I think it’s safe to say that we could all use 75 minutes of giggles right now, and that’s exactly what the teens behind Oregon Children’s Theatre’s Impulse XV deliver. I anticipated that my nine-year-old would laugh her way through the performance; I didn’t expect that I would belly-laugh myself, joining the performers in shedding those inhibitions like a pro.
We entered the Brunish Theatre to energetic music and disco lights. At the entrance, we were asked to write a one-liner on a slip of paper to be used in a sketch. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and the intimate quality of the theatre is perfect for a show that relies heavily on audience participation. After a land acknowledgement and suggestion to donate to the Native American Youth and Family Center, eight teens danced onto the stage and succinctly explained how improv works. The performers introduce games and scenes, but all the content is based on audience suggestions.
Improv is hard. Good performers make it look easy, but it’s not. These teens deliver clever dialogue, craft song lyrics on the spot, and offer one-liners and puns that have the house rolling. I was blown away by their confidence, poise and wit, but also by their sense of camaraderie and teamwork. It is clear they like each other and enjoy working together, which is essential for any successful improvisation. Not once was an idea rejected: it was entirely yes-and (improv lingo for accepting your fellow performer’s choice and going with it).
Nirmay Anantha’s stage presence is powerful, and he’s got a fantastic voice. Tam Silverman is able to do what all good comedians do so well: bring gags full circle, creating inside jokes with the audience in the space of an hour. Lili Ireland’s physical comedy was maybe my favorite part of the entire show. There is so much talent in OCT’s Young Professionals troupe, and it was thrilling to get to be a part of it in person for the first time in such a long time.
I sat on the front row (it was general admission with no assigned seating), thinking that if my daughter wanted to participate, she’d have a better shot at being heard there. During a bit in which the actors give good, bad and then terrible advice for an audience member’s problem, my daughter yelled out, “I hate flu shots!” When Ireland suggested that just as the needle approaches her arm, she “turn the switch [mimes turning the needle toward the doctor] — the doc will never see it coming,” my daughter almost fell off her chair laughing.
At the end of the night, when the young professionals ran offstage, my daughter immediately asked, “Can we come back tomorrow?” Well, as they say, it is different every time.
Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30p, and Sundays at 2p, October 29-November 7. Buy tickets here.