Shakespeare After Dark
I have mixed feelings about improv.
My love of narrative is well documented by this point. It’s sort of my entire thing; I like stories. I like characters and watching them develop, I like plot and how deftly it can be handled. These are the things that attract me to any performance or piece of art.
Improv is unique in that it stands apart. With a painting, say, there is the time and space and emotional state in which the artist painted it that informs what that painting means. Ditto a book, a movie, a play. There’s history to draw upon, an entire lore to call back to, but improve very much exists on its own for a few moments at a time, skits stripped of any connection save maybe those made on the night. It’s an inside joke as performance art.
Which doesn’t take away from the skill involved, and it is a skill. Improv workers draw upon their own experiences and bring them to a couple of keywords or phrases, stripped of anything else, and try to breathe life into a shapeless void. The problem is that there is always going to be at least one edgelord among the other players that will aim for shock over comedy, lashing out on stage and dragging everyone else into the quagmire of boundaries crossed.
In this mess, maybe one joke out of ten will land. One joke in three if they players are truly skilled, and that’s where we see the greats at their best – but even they turn around when someone goes too far.
The problem being, you have to be one of the greats to break away from the “yes, and” philosophy in the moment that makes improv what it is. It’s kind of like the whole issue with a tolerant society, in that the one thing that a tolerant society cannot tolerate is intolerance.
One might then surmise that the one thing improv can’t “yes, and,” is an edgelord.
The question is, how does one keep an edgelord at bay?
The answer is by framing the improv within a larger context so that it no longer comes screeching out of the void.
And so we come to Shakespeare After Dark, presented by Instant Theater at the Havana Vancouver. Shakespeare After Dark presents a number of talented players – the sort that would and do hit one joke in three – working through improv games under the guise of Shakespearean acts, and ending with an improved Shakespearean play that’s inspired by keywords from the audience.
It’s hard to edgelord that, which is nice, and it gives framework for some already talented people to play in and excel. Better still, it’s a monthly show and has become one of the things my wife and I look forward to the most in Vancouver.
We’re both Shakespeare nerds, see, both of us owning copies of the collected works and being frequent visitors to Bard on the Beach. The chance to see acts and plays that the Bard would most definitely have approved of on a monthly basis is something that makes us both happy to be alive, and it’s the sort of thing that more people should know about and see.
And you, lucky person that you are, are more than welcome to check them out. The historic Havana Vancouver presents Shakespeare After Dark this Saturday, September 22 in the year of some lord 2018. Doors at ten, the show starts at ten-thirty, and you can pick up tickets by clicking here.