Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Feb 06th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

In the Moment

ae ImprovArea theater troupes gear up for annual Santa Cruz Improv Fest

There’s one story that I must tell you, and I always quote this,” says Gerry Orton, who begins telling a story about Keith Johnstone, a pioneer of improvisational theater. “He was in San Francisco, and I was taking a workshop from him—this was several years ago—and on the evening of a performance while he was there, he was interviewed on stage by a teacher of improv. The teacher said, ‘Keith, why do you still do it after all these years? Why do you still travel the world and teach?’ And his answer was, ‘Because I still don’t understand it.’” Orton lets out a knowing laugh. “And that’s so true.”

Orton is the director and founder of the Monterey-based Mirth-O-Matics, one of the many troupes participating in the ongoing Santa Cruz Improv Fest, which kicked off last weekend and continues into the beginning of June. Featuring local and near-local troupes performing in a variety of styles that range from short-form to Armando (long-form) to full-length plays, the festival serves not only as a feast for fans of improv theater, but also as a primer for the uninitiated.

“It’s a great smorgasbord,” promises Clifford Henderson, one of 12 members of the Santa Cruz-based troupe Loose Cannon. “We’ll be seeing improv from Santa Cruz to Monterey, from San Francisco to San Jose, and all of it is a very high level of improv,” she says. “You really can’t miss on any given night.”

Loose Cannon—which will close out the festival on June 1—has been together since 1996, and its managers/founders, Henderson and Dixie Cox, are also the founders of the Fun Institute, an improv acting class company that has had a significant impact on the local improv theater community. “A lot of the players from Santa Cruz who will be in the improv fest this year have studied with us at one time or another,” says Henderson.

The festival is a testament to the robust health of the local improv scene, evidenced by the esteem with which the performers regard the work of their peers. “The state of improv on the peninsula is very healthy,” says Orton. “Cliffi and Dixie are just fantastic role models and teachers,” he continues, citing their drop-in classes in particular. “They just personify what improvisation is all about: being positive, and really challenging yourself, and having fun while doing it.”

Orton describes improv as “the tight rope of theater performing,” and Henderson has witnessed firsthand how her adult students have gotten hooked on the thrill of it. “They crave that sense of creation,” she says. “It serves adults who are wanting to be in the moment, or wanting to work as a team. You watch people grow and bust through personal barriers, and I love seeing the gift that improv gives people, how it changes their confidence and gives them a broadening sense of themselves. I do it for the process more than the product.”

Orton concurs, saying, “You want to be in response to what your partner says, so it’s a matter of always being in the moment, being present.”

There is an ineffable exhilaration associated with being in the moment, just as there is a certain comfort in knowing that another moment will arrive to take its place. “Anything in which failure is success works for me, and that’s exactly what improv is: You have to fail to succeed,” says Cox. “It’s really just good-natured people willing to fail in public.” Because in an art in which failure is inevitable, the chance for redemption is always just around the corner. 


The Santa Cruz Improv Fest is currently under way, and runs through June 1, at the Broadway Playhouse, 526 Broadway, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15. View the full schedule at facebook.com/SantaCruzImprovFest, and purchase tickets at brownpapertickets.com.
Photo: Marcia Quakenbush

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

On the Run

Is there hope for California’s salmon?

 

Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey

Monday, Feb. 8, is Aquarius new moon (19 degrees) and Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey (an imaginative, intelligent and vigilant creature). Monkey is bright, quick, lively, quite naughty, clever, inquiring, sensible, and reliable. Monkey loves to help others. Often they are teachers, writers and linguists. They are very talented, like renaissance people. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the year of Monkey. Monkey contains metal (relation to gold) and water (wisdom, danger). 2016 will be a year of finances. For a return on one’s money, invest in monkey’s ideas. Metal is related to wind (change). Therefore events in 2016 will change very quickly. We must ponder with care before making financial, business and relationship changes. Fortune’s path may not be smooth in 2016. Finances and business as usual will be challenged. Although we develop practical goals, the outcomes are different than hoped for. We must be cautious with investments and business partnership. It is most important to cultivate a balanced and harmonious daily life, seeking ways to release tension, pressure and stress to improve health and calmness. Monkey is lively, flexible, quick-witted, and versatile. Their gentle, honest, enchanting yet resourceful nature results often in everlasting love. Monkeys are freedom loving. Without freedom, Monkey becomes dull, sad and very unhappy. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), the Chinese official title of Marquis (noble person) was pronounced ‘Hou,’ the same as the pronunciation of ‘monkey’ in Chinese. Monkey was thereby bestowed with auspicious (favorable, fortunate) meaning. Monkey years are: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of February 5

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wine and Chocolate

West Cliff Wines gets its game on, plus a brand new chocolate cafe on Center Street

 

How would you stop people from littering?

Teach them from the time that they’re small that it’s not an appropriate behavior. Juliet Jones, Santa Cruz, Claims Adjuster

 

Dancing Creek Winery

New Zinfandel Port is a ruby beauty

 

Venus Spirits

Changing law could mean new opportunity for local spirits