By Will Cleveland
Webster’s dictionary defines a troupe as a company, troop; especially a group of theatrical performers that tours to different venues, while it defines a team as a group of animals such as A: a brood, especially of young pigs or ducks B: a matched group of animals for exhibition.
An improv team is like a an improv troupe, but instead of a group a friends performing together and managing themselves by submitting for stage time and organizing their own rehearsals, they are sanctioned by a theater’s artistic staff through auditions, are coached regularly, and are given a dedicated time slot to perform.
Earlier this summer I went to New Mexico in search of UFOs (because I want to believe!) and Colorado in search of legal weed (because I want to believe!), but before that, I sent a performer survey to about 120 regular performers in the ColdTowne community from recent graduates of ColdTowne Conservatory to 10+ year veterans. I asked them about their practice, their goals, and their interests in programming at CT. A lot of things stood out to me, but most of all, people wanted more shots to get on the stage and be part of something that was consistent and frequent. Once they had graduated level 6 in our conservatory, a lot of people were asking “now what?”
As Artistic Director, my major responsibilities include giving performers stage time while generating revenue for the theater. This had me looking at Monday Nights. The Monday Night Mash has traditionally been, as are many of our time slots, an avenue for troupes who are just starting out to get performance opportunities on the ColdTowne Stage.
Here’s a brief history of how the Mash started from it’s first showrunner, Courtney Hopkin: “It started in 2008 at Kick Butt Coffee. They still made smoothies during our shows so we had to shout over the blender. We moved to ColdTowne in May of 2011 and ran it for a while with a troupe called No Chaser… and then ColdTowne took it over. We started it because we were having a hard time getting scheduled and there were no other shows happening on Mondays.”
10 years from its start, the show has been a target slot for troupes who just want to have some dang stage time! That’s fantastic! We need those avenues to help people develop their craft. However, I was feeling that Mondays needed a little boost to help build its draw. I was also feeling that the stakes of a Monday night show were often low for the people performing, and wasn’t as prioritized as other shows later in the week. Not by all troupes, no, but by many. Heck, a few times, troupes didn’t even show up, (LOL, what?!) while others would sell out. I could reward troupes that promoted and brought a house with more Monday slots, but then there’s fewer vacancies for younger, hard-working troupes to perform. Dilemma!
After some thought and feedback from owners and staff, and gauging interests of coaches and faculty, I decided it was time to introduce a team system for Mondays. At other theaters in larger markets like UCB or iO , it’s called “Harold Night”, only we’re not necessarily doing The Harold. We just want to provide a space where trained, capable improvisors can do the work, rehearsing and performing for an audience, that makes them great and pushes their art forward.
We opened auditions and the response from the community was passionate and lively. 58 performers auditioned while even more reached out to say they were unavailable, but were interested and excited for this opportunity created. After a full day of auditions and coach’s drafts, these 4 teams spurt forth from behind the vintage video store:
Coach – Tauri Laws-Phillips (Damn Gina, ColdTowne Faculty)
Coach – Nat Miller (ColdTowne Faculty, iO Alum)
Coach – Stephanie Thoreson (Loverboy, ColdTowne Alum)
Coach – Katie Stone (Stool Pigeon, Martini Ranch)
I am very excited by this new format and am pleased that so many students and performers are excited about it too. If you are interested in getting involved or auditioning for the next round of teams, come see the show on Mondays at 8:30 and ask me how. I’ll be emceeing the night. Until then, watch the skies, because there might be some crazy shit up there, who knows, and if weed were legal, well, wouldn’t that be cool!