note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark
There are actors in the basement of REMINGTON'S!
It's logical to find them upstairs in this old branch-bank building turned bar/restaurant because it's just a short putt from the Colonial and theater workers of all kinds make it a second home. And week-ends once the theater-goers go to theatres (about 9 p m) that basement room with the huge safe (manufactured by Remington & Sharp) hosts stand-up comics in "Dick Doherty's Comedy Vault" ; but, every Thursday night for the past few years a baker's half-dozen actors called "Comedie du Jour" have been improvising there for a growing audience of regulars.
These are not stand-up performers working together but actors being funny. Serious actors often use improvisation to brainstorm their way into new insights by freeing themselves of the words in a script and responding spontaneously to the relationships of the characters. Groups like "Comedie du Jour" start with a structure --- teacher/student say --- and then ask the audience to shout out their college majors and settle on one being taught; however, every few lines an off-stage moderator will stop the action and assign a new emotional state (from a dozen audience suggestions) for each actor. (Try going from anger to ennui to joy to love to "the day of your death" while teaching English as a second language!) How about improvising a madrigal (about the MBTA) or a blues (about ... cookies?)
The group has worked together every week for years, performing, rehearsing and developing new structure ideas, and listening openly to one another --- which is the soul of improv. They know one another so well there's never any mumbled discussion of who-says-what: the audience gives its input and, boom, the sketch starts.
They all know they're in the basement of Remington's to be funny, but the laughs emerge out of situation rather than shtick. They're serious about their craft, occasionally dropping out to take refresher-courses in improv to sharpen skills. And they are actors (which means day-jobs) who take roles with other companies or sell their skills to industry or provide voices in commercials.
But, every Thursday at nine p m there they are in the basement of Remington's, ready to throw themselves into each other's trusting arms at the shouted out suggestions of however many people show up to participate. And, needless to say, the bigger the crowd, the funnier the show.
You know what that means, don't you?