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July, 2011

Nude Rangers…ASSEMBLE!

Here are some thoughts from a Live Nude Improv cast member about the unique powers and gifts of each member of the ensemble, and how their talents combine to create a strong and diverse group.

“Can you hang back for a bit?”

It was a simple enough request. The audition had been a lot of fun and the director set a few of us aside after as the other performers filed out of the theatre, chatting about this scene, that game, what would the show be like…and, of course, plenty of naked jokes. When it was just the few of us left, the director turned to us and made another request, far less simple.

“Okay, you’re in. Who else do we like?”

Casting a show is a delicate process. You’re not just looking at individual talents, but how those particular talents and temperaments blend together. A balance of strange alchemy. There’s a diversity of style, training and experience in this cast that’s an absolute wonder to watch flow together. And the fact that each of us was brought into the casting process once we made “the cut”, through the auditions and callbacks and even the first few rehearsals, truly made this feel like OUR ensemble.

Imagine an all star athletic team where every member is incredible at a different sport, and what kind of mad brilliant game they might invent together. Imagine a heist team made up not only of expert thieves, but secret agents, super models, mad scientists, warrior monks and demigods, and what in the world they might be brought together to steal. Imagine there came a day unlike any other, when the world’s mightiest heroes were called together…to spin worlds out of nothing. And take their clothes off. It might look something like this:*

The Wizard- His brain operates on a whole other level. By the time you’ve thought of a line, he’s already written a symphony. When you think you know where a scene’s going, he rewrites the reality. Every choice you make, he’s backing you up and with a wave of his fingers helps you make it stronger. He’s a shaman and you’d do well to trust his wisdom.

The Clown- With a mad infectious grin and a bag full of tricks, she brings the playful like no one else. She’s a jester of the highest order, making you laugh but also opening your heart up. She’ll have your sides splitting with a quip or pratfall one second and the next bring such emotional depth to a scene that Harlequin himself would weep.

The Point Man- The first up. The first in. The bravest and boldest, leaping headlong into character, relationship and scene choices. He’s the advance, the vanguard, the trailblazer with a tracker’s mind and a sniper’s eye, ever mindful as he risks it all. And once you’ve seen how far he can go and in what strange new directions, you feel safer to follow behind.

The Scholar- Some people have innate talent and intelligence. Some people have drive to work their ass off. She’s got both in abundance. She has the instincts of a seasoned veteran. But she’s a student at heart with a questing mind to know more, do more, be more. Her mind is lyrical. Her calculations are precise. She’s already thinking 10 moves ahead. And because of that, she can throw it all out when she wants and just as easily embrace the chaos.

The Cosmopolitan- Sophisticated and eccentric, exotic and immediately charming. He’s seen the world and is not weary for it, but rejuvenated and joyful. He brings the fresh perspective, the angle you didn’t see, the question you didn’t bother to ask, with such passion and vigor you can’t help but feel inspired. He’s an explorer. He’s on an adventure. And he wants to bring you along for the ride.

The Warrior- She is brave. She is fierce. She is strong. She is brave because she can be afraid of a choice, but makes it anyway. She is fierce because she can feel shy and timid, but runs headlong into the fray of a scene all the same. She is strong because she has a tender heart full of kindness and loyalty, and will strip her armor away for all to see it.

The Trickster- With a merry glint in his eye and that hobgoblin smile, he comes from that oldest of folk traditions: Liar as Creator, as Storyteller. He weaves a playful havoc to capture your attention and spins lies out of truth, and vice versa. Believe him at your peril, but you can trust him to ALWAYS have your back and bring you through the intrigue safe to the other side.

The Pixie- She’s an elemental force behind the shining smile of a child, a fairy in the garden. Whisper your secrets and she’ll hold them close. The truth she sings is yours for the taking. She is delicate but mighty, an old soul in a girl’s body. The gravity behind her eyes can hit you like a fist…but then she’ll laugh and spin and you’ll find yourself smiling and clapping with delight.

The Dancer- The meter and rhythm she moves to are her own, in both motion and emotion. Here a graceful pirouette of fantastic silliness and fun, become a flurry of movement in a child’s tantrum, transition into the decaying waltz of an old woman circling senility, snap to a point of quiet intensity, come back round again to silliness and fun. The beat is her own, but she’ll play it for you and teach you the steps.

The Mastermind- It’s his vision we’ve rallied around, his direction we’ve followed into this untamed wilderness, his idea for us to take our damn clothes off in the first place. I’ve known him for years…an amazing performer, teacher and friend. I don’t know where this show’s going to take us. But I know with him at the helm, I trust we’ll get there.

*- Names have been changed to protect the innocent. And because it sounds cool.

Intrigued? Come see Live Nude Improv for yourself. It’s running Saturdays at 8PM in July and August. Tickets here.

