Impro Theatre Unscripted series represents one of the most ambitious theatre companies presently entering the online environment with entertainment. Since I’ve already experienced a number of fledgling offerings on Zoom, one recent weekend I was struck by the seamless quality of their work. It’s Improv, for goodness sake! It should be full of stunned looks from right to left (or, on Zoom, from left to right; you never know) as each performer waited for a cue that may not come.
As with any mystery, I had to find out! I contacted Impro managing director, Rick Bernstein, who steered me to the source of expertise, two “technical improvisers,” Arlo Sanders and Cory Wyszynski. Subsequently, we had an enlightening talk (on, where else? Zoom) where I learned Impro’s secrets of their success.
I should mention that the performers are, front and center, the core of the theatre company and they are true experts at what they do, which is an elevated form of improv necessitating a thorough knowledge of source material, from Jane Austen to Chekhov and even to Rod Serling.
But Impro’s unsung heroes are truly their technical wizards. It surely helps that Arlo and Cory are improv performers in their own right. It helps, too, that their interests run not only to the arts, but science and technology as well. They are “steam” engines of performance (if you will allow me that LAUSD in-joke).
For instance, Cory picked up an interest in Foley when he was a teen. For those who may be scratching their heads over that term, “Foley” relates to inserting sound effects into a radio or cinematic performance to enhance the impression of reality. In essence, this skill is especially useful during an improvised performance. Arlo, the more experienced of the two with five years working with Impro under his belt, wanted to be an astronaut as a child, and now he’s translated that to space of consciousness, augmented for every performance.
It helps that musical stings and soundtracks are pre-catalogued into broad categories; whether neutral, tension, action, or romantic. There is also a certain lingo that has developed that both performer and technician are familiar with, thus helping the piece to run smoothly. For instance, I was surprised to learn that the techs end the scenes, not the actors. Imagine the surprise on someone’s face when he or she is about to launch into a long aria, only to be cut off in mid-soar.
Cory and Arlo are proud of their knowhow and want to share it. They’re part of a group called Outpost 13, a Twilight Zone name if there ever was one, in order to teach others how to take a show from Zoom to produce on Twitch (An Amazon platform). Presently, they are helping to teach interested folks the skills they need, and they insist: “More people should do this.”
To that, I say, as long as we’re staying separate from each other, let’s keep theatre alive in whatever way we can! Consult https://improtheatre.com/ for details and the portal to all the fun on its website.