying. I think they’ve found their groove.

I head to the lobby and a massive traffic jam. The bar is mobbed, the men’s room has a line, and improv artists discuss technique while blocking fire exits. “NO BLOCKING!” floats across my field of view. Here’s a problem – no food. There are snacks, but getting anything to eat requires ditching a show and heading to Cup ‘O Soul or the Fish place three doors down. I opt for cashews; we’ll see how my resolve holds. Next up is local group “Is the Seat Taken?” lead by Jay Hopkins and David (I’m from New Zealand) Charles. These guys vie for title of “The Second Best Improviser in Orlando” as they take off in an imaginary bus, rolling through jokes in a long form skit that has an impossibly complicated set up. There’s chemistry tonight between these guys, “hetro-normative” and “chocolate covered bacon” pull big laughs, and a Thomas Jefferson remark even bigger ones. Now I’m really hungry, and another beer is out of the question. I hit the street.

OK, the food problem is fixed, Mr. Baratelli convinced Cup ‘O Soul to stay open late, and I snagged a sandwich at the expense of most of the “Boston Improv” show. Gales of laughter poured out of the theatre, and I snuck in and sat next to a girl with enormous cameras. Boston Improv was wrapping up a funny and well received set up about toilets that transport people to London. Sorry I missed part of it.

I think I’m good for on more show, and “Droll Academy” is up with two guys doing scenes based on audience relationship problems, followed by some pick up songs about samba and groceries. These guys are funny, but I’m saturating on comedy and the A/C is kicking in. Time to retreat to the lobby as Seattle based “You Are Here” takes the stage.

Producer Baratelli and Assistant Producer Ed Shepp are beginning to dissect the show as WPPH responsible Adult in Charge Todd Allan Long hauls beer out of a store room. Beer was the most popular drink tonight, either because is a buck cheaper, or because it’s harder to spill than wine in an open cup. The crows have been steady and responsive, and the only disappointment is zero sales of the cute little Improv Bunnies offered at $20. Most ticket sales came immediately before the show and right after the Sentinel announced it. We all discuss publicity and streaming video, and soon it’s time for the Midnight Improv Slam, free to whoever can stay awake. That’s not me, I’m done for tonight.

Tuesday, 9-21-2010 Day 2

OK, I’m back, found parking quickly, and the “Early Show” is up first. They’re doing a long form based on the suggestion “surf.” I picked up a solid internet, and my camera gave up the ghost, so things should go quicker. The show starts out a bit slow, but picks up when a young man at Chick-fil-A starts saying “No” and has to come in to work on Sunday. We’re all feeling energized.

There’s a comedy club feel to the festival. Unlike most theater, texting and tweeting are encouraged, late comers sneak in, and occasionally someone sneaks out to take a call. Attendance is still strong, and the bar is nearly out of Newcastle brown ale. I know since I’m killing the second last one. Now that the food process is better defined, I skipped the first part of “The Arm” from Atlanta, but scuttle butt has it that “Island Time” is the show to catch, and it’s nearly sold out. As a side note, dinner cost me $6.66. That’s the third time I’ve paid that amount in the last month. 

OK, I’m back, found parking quickly, and the “Early Show” is up first. They’re doing a long form based on the suggestion “surf.” I picked up a solid internet, and my camera gave up the ghost, so things should go quicker. The show starts out a bit slow, but picks up when a young man at Chick-fil-A starts saying “No” and has to come in to work on Sunday. We’re all feeling energized.

There’s a comedy club feel to the festival. Unlike most theater, texting and tweeting are encouraged, late comers sneak in, and occasionally someone sneaks out to take a call. Attendance is still strong, and the bar is nearly out of Newcastle brown ale. I know since I’m killing the second last one. Now that the food process is better defined, I skipped the first part of “The Arm” from Atlanta, but scuttle butt has it that “Island Time” is the show to catch, and it’s nearly sold out. As a side note, dinner cost me $6.66. That’s the third time I’ve paid that amount in the last month.

OK, back to Island Time. We’re showing hands if we have empty seats nearby. A video guy is getting crowd reaction shots, and a loose wave begins.”Island Time” are local, and used to work at Pleasure Island at The Mouse. They’ve got a piano and a drum machine, their humor uses parody improv songs – “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, “The Itchy Blues,” and some opera cross in this well executed, well received show. The guy sitting next to me kept his hand up for most of the show, and eventually they showed him some mercy and took his suggestion. Island Time seemed to have some issues with the stage lights – they must be the sort of people that wear sunglasses at night. There also one of the few groups to focus on Short Form improv, a nice switch up for the long from which has dominated the past 48 hours.