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Thoughts on Live Nude Improv

So our latest main stage show, Live Nude Improv, is an improvised take on modern, experimental theater… It features a few firsts for The Hideout: It’s in the round, it blurs the line between audience and performers (though only up to the level of comfort of the audience members), and oh, yes, there may well be nudity.

So why would a performer choose to be part of a show that could very well call for them to bare all? We asked the cast just that.

Question: Why the hell would you choose to be in this show?

“Because I wanted the opportunity to strip myself bare, physically and emotionally, to discover what’s underneath.  To be visceral, to be volatile, to be vulnerable…”

The concept of vulnerability has been cropping up a lot lately in discussions about improv. When teaching early levels of classes, half of what we do is helping students to drop their guards — to be willing to make fools of themselves, to be playful, to take risks… in short, to be vulnerable.

“I chose to do this show because it terrified me. Both the idea of not really knowing what the show was going to be and being naked in front of strangers. I blindly assumed the show would be all about sex, and that really turned me away from auditioning. I am very modest, especially about sexuality, and had no interest in being naked and touching my friends.

After auditions, I heard that there was a few spots open, and talked to a few cast members about what the show was becoming. It sounded like a wonderful experience. They talked about what they were doing in rehearsal and outside of rehearsal, and how close the cast members were becoming with each other to build a safe environment. Nothing was mentioned about touching or make out sessions, and when I asked about the physical stuff, they stopped me dead in my tracks and emphasized that being sexual was not the goal of the show. The goal was not to get naked and play a game of chicken in front of an audience. The goal was (from what I gathered) to do a new form of theater, and to take a risk. To have a different relationship with the audience.

I talked to the director, and he said I should come in and rehearse with them. My curiosity drove me to rehearsal the next week, and it was honestly the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in a rehearsal. I was way more comfortable than I thought I would be in the photo shoot, as well. I decided to do the show because I wanted to try something new, something that had never been done before. I wanted to push past my comfort level and see where it would take me. I hope to be more “in the moment” on stage, and I hope to change some of the habits I’ve fallen in to.

Even if at the end I learn nothing, I can at least say I tried something incredibly difficult for myself that I never thought I would do.”

That’s the real challenge of this show, to use the potential for nudity as a tool to heighten situations and relationships, and not as a mere gimmick.

Will we always succeed at that lofty goal? Who knows, but part of what we strive for with improv is to always be willing to take a risk (as noted in the quote above) not for the sake of being edgy or whatever, but because improv works best when it is on the edge of failure. If it is too safe then the life and vitality goes right out of it.

Granted, you don’t have to strip your clothes off to get to that point, but it is one (mostly unexplored) avenue to get there.

“Apart from my Teutonic proclivity to being naked in public I was intrigued by the idea of how this experience would meld the cast together.

After performing in Dusk (improv based on the Twilight series) there was already an immense sense of trust – after making out and taking your shirt off on stage, what could go wrong? Then came Showdown, which added the intimacy of violence – we insulted, shot, stabbed and beat each other up on stage. That lead to even more trust and being comfortable with physicality and each other. Live Nude Improv seemed to be the next step – being vulnerable and exposed on stage, but at the same time knowing that the others have your back. So far the rehearsal process has been awesome and I think it will be a very memorable show.”

Trust is another crucial concept in improv. With our main stage shows, we often only have about a month and a half of weekly rehearsals for the performers to bond with one another and to learn to trust each other. With Live Nude Improv in particular, trust can make or break the show. If the performers don’t feel supported, then they’ll hesitate to push the show in the direction it needs to go. Fortunately the rehearsals have been going very well, and the cast is super connected.

“My first ever kiss was on stage back when I was a sophomore in high school. It was not a pretty sight. Me sweating, not knowing what to do, and also thinking this guy is a goober!

From then on I vowed that I would try to become comfortable in every way on stage. I think the rest of the cast has been on the same level with me. Wanting to be committed, passionate and sensible. Live Nude Improv is the perfect show to challenge myself and others. Lets do this!”

So why the hell have these performers chosen to be in Live Nude Improv?

It’s a challenge. It’s unexplored territory. It makes them vulnerable, putting them right on the edge of failure, with only the trust and commitment of their fellow performers to keep them afloat.

In short, it puts them in a very good place to create some memorable improv.

The show runs Saturdays in July and August at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Guest Villain: Jason Vines

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! is The Hideout’s most recent mainstage show. Every show features a guest villain, and the final new guest villain for the  show (this Friday) is Jason Vines. Let’s talk to Jason!

Roy: If you don’t mind me saying so, you’re a man with a colorful past, or at least it’s always seemed that way to me. What’s the most villainous thing you’ve done that you’re willing to talk about?

