Off the cuff

Paper Street Theatre celebrates five years with Improv Festival

Paper Street Theatre prepares for its first Improv Festival April 12 to 16.

Underneath the exterior of sharp eyed, entrepreneur Dave Morris lies a kid who likes to dress up as a cowboy.

Morris and his wife Missie Peters (inner geek: astronaut) are a formidable team that have provided Victoria theatre goers a new experience in Paper Street Theatre.

At Paper Street’s core is improvisation – not the What’s My Line? style of comedic one-liners – rather, the company delves into a variety of theatrical styles, studying authors, playwrights and movie genres and performing shows drenched in their research.

To celebrate five years of improvisational theatre covering genres from film noir and Tennessee Williams to Quentin Tarantino, the wild west and Margaret Atwood, Paper Street will remount a version of each of its shows and present shows from improv companies from Calgary, Ottawa and Seattle during their Improv Festival April 12 to 16.

“We’re redoing all the shows except our Christmas shows,” says Peters.

Every night of the festival will include two shows, each a mash-up performance.

“We’re pairing them in ways that work,” says Morris. “The first night is about heat, passion, so it’s a western and a Tennessee Williams pairing and we have Jane Austen and Franz Kafka paired together so it’s all about manners and procedures. We have a Quentin Tarantino and film noir pairing; and John Hughes and the House of Ink show,” says Morris.

“We’re redoing all of our shows, which are improvised, but with the costumes and sets and stuff and then we’re also bringing in some special guests, including the Kinkonauts from Calgary and Unexpected Productions from Seattle,” says Peters. “I was really excited when I thought about it because we started this company after we worked with Randy Dixon from Unexpected in Berlin, so it’s neat to bring them in.”

For the past three years the Paper Street gang has travelled to Calgary to teach the Kinkonauts one of their styles. “This year, we’re bringing them here to sit in on some of the shows. They’ll be playing in the last weekend of shows with us,” says Morris.

On the Friday night, Seattle’s Unexpected Productions will present a show called House of Ink, a murder mystery which includes several literary giants. “There’s a bunch of authors trapped in a house together and slowly throughout the show they all die in the style of their author,” Morris explains.

The Kinkonauts will sit in on the film noir, Quentin Tarantino and John Hughes shows.

“It will be great fun,” adds Morris. “We have some nice, fun guests in there.”

Paper Street alumni Steven Orr, who moved to Ottawa last year, will also be at the festival.

All of the performances will be at Intrepid Theatre.

“It’s where we’ve done all of our shows,” says Morris. “It would be ridiculous not to use it because every show we’ve done happened there. And it’s fun because Emma Dickerson, who’s our lighting designer … she puts a lot of work into each of the lighting designs we use for each of the shows.”

“Because we don’t have a lot of set and we don’t know what we’re going to do, her lights bring the show to life – it’s just awesome,” adds Peters. “The rest of us just show up and make something up. She’s going to spend five hours hanging lights each day.”

The whole cast is looking forward to an exciting week of theatrical improv and bringing back former shows.

“My favourite is the sci-fi thriller because I’m a huge science fiction geek,” says Peters. “It was just so great to imagine that world, living inside a space ship the slowness of it.”

Morris enjoyed scaring audiences with H.P. Lovecraft, but found a soft spot for westerns he never expected. “We got to dress up like cowboys. I did not think I would enjoy it so much, but as soon as we did it, it was like most of rehearsal was spent just spinning wooden guns. So we’re going to do the western Tarantino and I’m really looking forward to it.”

In five years, Paper Street Theatre has done five full seasons of improv, is running an improv cabaret show, has its own studio space and is teaching classes five days a week.

“We’ve come a long way in five years,” says Morris. “It’s nice way to celebrate it all.”

April 12 -An Improvised Tennessee Williams & An Improvised Western

April 13 – An Improvised Jane Austen & An Improvised Franz Kafka

April 14 – An Improvised Sci-Fi Thriller & An Improvised Samuel Beckett.

April 15 – An Improvised John Hughes & House of Ink

April 16 – An Improvised Film Noir & An Improvised Quentin Tarantino

April 15 & 16 at 10pm at Intrepid Theatre there will be late night shows featuring the mixing and mashing of guest performers and some of Paper Street’s most beloved styles. See creations such as Quentin Austen, or Science Fiction Western.

April 16 – Family Matinée at 2pm.

 

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