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Life in the Theatre: Unexpected Productions 50-Hour Improvathon

I’ll be appearing this weekend in selected portions of the 50-Hour Improvathon at my home theatre, the Market Theatre in Pike Place Market, home of Unexpected Productions. We host the Improvathon every few years, but this year it is for a very specific purpose: to raise money to keep the theatre afloat during the challenges that lay ahead of us. (Here’s more info about the theatre and the challenges, or read below.)

If you’d like to see me performing:
FRIDAY: 10:30 PM – 1:30 AM (TheatreSports and Campfire)
SUNDAY: 1PM – 2PM (Kids Hour) and 2PM – 3PM (Musical Hour!)

Sadly that’s all the time I could really swing this time around – it’s a crazy weekend full of zombie photo shoots and birthdays and 2 “Where No Man Has Gone Before” rehearsals.

I still remember the 2008 Improvathon fondly. I was a new company member at the time, and pitched in for some ungodly hours, like 2AM. We made some seriously bizarre game choices onstage at such hours, including… “4 Man Quadrilateral”, a game Tony and Dan P. invented (30 or so hours into their unbroken improv streaks). The ill-advised game started with the 4 male performers lying onstage amidst rehearsal cubes. The women in the scene had to perform while standing on the men in the cast or the cubes – according to the rules, our feet were never allowed to touch the floor during the scene.

This led to a scene between myself and Suzie, a veteran ensemble member, setting a table for dinner. Why we chose a physical scenario I’ll never know. I just remember standing on Dan’s abdomen, shoes off, terrified I’d puncture his kidney or something, and having a very hard time trying to carry on a conversation, much less make character choices!

At one point I had to cross the stage, and ended up on Tony’s abdomen. I still couldn’t reach the imaginary cups in a cabinet. So, naturally, Tony… began to move horizontally across the stage like a caterpillar, face up, with me standing firmly on his kidneys. Needless to say, the audience LOVED THIS GAME. The scenework could have used some work. 😉

When the lights mercifully came down on that scene (we resolved to order pizza to end the travesty of a tablesetting), and I disembarked from Tony’s abdomen, I heard one of the audience members who were laughing the hardest blurt out, “That was the BEST THING I have EVER SEEN!” While I remember the scene largely as an exercise in terror, the audience couldn’t get enough. (Dan P went on to complete the Improvathon and holds the record for our group – 54 hours. We have a few folks going for 50 this year.)

But when people ask me whether I get nervous doing improv, I think back to right before that scene began. Suzie and I learned the rules of the game 30 seconds before starting it. You don’t really get time to be nervous when you’re in the throes of the improv beast. You just throw yourself to the wind, hoping it’ll be an entertaining flight. And once you’ve learned to do that, you discover a whole new power within yourself… an ability to transcend whatever life throws at you. It’s a wonderful realization.

So join us for the Improvathon – you might just witness another 4-Man Quadrilateral moment. Although not that game SPECIFICALLY. I don’t know if their kidneys have recovered yet.


So why is Unexpected Productions raising money?

Tourists who hit the Pike Place Market over the past few months may have noticed the massive amounts of construction. The entire Market needs to be retrofitted for seismic stability and accessibility, and that work has been going on for over a year. In the case of my theatre, we found out a year or so ago that we would be removed from our theatre – where we have been the resident company for over 20 years – so that the Market could construct an elevator where our bar and Stage Left backstage area is currently located.

For a long time, we didn’t know whether we’d be asked to return to the theatre, but recently we’ve heard that we can return. Unfortunately, the construction will be very destructive and will require major renovations to compensate. The Pike Place Market has graciously offered to rebuild our bar area (relocated to our current lobby) and to defray some of the costs of rebuilding the stage. We’ve also got new seats for the theatre in storage, waiting for the glorious day when the old seats can be trashed.

But we’ll have to raise quite a bit of money to cover the rest of the needed renovations, and most likely to cover the dip in revenue we’ll sustain from losing regular clientele when we relocate. There might even be an interruption in our ability to stage any shows, which would be pretty difficult to bear during the holidays.

So this year, the Improvathon is dedicated to our future as Seattle’s oldest improv comedy establishment, and as the oldest TheatreSports organization in the United States. If you’re passionate about things like laughter and theatre, please feel free to join us this weekend! One ticket gets you as much comedy as you can handle. If you can’t join us, we are actively seeking donations to sponsor performers like myself, or just general donations if that makes more sense.

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