Who, what, where, when ...
Sidecar will perform at 8:30 p.m. today and Friday and at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai. Each show will be different; every other performance will be family friendly. The improv workshop participants will perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Playhouse.
Sidecar is doing a workshop in Homer, with a performance at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Homer Council on the Arts office. Tickets are available at Charlotte's in Kenai, River City Books in Soldotna and the HCA in Homer.
Tickets are $10 for one show and $5 for each additional show.
Alden Ford of Sidecar, an improvisational and sketch comedy group from New York, third from left, helps participants through a workshop at the Kenai Playhouse earlier this week.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"We'll improvise," the fisherman says when the dipnet pole breaks in half. The contraption he creates out of duct tape and scraps from the back of the truck, turns out perfectly. Better, in fact, than the original.
That's called improvising.
Sidecar, an improvisational theater group based in New York City, featuring hometown cast member Alden Ford, will put their ingenuity on the stage to the test in a series of workshops and performances in Kenai and Homer today through Tuesday.
The definition of improvisation is that a person makes it up as he goes along. But, according to Ford, there is a method to the madness in the techniques Sidecar will be teach and perform.
"Part of the basis of improv, and I think this is talked about a lot more than it's actually true, is that the audience is always in for something completely new," Ford said.
"I think that content-wise that's usually true. But there have been a lot of forms that have been invented to sort of give people something to expect."
One of the most popular forms comes from Improv Olympic in Chicago. The "Harold" is a long-form improvisation that consists of three acts or "beats," almost like the movements of a symphony, that converge and return to various themes, situations and characters. Short-form improvisation such as television's "Whose Line is it Anyway?" takes new audience suggestions for each short scene, long-form structures develop one audience-inspired idea through the course of an evening.
The three members of Sidecar Matt Fisher, Justin Tyler and Ford trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City. In their workshops, the group will work with a variation of the Harold called the "Armando." This differs from the Harold in that the initial audience suggestion is interpreted by an actor who creates an improvised monologue, which then inspires the scenes. The Armando returns throughout the improvisation, responding to the scenes, adding a further layer of comedy to the performance.
The comedy in improvisation comes from an ability to think quickly and see the given opportunities. It isn't only about being funny for funny's sake. There is technique to the humor, and an emphasis on playing at the top of the performer's intellect, keeping in mind that a character doesn't know he's being funny.
"There's a big focus on specifics in improv. It's something that people really focus on in the theater," Ford said. "If you have an idea what your character wants in mind, it's usually just as easy to be specific about it as to say, 'Hey let's get in the car and go to the mall.' It's just as easy to be more specific about that and say, 'Hey let's get in the Datsun and go down to Fourth Avenue.' There's something sort of strangely and inexplicably funny about that."
Ford said he's looking forward to working with his partners on his home turf. He knows from experience there is a wealth of talent on the Kenai Peninsula and said he looks forward to the opportunity to give people new ideas and tools for performance.
Carol Ford, director of the Kenai Performers which is sponsoring the Kenai workshops, has been looking forward to Sidecar's residency for professional and personal reasons. She said she hopes it gives actors a new perspective on what it means to listen and react on stage.
It also gives her the opportunity to spend time with Alden, her son.
"My main thing, of course, is just having him here, especially this week before," Carol said.
"When he first started coming with me doing stories, back when he was 5, and he became my storytelling partner, he was born just really enjoying stuff like that.
"Bringing his New York friends up here to teach me something I've never learned, that I don't know really anything about is just so cool," she said.
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