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In the moment

Mop and Bucket Co. serves up improv several ways

MopCo actors performing in “Chortle Combat.” Co-director Michael Burns said some formats the group tries don’t stick, but “Chortle Combat” is definitely a keeper. MopCo will perform “Chortle Combat” at Proctors Theater in Schenectady through the end of September.

MopCo actors performing in “Chortle Combat.” Co-director Michael Burns said some formats the group tries don’t stick, but “Chortle Combat” is definitely a keeper. MopCo will perform “Chortle Combat” at Proctors Theater in Schenectady through the end of September. Submitted photo

— Someone in the audience yelled, “Licorice!” and Kat Koppett thought quickly.

Licorice. Licorice. Did she have a prominent memory of licorice? A funny story about licorice?

She thought back to when she was a kid, when she would visit her grandmother in her tiny apartment in New York City. There was a bowl in the apartment, and it was always full of soft licorice.

“I would always kind of steal pieces of licorice,” Koppett said.

Aha. There was her story.

Koppett shared it during a recent performance at Proctors Theater with the Mop and Bucket Co., the improv group she co-directs. It was part of the group’s most recent show, “Chortle Combat,” a new format that has Koppett and co-director Michael Burns excited. During a recent interview, both also talked enthusiastically about four actors who recently joined the troupe.

The Mop and Bucket Co. moved into Proctors’ basement about a year ago, hosting weekly shows on Friday nights. There’s Theatersports, where teams of actors vie for the audience’s approval by turning suggestions into scenes, songs and stories; Spontaneous Broadway, in which musical numbers are inspired by audience suggestions, and Tapestry, which turns audience suggestions into “epic stories.”

And, for the last month or so, there’s been Chortle Combat. Koppett said the group was looking for a new format, one that would let the actors have more say in the show. That way, if the audience one night seemed to really be into musical numbers, the actors could incorporate more of those into the show. If “clever word games” proved to be a hit, there could be more of those.

The way Chortle Combat works is two actors -- it changes each time -- are chosen as directors. They share the remaining actors for the first part of the show, putting on skits that they hope will win the audience’s favor. Because when the first act wraps up, the audience votes on which director they liked better, and he or she gets to choose the format for the second half of the night.

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