Dallas — It’s hard not to feel good about the present and the future of Dallas Improv after taking in the Alternative Comedy Theater (ACT)’s Big Weekend of Improv matinee at Pocket Sandwich Theater on Saturday.
The future’s so bright because DFW high schoolers are taking the improv torch and keeping it trimmed and burning. The first show of the day was a supergroup of sorts combining Plano High School’s Ript Script and the Wylie High School troupe the Levelheads.
Together, they put together a great short form show (short form improv is like what you see on Who’s Line Is It Anyway? and consists of games that require a quick wit) under the guidance of host (and head of ACT) John Rawley and ACT’s Shea Smith, who sort of acted as an improv Sherpa when needed.
Raise your hand if you wish your high school had an improv club. What a fantastic idea and one I hope other schools are emulating.
The short form gags kept coming with a set from Comedy Sportz Dallas. Like ACT and others, Comedy Sportz has their own improv classes and show center. That they’ve nonetheless appeared in both ACT’s Big Weekend of Improv and DCH’s Dallas Comedy Festival this year speaks to the goodwill that’s possible between nominally competing outfits.
ComedySportz is even closer in spirit to Whose Line Is It Anyway? because it’s a competition like WLIIA, although the competitive element is taken about as seriously as WLIIA—which is to say not at all.
Like the high schoolers, they put together a show that managed to be both clean and silly for the kids and genuinely amusing for the adults. But then, ComedySportz does that masterfully in their own space, twice a week or more. I especially enjoyed watching ComedySportz veterans Jared and Jessa Berger play; in a crowded field of comedy power couples in Dallas, they may be my favorite thanks to their silliness, their joyousness, and their refusal to take themselves too seriously.
I mentioned kids and the venue was chock-full of them, down to toddler-aged, and they naturally embraced the spirit of the event, getting up to dance onstage before the show and during intermission. That’s the sort of spirit ACT engenders with their shows. In a helpful bit of serendipity (thanks to a concurrent production of Captain Blood: The Pirate Melodrama), the stage was beautifully made up as a pirate ship. That certainly got the kids’ attention and hinted that wouldn’t be a boring ordeal carried out mostly for their parents’ amusement.
This is the 10th edition of The Big Weekend of Improv, and I believe that makes them the longest-running comedy festival in the Metroplex. And while, to be sure, not every Big Weekend of Improv show is kid-friendly, whether you’re 8 or 88, you’re missing out if you don’t make a point to attend the next 10.