Friday, May 23, 2008

Accomplished Improv Performers Keep Audience Laughing


Offshoot Productions, the Southside’s oldest professional theatre, has successfully recreated itself as a touring and special event company. In addition to touring the current children’s participation play, Tales from Near and Far, and preparing for its upcoming mystery, Rehearsal for Murder, Offshoot has increased the cast size of its improvisation troupe, The Gallery Players.

The Gallery Players actors—Elizabeth Clausen, Andy Fleming, Kristi Israel, Betty Mitchell, Paige Steadman and Joey Waldrop—bring a wide range of performing experience to the seemingly effortless improvisation they create for delighted audiences.
Drawing from dozens of improv structures, the troupe can design a performance for a particular occasion or venue. Because the audience is always different, and the cast line-up for a particular performance varies, each show is surprisingly unique.

Every performance begins with a song. Then, according to audience suggestions and predilections, the company presents a wacky interpretation of common—and uncommon--experiences, such as a “dating game” in which the audience assigns different characters (real or fictional, from Cleopatra to Orphan Annie) to the women competing for a guy. At times, the actors may transform a mundane scene into a Shakespearean tragedy or a piece in the style of film noir or Dr. Seuss. Sometimes performers are limited to lines suggested by the audience, or beginning with a letter of the alphabet, or that contain a certain number of words.

There are also opportunities for a few brave souls in the audience to join the actors on stage.

The troupe’s director, Susan M. Steadman, Ph.D., has been producing artistic director of Offshoot Productions since 1993. She has spent over thirty years teaching improvisation in universities, at theatre conferences, or for recreation departments and other organizations.

For information on the Gallery Players and on Offshoot Productions, call (770) 631-2362 or send e-mail to offshootpr@aol.com. For general information on the company, visit www.offshoot.org.
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