Watching good improvisers onstage is like watching a virtuoso guitar player. They make it look so easy and you'll sit there, stunned and wondering how the hell they do it. Then when you try it yourself one day you'll be lucky to walk away with all your dignity intact.
And then there are the blessed few for whom improvisation comes easy. Then there are the even fewer blessed ones who can make a living doing it. Enter Denise Jones, a 10-year veteran of the Vancouver Theatre Sports League, a film and television actor, and founder of the Kitchen Party Improv. Her off-the-cuff hilarity is something to be admired, but while it takes a certain kind of mind to pull off such feats successfully, day in and day out, Jones says it's partnership between performers that allows the magic to fly.
"Improv requires a pretty intense connection with other performers," she says. "You don't have a script so you really need to trust the person you're performing with to fully accept your offers. That's the only way the scene is going to work, if we're all on board with someone's idea."
The minute someone thinks they have a better idea it tends to fall apart. That's rarely a problem for Kitchen Party Improv, which includes fellow improv veterans Michael Robinson, David Milchard and Michael Teigen. Through a decade of performing together, they've finagled a connection so strong they almost always perform together.
"The more performers play together, the higher quality their performance," Jones says. "I've seen improvisers in troupes who have been together for like 30 years and they're just amazing because they know exactly what the other person in thinking."
Kitchen Party will perform at the Nita Lake Lodge on Thursday (June 30) for the Howe Sound Woman's Centre fundraiser to raise money for a Whistler woman's drop-in centre in Whistler. The set will be "bare bones," void of any props with just four creative humans throwing ideas around the room.
"It's all going to be super fun theatre sports games all based entirely on audience suggestion," Jones says. "We're taking it out of the seriousness of the need for this money, and it's just going to be a night of comedy, people letting go and having a great time."
The initial plan for the fundraiser was to hold a murder-mystery performance and dinner but says Shana Murray, children's program manager for the HSWC and organizer of the event, they had trouble finding local actors to commit.
Instead, they hired Kitchen Sink, who were in town anyway to perform during the Whistler Arts Council's Canada Day street animation program as "Svatla" Roving Mountain Bike Team, a fictional troupe of Eastern European riders that will perform throughout the village all weekend.
"It's a nice tag-on," Jones says. "Instead of trying to get us up there for one night to do a fundraiser, we're actually going up there for four days now.
"Everyone benefits. We get a great night at Nita Lake and we get to help out the woman's centre."
The fundraiser is $100 per individual ticket, with discounts for tables of 8 or 10. Dinner will be served first, followed by the improv set. There will also be a silent auction with donations from various Whistler and Squamish businesses. For tickets, call 604-892-5784.
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