Steamboat Springs Six people stood in a circle at the Seventh Street Playhouse, holding hands.
It looked like a thespian support group, but in fact it was just a rehearsal for the upcoming improv show.
Improvisational theater is tough. Someone can be a great actor, but not be great at improv, according to this intrepid group.
The Steamboat Improv Troupe will perform from from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Steamboat Springs High School Auditorium. Special guest is Denvers Improv-o-rama. Tickets are $6 for students, $12 in advance for adults or $15 at the door. They are available at All That Jazz. This show is a benefit for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.
"Most actors don't want to do improv," actor Cesare Rosati said. "There's no structure."
To be good at improv, the consensus is that actors have to be quick on their feet, witty, smart and possess the ability to move the story forward.
If not, things on stage just stagnate and while drawing a blank is admittedly the biggest fear, a dead-end skit strikes like a stake through improvisational actors' hearts. Although, there is a worse fate.
"One scene is OK, but it would really be bad if the whole show flopped," Matt Murphy said.
The Steamboat Community Players first put itself on the line in October with its first improv show. It was successful, according to Nina Rogers, and since has evolved into its own little subgroup, the Steamboat Improv Troupe. The cast also includes Cassidy Geppert, Kirra Dyer, Conrad Serrano and Jason Hart.
One of the things that made the first show good was the audience, Rogers said. The cast will bring audience members up on stage and put them on the spot and it's a hit-or-miss prospect.
But improv is inherently audience-oriented. Its attention is rapt waiting for the drop-dead lines and cringing when they fall flat.
"Good improv draws the audience in," Murphy said. "They're hanging on every word."
He likened it to jazz, the quintessential improvisational musical form it has a little bit of structure, but the players can take it anywhere they want.
This is the key to being a good improv player, though moving the story on and taking the risk of saying something. It's a cop-out to answer a question back with a question, Rogers said.
The actors learn to trust each other, Geppert said, so they know where one person is going to take a scene. She said it can be frustrating when you know where a scene should go and you're watching someone take it some place different, however.
Actors want to put themselves through this hand-wringing exercise because it makes them better in any show, especially if someone drops a line.
"If you do improv, it's easier for you to come up with a cover line so you don't get off your game," Rogers.
"Improv is all flubs," Geppert said, adding that you can magnify the flubs into something funny.
Improv is also an exercise in self-examination, the actors said, where thinking on your feet unlocks the secrets of the mind.
"It's weird to see the strange things you unveil," Hart said. "You get to the point where you don't think, you just let out."