Vines: When I was a kid, I once stole a bunch of money on a camping trip from several other campers. All of their wallets were just kind of piled up in the same place so I took 5 to 20 dollars from each of them. Then I went across the street to the bathroom where I hid the money inside of a toilet paper roll. “The perfect crime!” I thought. Well, the next morning, my fellow campers were not too happy to find that their wallets were much lighter than before. I played dumb and even acted as if money had been stolen from me too. In a panic, I went across the street to retrieve my stash of cash but someone had beaten me to it. All of the money was gone. I denied any responsibility but I’m sure everyone there suspected me heavily. After all, I was the one sleeping next to the wallets. Luckily, my thieving days are behind me. It’s too much stress and guilt!

Roy: How old were you? And what the hell would you have bought with the money?

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Guest Villain: Kareem Badr

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman!, is The Hideout’s most recent mainstage show. Every show features a guest villain, and the guest villain for this Saturday’s show (part of the Improvised Play Festival) is Kareem Badr. Kareem is one of the owners of the Hideout, and member of the improvised theatre company Parallelogramophonograph. Let’s talk to Kareem!

Roy: Having known you for a good number of years, I know that you love a good villain. What makes a good villain for you? Who are some of your favorites?

Kareem: I think for me, a villain’s got to be sexy. Not necessarily sexual or attractive, but they need to have that totally magnetic charisma that makes you unable to look away. And then you feel guilty for taking such pleasure in watching the villain do their thing. A good villain needs to have some mystery to them, too. It makes them dangerous and unpredictable. You’ll never quite know quite what they’re going to do next.

Favorite villains. I’ll just name a few that come to mind, though I guess some of these are anti-heroes: Gary Oldman’s character in Leon, The Joker in The Dark Knight (he was just the embodiment of sexy chaos), Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men, Jack Torence in The Shining, The Operative in Serenity (he was so cold, calculating and damn good at his job.) I guess maybe I’m drawn to the sort of eccentric crazy villains for some reason. I don’t know what that says about me.

I could keep listing villains all day. They’re just so watchable. Without a good villain, the hero doesn’t really shine. The audience doesn’t really care.

Oh, and Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York!

Roy: So do any of the villains in the 1960s Batman show meet your criteria? I’m guessing probably not. Did you watch much of the show as kid, and if so, what sticks out in your memory?

Kareem: Ha. No, not in the least. That whole show is a live action cartoon, but it was completely intentional. The villains are all really fun, though. I mean, come on, Cesar Romero with his mustache painted white? It doesn’t get campier than that. I remember liking The Riddler a lot. I actually got to meet Frank Gorshin 6 or 7 years ago at a dinky comic convention in Austin.

I think I probably watched the entire series one summer when I was really young. I have a distinct memory of coming home from swim lessons in the morning and immediately watching Batman…followed by The Monkees. The funny thing about that is that it never occurred to me that the style of the show was campy or comical. It was just…Batman to me. I actually want to go back and watch more of the show, since I remember all of the people popping out of the windows, for example, but I had absolutely no idea that they were celebrity cameos. I was a kid in the 80s, watching a show from the 60s, seeing cameos from celebrities who were probably famous in an even earlier decade…that’s just too many cultural time-jumps.

On a slightly related note, I have a vague memory of seeing a touring Batman stage show when I was really young. I am pretty sure it was pre-Tim Burton Batman, and it was basically the old show played out on stage. I haven’t been able to find any reference to it on the all-powerful internet, though…

Roy: What was Frank Gorshin like when you met him? Was he happy to be there?

Kareem: Oh, it was pretty uneventful. He was just a nice old man, waiting in line to sign autographs that people paid for. I think I was mainly surprised to see that he was still alive.

Roy: Still, it’s pretty fascinating that after all this time people still care about the show and the people that were in it. It only ran for 3 seasons. Why do you think people still love the 1960s Batman show?

Kareem: It was so over the top and had such a distinct style. I don’t think there’s a kid or young adult alive between the late 60s and late 80s that can’t see those BIFF! BAM! BOP! onomatopoeia fighting words in their heads. Or hear the ridiculous horn section cacophony that played when the words flew onto the screen. I don’t even know what the original target audience was when it first aired, but I think it became a staple of syndicated kids TV for 20 years. At least it was for me. Maybe the bright colors and costumes make a lasting impression on children?

And, as cheesy as the show was, it actually had some pretty great acting. Or distinct, anyway. Adam West is just ridiculous. And the the show featured a lot of great actors as villains–Burgess Meredith and Vincent Price come to mind. I think everyone involved in the show must have been having a really fun time, which is pretty obvious to the audience….well, everyone except for poor Burt Ward who apparently had a never-ending battle with bricks, explosives, and uncomfortably-binding gaff tape…

Roy: Final, traditional question: If you could rig the hat and pick your own villain name for your show, what would it be?

Kareem: I can’t really think of what an ideal villain name would be. I just want one that will let me play crazy and over-the-top and, possible, cackle maniacally.

Roy: Thanks, Kareem.

As of writing this, there are still a *few* tickets left to the show. Wanna see Kareem in action? Buy them online here.

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