When The Era invaded Monday’s practice of the Bradford Little Theatre Improv Troupe, the performers took the intrusion in stride.
That’s what improvisers do.
The same might not be said for The Era’s reporter, who upon arrival was drafted into the group’s warm-up games. Not so easy.
The improv troupe was getting one last practice in Monday before making their public debut Friday at the Palmer Opera House in Cuba, N.Y.
At 7 p.m. Friday, “Improv Comedy Night: The Funniest Night Ever” will take the stage. Doors open at 6 p.m. Presale tickets for $7 can be purchased by calling the Palmer Opera House at 585-209-5512.
The show will last one hour and 15 minutes at most, according to Kristin Asinger, troupe member and BLT president.
She said the concession stand will be open at Palmer, selling beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages and snacks.
Money collected at the door of Friday’s event will go back to BLT, while money from concessions will go to the Palmer Opera House.
When asked if there is ever a theme to the shows, troupe member Brad Gale said, “Silly” — just one of several comical answers the performers gave during the interview with The Era.
No, they don’t have themes that carry throughout a show.
What they will have is suggestions from the audience, written on paper, that can change the direction of a scene in an instant. The performers know the games, but they have no idea what suggestions the audience will throw at them.
It’s similar to the television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” said Asinger for anyone not familiar with improv.
“The show is different every night,” said Tim Asinger.
In addition to Gale and the Asingers, the improv team includes Tiffany Mager, Lori Vickery, Darren Hilmes, Andrew Truman and Mike Clark.
An example of one of the games, said Kristin Asinger, is Pocket Sentence. Audience members write down statements, and the improvisers will pull one from their pocket to read during the scene.
For potential audience members who are worried about being dragged on the stage: Don’t worry. The team members said they want people who want to play and will choose audience members who raise their hands.
But people itching to test their acting in an improv game, they may get a chance.
BLT isn’t new to improv, noted troupe member Tim Asinger. This is simply the first performance by the organized troupe since it formed earlier this year.
Asinger said the group has reached out to other theaters in the area in places such as Salamanca, N.Y., and Olean, N.Y., to see if they are interested in a collaborative show like the one the troupe is doing Friday in Cuba.
They have more performances planned for the coming months that will be closer to home.
The improv troupe will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in Beefeaters’ Afterwords Club, Bradford; 7 p.m. Oct. 5 in Togi’s Playhouse, Bradford; and 7 p.m. both Nov. 6 and Feb. 29 at the Bradford Club.
The group is still doing bookings for groups looking for entertainment, such as company parties.
The troupe, which practices on Monday nights to keep their skills sharp, works closely together learning about each other as performers, according to Kristin Asinger. This is important for performers who need to be able to communicate quickly as they invent a scene on the spot.
It’s “like an amoeba,” said troupe member Mager.
“We have a lot of fun together,” Asinger added.
Warm-ups like “Samurai” are not only fun — with members pretending to slice each other holding their arms in a sword-like fashion while making sound effects — but they also highlight the importance of skills like eye-contact.
At Monday’s practice Mager said there is one question they get most often: Why do improv troupes need to practice?
While there are no lines to memorize, there are skills involved. Being better at those skills means being able to focus on what’s ahead in the skit.
“It pushes your range,” said Gale of the warm-up games.
Also, it helps members to “understand structure,” Tim Asinger added.
There’s nothing like sitting in on an improv warm-up game to realize the coordination involved: They made rubbing one’s tummy and patting one’s head simultaneously seem like child’s play.
Truman likes how improv takes the performers out of their comfort zones. He explained it “strengthens their minds.”
It has other benefits, too.
“I feel like I can just be myself, and everyone accepts it,” said Hilmes.
Improv “allows the scene to go outside the box” in directions performances wouldn’t normally go, explained Kristin Asinger. She also likes that there are no stars in the show — members are working together and playing off each other to complete the scene.
One thing the group hasn’t experimented with yet is musical improv, but Kristin Asinger said that is something the group will consider trying.
The eight-member team is set for now, and Kristin Asinger said it will likely be at least June before they do auditions again. As a new group, they don’t know how often they will need to add more people.
For anyone interested in improv, “I highly recommend coming to shows and volunteering to come on stage,” she said. This both gives the person a chance to try it, as well as giving the troupe a chance to see the person in action.