Can I get some Dell Computers with an Ice Pick Please?

Review of THIS IS FOR YOU: An Improvised Theatre Poetry Experience at UNEXPECTED PRODUCTIONS
Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer JULIANA AGUDELO ARIZA and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member DAPHNE BUNKER

This is for you 1

Nothing ever gets old in the Market Theatre, where, for over 30 years now, Unexpected Productions has resided and produced spontaneous shows for its eager audience. As surprising as it may seem, they’re Seattle’s oldest improvisational company and have been entertaining theater-goers with nothing less than truly one-of-a-kind experiences.

Attending THIS IS FOR YOU: An Improvised Theatre Poetry Experience, which ran from April 5-28 in honor of National Poetry Month, was the first time I attended an improv show, and I was excited to find out how the performers would combine improvisation and poetry. Most of all, the idea of going to a show that would never happen again was intriguing. That’s the thing about improvisation: it’s always changing. The only constants are the actors on stage and their immense creativity.

The venue itself was as intriguing as the show. The Market Theatre was unlike any other theater I had ever gone to. It is in the middle of the famous Post Alley, a narrow road accessible only to pedestrians. Home to eclectic businesses and unique storefronts, the ambiance is eerie: time seems to slow as you walk down the road. The entrance to the Market Theatre is narrow, dimly lit, and so small that it took a while to find even in the light of day.

None of that mattered as soon as I stepped into the entrance, where the warm air welcomed me with sweet smells of popcorn and refreshments. It was a rather cozy place with subtle lighting and comforting sounds of light conversation. I maneuvered around the people standing by and sat down on the right side of the middle row. There weren’t many people, which was both a comfort and made me nervous. I hoped that the actors wouldn’t ask us any questions.

Slowly, the lights dimmed, and a single spotlight was cast on the musician in the front row, who wielded a violin. It was truly not what I was expecting when I pictured an improv show. A pizzicato intro arrangement? It was intriguing, and I knew this would be a performance unlike any I’d seen. The moment they began playing, the audience held its breath and seemed captivated by the musician. When the musical intro ended, the lighting shifted to the other corner of the room, to a performer sitting in front of a typewriter.

Photo Credit: Bill Grinnell/Unexpected Productions

They introduced the show as a night of poetry and creative skits, praising the talent of the actors while they set up her typewriter. Then, they turned to the audience and asked if anyone wanted a poem. It took some time for the audience to warm up to the performer, but people eventually started to shout words that became beautiful poems by the performer’s quick wit. The night seemed to take many unforeseen directions.

Here are two things I learned: if you think you know something about improv, you don't. Two, you must pay attention. The other actors came onstage and, if I hadn’t kept my eyes fixed on the stage, I might have missed the quick change in pace and the alternating scenes. Because improv relies solely on whatever the actors are thinking at the moment, there is no wardrobe, makeup, or any kind of indication of a certain type of character or scene change. I learned to watch their expressions, their hand gestures, and their body language to understand who or what they were trying to portray.

Prompted by the actors, the audience would yell out different words that would then become the baseline for new skits, such as one audience member offering “a Dell computer” and another requesting “an ice pick.” For these sorts of unrelated topics, the small cast of actors would act out a scene lasting around 3 to 5 minutes, and then quickly switch to the next, with a completely new storyline. I was impressed with their swift versatility, especially acting out the harder topics, with one person suggesting the Mexican restaurant Gorditos, and another suggesting a polar bear. I appreciated the level of engagement that the actors received from the audience. The audience was in control of the show, while still allowing for the actors to take creative liberties. Between both, they kept each other entertained.

However, my favorite part of the segments was the songs. The violinist, who could sing as well, took every single word and object that was performed by the actors and made a humorous melody with an insane violin performance simultaneously. This was probably the most memorable part of the show because the songs were guaranteed to get stuck in your head.

When the dynamic performance was over, the performers writing poems would be lit up once more, and with a calm voice, they recited the poem and handed it to the audience member for whom they wrote it. The audience member would thank them and go back to their seats, holding the handwritten manuscript like a treasure. It made me happy to see people receive their poems, and I could tell that the performer enjoyed writing them too.

The show’s ending almost surprised me, as all the other parts did. It was something special to see, an interesting amalgamation of prose, music, and theater. My experience was something that not only left me completely mystified but also made me realize how much I enjoyed live theater performances. Improv was a new art form for me, and this performance made me want to return. Unexpected Productions lived up to their name and legacy. Where else would you get a skit with a side of poetry?

Photo Credit: Bill Grinnell/Unexpected Productions

Lead Photo Credit: Bill Grinnell/Unexpected Productions

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 5 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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