Tulsa’s stand-up comedians aren’t the only ones bringing the funny. Local improvisation troupes are also attracting laughs with their interactive performances.
In 1989, Julie Tattershall made Tulsa laugh out loud with the city’s first adult comedy improvisation troupe.
“No one was doing improv,” says Tattershall, artistic director for Hellerand Clark theatres. “So I decided to start Laughing Matter.”
Now, more than 200 adults (and counting) have performed for local audiences, while expanding their live comedy and acting skills.
“It’s considered a training ground for people with either a lot or no experience in improv and theater,” she says. “We teach them performance improv skills and acting skills.”
While most adults stay with her troupe for about two years, she says Heller Adult Laughing Matter Improv is a springboard for many of its group members to form their own improv troupes. The group has even evolved into a separate teen comedy improv troupe at Clark Theatre, which Tattershall also oversees.
Tattershall is certainly familiar with the stage. She performed as an actress in Chicago and with the famed comedy theater Second City, of which notable comics such as Joan Rivers, John Candy, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Tina Fey are alumni.
Tattershall now implements her improv training with Heller Adult Laughing Matter Improv.
“What you build is character and trust on stage,” she says. “We stress character development and trusting your partner on stage.”
The comedy troupe of about 15 performers meets from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesdays, during which time they practice for an hour-and-a-half show, with up to 20 improvisation games. All games require suggestions from the audience, which serve as the jumping-off points for the short-form improv.
“Improv is interactive, and that’s what makes it so fun,” Tattershall says. “So much of today’s entertainment comes from the flat screen, but this is live interaction between actors and an audience.”
Although this season is over, the group plans to celebrate its 20th year in the fall, when Heller Theatre moves to its new home at Henthorne Community Center.
“It’s going to be a big celebration,” Tattershall says. “We plan to bring our alumni back for a big show.”
You don’t have to be an adult to make people laugh. In fact, some of the funniest things come from the creative minds of local kids.
Nobody knows this better than Frank Gallagher, co-director of Clark Theatre’s comedy improvisation troupe for area youth.
He says kids have imaginations that haven’t been pushed, and they are often more spontaneous than adults, who tend to lose their imaginative ability.
“It’s surprising how creative and funny they can be,” he says.
The teen troupe, known as Clark Teen Laughing Matter Improv, started in 2005 at Heller Theatre. When the troupe moved to Clark Theatre, Gallagher continued his role as co-director, through which he teaches improvisation games, selects the games the troupe performs and determines which troupe members have more than just comedic talent that benefits a game.
“Some games require vocal talent and some require physical work,” he says. “We even have games that need kids who are good at speaking gibberish.”
Improvisation games range from character portrayal to how to react in certain situations. One example of a character game may involve an improv member acting as a “party host.” While the “host” leaves the room, the audience provides unique traits for other improv members to act out. When the “host” returns,the improv members act out clues for their “host” to guess which person has what trait.
“Sometimes the games don’t always work, butit’s surprising how often it does,” Gallagher says. “It’s about making connections with people onstage and someone says something so unusual it makes everyone laugh.”
Gallagher says that about 25 kids attend the troupe’s classes, which are held every Saturday at Clark Theatre. Children ages 11 to 14 meet from 11 a.m.-noon, while the 15 and older group meets from 1:30-2:30 p.m. No tryouts are necessary to join the troupe, which gives kids an opportunity to be spontaneous and creative, Gallagher says.
“It’s no work and all play,” he says. “It’s an easy form of free creativity.”
Be sure to catch the troupe’s last performance of the season June 26 at the Charles E. Norman Theatre in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.Tickets cost $10 at www.MyTicketOffice.com or contact the PAC box office at 596-7111.