A Fun Introduction to Improv at Oregon Children’s Theatre

Image courtesy of Oregon Children’s Theatre

My son Alvah and I met our good friends Rachel and Addie at the Oregon Children’s Theatre to catch the 2 pm Impulse show. The theater space for Impulse is a warm and intimate space so it was easy to see, hear and be part of the show. Improv comedy is the practice of making up each scene, each moment on the spot for an audience to enjoy. Audience participation is key and it is heavily reliant on the actors’ ability to listen and support their co-actors on the stage. Impulse is a Young Professionals show, featuring theater students ages 14 and up who seek advanced training with OCT, and produce three studio shows throughout the season.

Alvah, who is 8, is a bit of cynic by nature. He wasn’t just going to have fun or enjoy the show, he needed proof that it would be worth his time. The show started with one of the cast mates coming out and warming up the audience, getting them ready to yell suggestions and participate. Alvah joined in and started to loosen and enjoy the show a bit. The show is made up of a series of improv games, each of the seven members of the cast taking a turn leading a different game.

The games were fun to watch, and the energy of the actors stayed high and drew the audience in. There were a couple of games that really wowed the crowd, including a game where the cast wrote sentences from the audience and spread them out across the floor. When the two cast members came in to do a scene, they would pick up a piece of paper off the floor, and read it aloud as part of their dialogue. In this game, the performers had everyone — all ages — laughing along with them as they seamlessly brought the line into the story.

Alvah was at times a little confused by the games and couldn’t follow what was being played. Sometimes a game wouldn’t click for him until after it was over and he would slap his forehead with palm of his hand emphatically and say, “oh, I get it now.” He was a big fan of the Late to Work game, probably because they took his suggestion of battling a super villain for that scene.

If you’re planning on bringing your kids, I suggest warming them up for suggestions on the way so they are ready to join in. The more the whole family plays along the more fun the show is for everyone. The cast definitely makes an effort to include everyone in the theater and to hear from as many people as possible.

Our friend Addie, who is also 8, said she got all the scenes and games and that she wished it had gone on longer. I’d say Alvah enjoyed it quite a bit, even if he wouldn’t always let on, because as soon as we got home he started trying to teach his brother how to play some of the games he saw at the theater.

Amy Conway
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Amy Conway

Calendar Director at PDX Parent
Amy Conway
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