Anyone can be an improv actor — every one of us improvises all day, every day, whether we know it or not.
Can we do it as well as Stanley Braxton?
The five-member troupe will perform “Majority Boat,” an evening of improvisational theatre, at the LSPU Hall Friday.
“The fact is, we all improvise. We don’t know what we’re going to do and who we’re going to see, and we all have certain personas we put on in different venues,” explains Stanley Braxton member Tim Matson.
“I’m a substitute teacher, so that’s a different Tim Matson than the Tim Matson with a group of friends or whatever.
“There are certain skills that we learn that are really simple and basic and once you have a grasp of a couple ideas you can kind of hang your hat on, improv can open up immediately and become something that’s not quite so scary.”
The members of Stanley Braxton got together about a year and a half ago. The troupe’s oddball name was chosen among the “silly and appropriate names for an improv group” thrown out by the members in email conversations. They’ve done shows here and there and have had their sights set on the LSPU Hall for a while.
“We thought it would be a great venue for improv and we’re really excited to get the chance to play there,” Matson said.
Stanley Braxton’s format is a fun one: the first half of the show will consist of short-form improv, along the lines of “Whose Line is it Anyway,” where the group performs five- to 10-minute off-the-cuff skits based on ideas from the audience. The second half will be long-form, where a suggestion or theme from the audience is explored in a short one-act play.
Most of the time, it ends up being funny, but not because the actors seek out laughs. It’s the truth they’re looking for, Matson explained.
“One of the best books written about improv, in my opinion, is called ‘Truth in Comedy,’ and the central thesis of it is something we believe in,” Matson explained. “What’s funny about improv comes out from the truth, not from just telling jokes or doing silly voices or something. It comes out from people recognizing themselves or recognizing someone they know.
“Having a core of truth is something that makes it a funny experience, as opposed to just telling jokes. We look for the truth and the laughs sometimes come.”
Audience participation is a major part of Stanley Braxton shows, and not just in terms of throwing out suggestions. Volunteers from the crowd are often brought on stage to take part.
Tickets for “Majority Boat” are $10, and are only available at the door. Showtime is 7 p.m.