The members of Paducah Improv include D.J. Wood, Jorge Machaen, Kyle Davis, Kempton Baldridge, Andy Wiggins, Jesse Barfield, and Chris Holloman. Paducah Improv will be performing a live show on Aug. 11 at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center.
Paducah Improv actors Matt Curtis and D.J. Wood rehearse at the Paducah Recreation Center Sunday evening. The troupe is branching into different short- and long-form games to improve their acting skills.
“Turtle blood.” “Olympic gymnasts.” “Bangkok.” These were among the dozens of words and phrases cast members of Paducah Improv threw around at the opening of their long-form improvisation — called a “Harold” — at their rehearsal Sunday night. Rehearsing in the longer format is just one of the ways the troupe, which began rehearsing together this spring, is expanding.
“We want to start doing long form because I want (the members of Paducah Improv) to be actors, and I want them to learn to write,” said Eric Hobbs, the group director. Hobbs hopes these skills will serve Paducah Improv’s actors if they choose to pursue acting careers in larger cities.
“Just being around it, and learning to promote, produce, direct, and watch other people instruct and perform improv is a great learning tool,” Hobbs said. “It gives kids an advantage when they move to other cities.”
Hobbs said the actors of Paducah Improv, who now have several public performances under their belts, learn to build solid scene work and sustain characters through long-form improv games. “They form relationships and tap into different emotions. They get a chance to really practice and play a character that doesn’t change,” Hobbs said.
“When they learn to let go of the funny and start learning to play their scenes, just taking their time, then they start to develop as actors,” Hobbs said.
That doesn’t mean that the group’s Aug. 11 show, “No Regrets,” will offer fewer laughs than its sold-out debut, “No Refunds.” On the contrary, group members agree that they have come a long way since their first large-scale public performance.
“Our first show (on May 26) was really good, it was very funny,” said Kyle Davis, one of the current members of Paducah Improv. “But we’re so much better now than we were even two months ago.”
The troupe credits its development to consistent rehearsals, which have helped members develop what they call a “group mind.”
Davis explained that the key to creating improv comedy lies mostly in listening to the verbal and physical cues of fellow actors.
“Improv is funniest if you’re not trying to be funny. For example, if you think, ‘It would be funny if I went out there trying to be an astronaut cooking a steak on the moon,’ sure, it could be funny, but there’s going to be at least one other person out there,” Davis said. When actors enter a scene with that kind of preconceived notion, the humor often falls flat, Davis said.
“But if you go out thinking, ‘I’m going to listen to what (the cast members) say, I’m going to give them things to work with,’ that usually creates scenes that are much funnier than what you would come up with by yourself,” Davis said.
The rest of the troupe agrees that for improvisational comedy, collaboration is the name of the game.
“If even one person misses, it throws everyone off a little bit,” said Jorge Machaen, another member of the group. “If I miss a whole week (of rehearsal), it’s hard for me to get back into the rhythm. Everyone else has to pick up my slack. It’s like a domino effect,” Machaen said.
Audiences will see Paducah Improv’s progress firsthand during its Aug. 11 show, “No Regrets,” at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center. The show begins at 8 p.m.
“The show is completely different from last time,” said Chuck Tate, the producer for Paducah Improv. “Out of 10 or 12 games, only two of them are the same. And even then it’ll be a different, separate game. ... The only thing that’s the same is the actors,” Tate said.
The performance will include mature subject matter. A cash bar will be available.
Tickets for the show, which the Carson Center is co-producing, are still available for $5, plus fees, through the Carson Center box office, Tate said. Tickets can be purchased online at thecarsoncenter.org, and the box office phone number is 450-4444.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.