Week of improv comes to Acrosstown

The Much Ado About Doris Improv Group performs tonight as part of a series of performances spotlighting improvisational comedy and theater at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre through Saturday.

Courtesy of the Much Ado About Doris Improv Group
Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 1:19 p.m.

A few months ago, the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre hit upon a way to turn a theater's downtime, those weeks between productions when the theater is unavoidably closed or “dark,” into something quickly entertaining and memorable, turning a performance lemon into theatrical lemonade, if you will.


ART Dark Nights

What: Series of performances held between play productions features comedy and theater from three improvisational groups
When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday
Where: Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, 619 S. Main St.
Cost: $10 daily, $25 for all shows
Info: 505-0868, http://bit.ly/150n9n0
Tonight: The Much Ado About Doris Improv Company
Friday: UF's Theatre Strike Force
Saturday: “In Heat” 24-hour playfest by the Alachua County Rapscallions

The solution, dubbed “Dark Nights,” was to spotlight other theatrical entities or groups on the Acrosstown's stage for brief performances — everything from, say, a one-night performance of Euripides' “Herakles” or an evening of improvisational comedy to a weekend run of “Geneva” by George Bernard Shaw, all of which the Acrosstown has hosted the last few months.

This time around, the Acrosstown offers a themed week of improvisational comedy and theater by three groups on different nights, each starting at 8 p.m.

Tonight, the Much Ado About Doris Improv Group presents a night of improvised comedy from an ensemble that formed last fall and most often appears at its “home” venue, the Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center.

Friday features the University of Florida's improvisational group, Theatre Strike Force, which returns for its second Dark Nights appearance at the ART following one in February.

And Saturday offers “In Heat,” the name given to a 24-hour playfest by the Alachua County Rapscallions, in which the troupe is presented themes on Friday and will, 24 hours laters, stage performances of plays written, directed and performed within a single day.

“There's a pretty strong improvisational theater community here that really hasn't found much of an outlet for production,” says Jerry Rose, vice president of the Acrosstown. “They're well known in their own quarters, but not particularly to the community at large.

“So when we instituted Dark Nights, we opened the door for this kind of not-fully-staged shows but programs that people do in their regular ways and were looking for a way to broaden them.”

Karelisa Hartigan, president of the Acrosstown and a coordinator of Dark Nights (as well as a member of the Much Ado About Doris group) says the theater has wanted to showcase improvisational groups and spotlight their role in the theatrical world.

“And I think this will draw a different audience,” Hartigan says. “Another thing I want to do for the ART, of course, is to show more types of people what kinds of thing are available in town to do, because people don't know this.”

And if there's anything else Hartigan wants you to know about improvisational comedy — beyond the fact that it can be hilariously entertaining and exhilarating to behold — is that there's no absolutely no fear factor for the audience in these instances.

If you're ever been to an improvisational performance and seen someone yanked from the audience to participate onstage, relax: that won't be the case at the Acrosstown today through Saturday.

“I think some people are afraid to go to improv because they're afraid they're going to be dragged up on the stage,” Hartigan says.

“There's nothing to fear in this group. The only thing we're asking the audience for is to say a location or a relationship or a theme.”

Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at bill.dean@gvillesun.com, and follow on Twitter @SceneBillDean.

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