Is the stage half empty or half full?
Depends on your improvisational skills, David Christopher would say. While some consider it theater's ugly cousin, Christopher, an actor, instructor, and one of the founding members of the Just the Funny Improv Comedy Theater Company, contends that improv is an essential part of any actor's bag of tricks. The ability to improvise, invent, and entertain off the cuff teaches an actor how to audition successfully, work with other actors, and develop more believable characters. "Improvisation is a skill that you normally cannot find in a conservatory," explains Christopher. "It's about adding information and using it. You are always bringing something new to the table. It also teaches you to release any anxiety you have about rejection." Just the Funny will offer an all-day intensive workshop on Saturday, September 29, that focuses on all aspects of improv training for the professional actor including auditions, commercials, stage, film, and TV.
Nonthespians take heart. For the first time since it began in 1999, Just the Funny is opening one of its workshops to the public, owing to popular demand from the company's audience members. "People who come to our shows have been asking for improv workshops since we started," says Christopher. The company offers ongoing improvisational performances every Saturday night. The shows feature game-show parodies, one-acts, musical skits, and occasional scripts à la Saturday Night Live. Audience members customize each show by contributing words, names, places, and phrases that are used throughout the performance. They also get to participate in regular skits like the company's signature piece, Luv Machine, a spoof of The Dating Game. Each week one lucky victim is given the opportunity to win a date with some of Miami's most eligible (and stereotypical) bachelors, as portrayed by company members.
As Christopher points out: "Every show is original. In improv the genre demands that you wipe the slate clean and start from scratch every few minutes." This is where things can get interesting for actors and audience members alike, a fine line that virtually disappears during these truly interactive performances.