Hey Audience, it turns out that last week YOU won Maestro, our weekly competition-based improv show.
How did this happen? Let’s hear from one of the directors, Marc Majcher:
Eric and I have had many conversations about our improv philosophies, and one of the things we like to emphasize when playing or directing is this idea of “anything can happen”. Literally anything. Being comfortable with not being safe within whatever format or structure we’ve chosen to play with, but following our impulses to do whatever will be the most fun for us, for the other players, and for the audience.
So, this week, one of our twelve players – #10 – wasn’t able to make it to the show, and we couldn’t find anyone to fill in at the last minute. Eric and I decided to leave the chip for number ten in the bucket that we picked random players for games and scenes from, and figure out what to do when the time came.
The first time it happened, in the third scene of the night, I asked for an audience member to come up and play a scene at a restaurant, and gave them a bell to let them call back anything the other improvisers did that they didn’t like. After the scene, I asked him if he’d like to stay up on stage and play the rest of the show, or have us pick a new person each time number ten came up, and he chose the latter.
Usually, a scene with an audience member will score a bit higher than a scene without, because we really love to see people going up on stage and taking risks, having fun, and being supported by the other improvisers up there.
So, over the course of the evening, we had three more audience members performing with us; a woman aggressively trying to cheer up Brad Hawkins at his birthday party, someone playing Chris Allen’s guardian angel giving him advice as he tried to work up the courage to hit on a beautiful woman at a bar, and a gentleman valiantly acting out and lip syncing a two-person Shakespearian scene that Peter Rogers provided all the dialog for.
Looking at the final scores after the last round, we saw that number ten – the audience – was tied for first place with Peter, so Eric and I had to come up with a tie-breaker that would provide a fitting end to this extraordinary night.
We sent the entire audience on a speak-in-one-voice date with Peter Rogers.
Peter sat at the front of the stage, we asked the audience what their name was, and they responded as a whole. He made small talk with them, and they came back with pleasant one or two word answers. We eventually asked them to tell Peter the secret they’d been meaning to tell him, and together, they all said “We’re pregnant!” Brilliant. Afterward, naturally, we had to have the audience score the two sides of the scene, to decide who would get the bonus point and win the title of Maestro for the evening, and of course, they voted for themselves. The show was over, and we invited the entire audience up on stage to receive their Canadian five dollar bill, and accept their victory.
I can honestly say, in all my years of playing and directing improv here in Austin and around the country, I’ve never seen anything like that happen, and probably never will again. But I can also honestly say, as long as we embrace the spirit of true playfulness and let go of whatever worries or fears we have of “doing it wrong” or trying desperately to be interesting or funny or following a structure too closely, as long as we accept that truly anything can happen, and it’ll be okay if we embrace the fun and roll with whatever comes our way, then we’ll see many, many more amazing things happen that will surprise and delight us, things that we could never have anticipated or planned.
What’s going to happen next week? We’ll see.