In addition to a full season of community theater and children’s theater, Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre hosts a variety of performing arts programs. Two very talented improvisation groups call Towngate Theatre home—the Left of Centre Players, an adult improv troupe, and the Crazy 8s, which comprises high school-aged thespians.
The Crazy 8s will take the stage at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23. The public is invited to watch the performance.
These brave performers hit the stage without a script, props, or a safety net—armed only with adrenaline and their imaginations. Audience members offer suggestions for scenes, conflicts, characters, and theatrical styles and contribute directly to the action on stage.
“Improv is pure possibility, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time,” said Oglebay Institute director of performing arts Tim Thompson, who serves as mentor to both groups. “Most actors spend countless hours getting into character. In improv, nothing is rehearsed or discussed. The players invent personas, places, and lines on the spot. They are on stage with nothing but their creative and spontaneous minds.”
So, what is possible when you start from nothing? Anything. And everything. Thompson says this is true not only when improvising on the stage but in life as well.
He said improv audiences are amazed as actors take simple suggestions and make something up that is funny, interesting, and completely real to everyone in the room. However, improvising in life can be equally as impressive and beneficial.
“A lot of what is learned through the art of improvisation can be useful in the real world. Life is an improvisation—there is no script and not everything happens the way we think it should. But we must be able to respond positively and productively and develop the ability to think and act without knowing the outcome.”
Members of the Crazy 8s include Taylor Andrews, Gailya Dodd, David Gaudio (director), Patrick Ingold, Aidan Kosol, Will Medovic, Ava Mick, Anthony Mixer, Basil Nodurft, John Papademitrio, Jana Schodzinski, Clare Seibert, Emma Tipton, and Abby Young.
Although there are currently 14 members, the troupe is named the Crazy 8s because there were eight original members.
“In 2009 I offered an improvisation class for high school students because at the time our classes only went up to 8th grade. Improv turned out to be the perfect fit for a class for this age. I noticed how improv helped make these very talented and smart teenagers become fearless on stage,” Thompson explained. “The same eight students enrolled in all of the first three sessions I taught. All eight were extremely talented and very enthusiastic and they needed a new challenge. So, I decided that they should share their improv talents and perform for a live audience.”
Thompson said he is especially proud of the youth improv troupe not only for their talents but also their bravery.
“It takes a very brave person to stand on a stage in front of strangers and make things up on the spot. It is a terrifying thought for most adults, yet these young actors rise to the challenge time and time again.”
He added that while many of the performers have natural talent, they all spend a great deal of time honing their craft. “Much like any other skill, improv is mastered through practice, trial, error and hard work.”
Members meet regularly and stay connected by engaging in theatrical games and activities and mastering the rules of improvisation.
For more information or to purchase tickets to the Oct. 23 Crazy 8s show, call 304-242-7700 or www.oionline.com. Admission is $7 and helps support the community theater programs and projects at Towngate.