I have a long history of improv in my life. Ever since I first started in middle school, I’ve enjoyed it a great deal. I started to get a bit more serious about it in high school and even joined my school’s team “SOFA” (which stood for Silly, Outrageous, Funny Actors. Boooo.) and for whatever reason whenever we had a game that required some kind of interaction with the audience or moderation (like Advice panel) I was always selected to be the moderator. I guess I just have a natural flow when gathering information from an audience. I guess I just always knew exactly what to expect from the audience and how to respond to them. All that changed with When We Grow Up.
In When We Grow Up I have a relationship with the audience unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Not only does it go beyond the typical moderation to the point where the audience are essentially characters in the show, but I have to have an antagonistic role with them. I’ve never even really played a villain, not to mention one who must put his villainy to work against the audience themselves! This presents a really interesting challenge for me. I have to be silly and evil but not so much so that the audience flat-out hates me and doesn’t have a good time. I have to be a villain in the vain of Hades in Disney’s Hercules or Bowser from Super Mario Brothers, evil but also goofy and weirdly likable. A really good villain you almost relate to more than the hero!
And then there’s the audience interaction itself. As I said before, when moderating in high school and college I knew exactly what to expect. Typically I’d either get a serious question from the audience which I could repeat and move on or a snarky response that I could make a little quip at and move on. However, in this show, the action is driven forward by the audience! I need them to make choices and take part in everything, because without them there is no show, even more so than a normal production. In working on it thus far I think the thing that caught me off guard the most about this relationship is just how capable the audience can be. When called on to have a serious discussion or play a little role of some kind, even people totally unrelated to the theatre will play along and have fun. It makes every show not only a new experience for the audience, but for us as well! We keep them on their toes and they keep us on our toes. Its a brand new kind of theatrical interaction that i’ve never experienced before and frankly, couldn’t be having more fun with!