Austin’s “Some Like It” is a husband and wife duo doing a Film Noir / Screwball Comedy. They were puling laughs, but I had snuck out for a brewski and Orlando Live was filming the show, and then doing an interview with Baratelli. He’s got a flair for storytelling and flaming, and claims to have invented Improv three months ago, and he then demonstrates the “Dog Powered Robot” set. Stand behind it and make like Godzilla, and have your friend take a picture. Voila, you’re ravaging Tokyo.

The Newcastle Brown is gone, and I’m up for one more show – the one called “Phone Book” from Sarasota. 

 

OK, back to Island Time. We’re showing hands if we have empty seats nearby. A video guy is getting crowd reaction shots, and a loose wave begins.”Island Time” are local, and used to work at Pleasure Island at The Mouse. They’ve got a piano and a drum machine, their humor uses parody improv songs – “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, “The Itchy Blues,” and some opera cross in this well executed, well received show. The guy sitting next to me kept his hand up for most of the show, and eventually they showed him some mercy and took his suggestion. Island Time seemed to have some issues with the stage lights – they must be the sort of people that wear sunglasses at night. There also one of the few groups to focus on Short Form improv, a nice switch up for the long from which has dominated the past 48 hours.

Austin’s “Some Like It” is a husband and wife duo doing a Film Noir / Screwball Comedy. They were pulling laughs, but I had snuck out for a brewski and Orlando Live was filming the show, and then doing an interview with Baratelli. He’s got a flair for storytelling and flaming, and claims to have invented Improv three months ago. He then demonstrates the “Dog Powered Robot” set. Stand behind it and make like Godzilla, and have your friend take a picture. Voila, you’re ravaging Tokyo.

The Newcastle Brown is gone, and I’m up for one more show – this one is called “Phone Book” from Sarasota. The energy level is lower, and their best bit come from Satan judging a private fashion show, followed by a slightly awkward moment asking an audience member if they love Satan or Jesus. Kind of a personal question, if you ask me. By now I’m fading, and Improv OD is kicking in, so I fold my laptop and steal out the back door. It’s been a fun show.

So here’s an overall assessment: this was a smashing success with great audiences, good to excellent comedy, wonderful digs, convenient and reasonably priced bar and a convenient and classy location. Weak points include some confusion over who was on stage or up next, early start times on school nights, and confusion over food options. These are nits, and the WPPH location has about half a dozen decent restaurants within walking distance. I’m looking forward to next year’s Improv Fest, and I’ll try to check out some of these groups in their home digs as travel allows. Great job, Mark, you’re a pillar of the Orlando Arts community. 

Austin’s “Some Like It” is a husband and wife duo doing a Film Noir / Screwball Comedy. They were pulling laughs, but I had snuck out for a brewski and Orlando Live was filming the show, and then doing an interview with Baratelli. He’s got a flair for storytelling and flaming, and claims to have invented Improv three months ago. He then demonstrates the “Dog Powered Robot” set. Stand behind it and make like Godzilla, and have your friend take a picture. Voila, you’re ravaging Tokyo.

 

The Newcastle Brown is gone, and I’m up for one more show – this one is called “Phone Book” from Sarasota. The energy level is lower, and their best bit come from Satan judging a private fashion show, followed by a slightly awkward moment asking an audience member if they love Satan or Jesus. Kind of a personal question, if you ask me. By now I’m fading, and Improv OD is kicking in, so I fold my laptop and steal out the back door. It’s been a fun show.

 

So here’s an overall assessment: this was a smashing success with great audiences, good to excellent comedy, wonderful digs, convenient and reasonably priced bar and a convenient and classy location. Weak points include some confusion over who was on stage or up next, early start times on school nights, and confusion over food options. These are nits, and the WPPH location has about half a dozen decent restaurants within walking distance. I’m looking forward to next year’s Improv Fest, and I’ll try to check out some of these groups in their home digs as travel allows. Great job, Mark, you’re a pillar of the Orlando Arts community.

Previously:

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