{breakout} to the improv side

  • Tue Jan 12th, 2010 8:47pm

For the Enterprise

It began as a simple idea to bring a group of improvisational performers together to do an occasional show or two. Then, like in all good improvisation, a twist occurred that raised the stakes.

“{breakout} improv,” the brainchild of television producer Jon Horton and civic project managers Sarah Bohlen and Paul Cornish, was formed early in the summer 2009 with the sole idea of giving their love for improv comedy an outlet.

Over the next weeks, they cast a troupe that included people from many walks of life, age, and relationship status. After seven weeks of getting to know each other, they embarked on a journey to create a new kind of improv show, combining all the aspects each of them had learned in their time with the education division of Seattle’s Jet City Improv.

The result, “{girl meets boy},” is an improvised romantic comedy that combines both short form (like “Whose Line is it Anyway?”) with a long form story telling improvised play.

The show premiered on the unlikely date of Sept. 11 to a standing room only crowd at Ballard’s Chai House, a tea spot that had been transformed for one evening into an improv theater. The show proved to be a hit with the crowd, and the performers soon began to consider where to go next. That is when opportunity met luck.

Edmonds’ own Phoenix Theatre was preparing to begin its second season of comedy plays after opening in January 2009 in the space formerly occupied by the Edge of the World Theatre. The newly remodeled space that seats 94 seemed like a great place to host more shows. Development Manager Kayti Barnett and Facilities Manager Isaiah Crowson met with Horton to discuss the idea of {breakout} trying a show in the space. When the meeting ended, not only would there be one show, but instead, the theatre now had their own resident improv group.

“It was unlike anything I could have ever imagined,” said Horton, who lived in nearby Bothell at the time. “We were just looking for a place to play. Instead, they welcomed us into their family.”

Appropriate for a group that was so entrenched in the idea of family like chemistry. It was apparent from their very first rehearsals under the direction of Second City Cruise Tour cast member Mandy Price. Under Price’s tutelage, the group grew into a beautiful mosaic of personalities working as one.

The journey comes full circle Jan. 23 at The Phoenix Theatre when the group will perform a new version of “{girl meets boy}” at their new home on their premiere night.

“We have reworked the original concept of couples meeting and couples committing with a third couple that will bring their knowledge and wisdom to help the other two,” said Horton, who, along with Price, created the show’s concept. “The show will, as always, be driven solely by the suggestions of our audience. That is what makes what we do so rewarding. It’s our interpretation of their ideas!”