Greg Gillotti and I have been performing as Iguanatron since 2009, and we were honored to be selected for Duofest in Philadelphia this year. So we packed up the car and drove east to the new home of the Philly Improv Theater: now on the 2nd floor of the Adrienne Theater. The space is an intimate, professional 65 seat theater with an enormous green room (separated by an honest-to-goodness wall) from which performers can see and hear the stage via video feed, a lighting grid to drool over with lots of different looks (expertly operated), and stadium style seating looking over a sizable stage.
Iguanatron was the first act on Saturday night. The house was a bit light but made up for their numbers with energy and enthusiasm. I was thrown a bit by a frenzied pace of editing early on in the show. We went through a lot of scenes fast, and I was also in my head as Greg and I stumbled in to a few scenes we had sort of played out before. After a weekend of overthinking, I was very pleased with our set. But I had to get over myself.
BUT we weren't really there for us! We saw some face-melting performances Saturday night (sadly that was really the only night we saw shows). Out of all of the great shows, here were the major stand-outs to me (in the order I saw them):
- Two Gentlemen (Boston). These two classy gentleman (Greg and Ari) did a few things that really impressed me, some of which are still rattling around in my brain box.
- They didn't take a suggestion (this has been comfortable for me lately) and their opening moment was very smooth. As Ari was doing the intro, Greg made a choice, set himself into a posture/position, then Ari immediately snapped into "character" and the show began.
- Their transitions were wonderful to watch. Reminded me of JTS Brown, though they didn't know of the group/philosophy. At any point, wherever they were whatever they were doing could become a new scene by changing attitude, a way of talking, something to indicate we had changed. It was subtle and fluid.
- The show folded in on itself. It became very meta as Ari and Greg talked about the show Ari and Greg were doing which in and of itself isn't that interesting but apparently that's very common and sort of the point for them. It's a part of the work they find interesting since it's a form that opens itself to that possibility. For example, one of the meta themes was which improviser was responsible for creating one of the characters–that itself is an interesting idea.
- Matt& (Philly). Second time I saw this show and second time it completely blew me away. If there is some aspect of improvisation that involves the audience being with you and wanting you to succeed because they know you are making it up as you go, this show amplifies that to its logical extreme. Matt Holmes takes an audience member who is seeing improv for the first time and does a 25 minute set with them. And somehow, it is brilliant. You can see minute to minute how much of a craftsman he is at this. It is amazing to watch and even more so as the audience member (for this show an older guy who spoke broken English) begins to open up, eventually making bold choices, doing character voices, and more!
- Ranger Danger and the Danger Ranger (Los Angeles). RDatDR belongs here and not because they happened to be staying at the same house with us (the kindness of our hosts could be a blog post of its own). This show felt like an 8 person team that somehow happened to be performed by 2 people. Drew and Luis have a name for their form (had to do with a flower) but it is essentially a monoscene with cutaways. In this show, it happened to culminate in a bit of a narrative thread. It started relaxed and patient with a 2 person scene based on a location suggestion, with cutaways adding in some details. Then one of the cutaways introduced an army of squirrels, and the show blossomed as the two portrayed this army–their leader, the various ranks and types of squirrels–as they cut back and forth, each moment building to a delightfully satisfying conclusion.
Not to mention, we really enjoyed our time in Philly. As mentioned, we had amazing hosts who kept us fed and engaged in fascinating conversation. They were also conveniently located such that we were able to walk everywhere save a couple taxis home at night. Greg and I toured East State Penitentiary (below left) and ate at a delicious old-timey restaurant called Farmer's Cabinet (below right).
Long story short: I recommend checking out the Philly improv scene, and particularly Duofest 2015!