Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Show #67 "Tacoma's Best Holiday Show" with Ensemble 915

There is a term that strikes terror in the hearts of some actors (including me). That word is "improv."

For those who were big fans of the show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" improv (or the full word, improvisation) can be a barrel of laughs when put in the right hands. Unfortunately, my hands are the wrong ones for this genre of theatre.

Ensemble 915 is an adult actor's class that is offered through the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tacoma. Every Monday evening, a hardy troupe of actors meet to hone their theatrical skills and take artistic risks in a safe, encouraging environment. This showcase, which is their culminating project for the fall quarter, was an original one-act play written by local playwright Bryan Willis.

The characters were created from improvisations by the actor/students themselves. Stories from their own lives, or the lives of those they know (or totally made up) were put center stage and woven into the story by Mr. Willis. In this case, it was the story of a holiday talent show.

The ensemble of actors ranged from college-aged theatre students to seasoned professionals. It was an encouraging mix of age, gender and ethnicity, but that would explain why the story of a talent competition was conceived for this showcase. That is a story using every type of person imaginable.

The playwright and director (I assume) also hoped for a lot of audience participation. The "emcee" continually asked for volunteers from the audience to come on stage and perform in the talent show. There was one brave soul who came forward and recited poetry. Other than that, the rest of us remained silently glued to our seats. No impromptu performance for me!

All in all, it was an interesting evening. I especially enjoyed seeing a church friend, Paul, get on stage and perform the most moving monologue of the evening.

The best thing about Ensemble 915 is witnessing the fruits of an actor's "continuing ed." All professionals need continuing ed. In some cases (such as in my field: occupational therapy), it's the law. There are no real laws governing acting, but to see actors strive for the highest level of professionalism in their field, is admirable.

Photo courtesy of The Broadway Center for the Performing Arts

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