CWP Blog

Try This On For Size

by Jim Russell

Have you ever seen that really funny TV show called “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” If you haven’t, you may not know how much fun it can be to watch a group of extremely witty and quick thinking actors make up comedy on the spot, with no script, no preparation, and no advance warning of what they might be asked to do on a moment’s notice. It’s called improv comedy, and you can experience it live and in person at Carrollwood Players Theatre every month thanks to our friends from Nine & Numb.

This intrepid group of comedic geniuses is currently appearing at CWP in IMPROV AFTER DARK, a series of late night, adults-only improv shows on select Saturday nights at 11 p.m. For ten bucks (five with a valid student ID), you can go where the wildly funny things are, and have one hell of a time doing it. In fact, their next show is just around the corner, on Saturday, March 22nd.

It’s really hard to not LOVE watching improv comedy, because what you are seeing is a bunch of really silly people making complete fools of themselves on stage for your gratification. Because many of the suggestions for the scenes come from the audience, you, the spectator, get to make the fools do your bidding. Now, who couldn’t love that? And the members of Nine & Numb are a fine-tuned machine when it comes to instantaneously bringing your suggestions to complete full-tilt wackiness. You just have to see it to believe it.

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Nine & Numb calls what they do up on stage ‘games.’ And some of the games you might see Nine & Numb ‘play’ are so funny, well, you might fall off your seat (It actually happened at one of their shows not too long ago. Don’t worry, the injuries were only minor.) Some of the games involve just two or three of the players, and others feature the entire troupe, which can range from six or seven actors up to ten or eleven, depending on the show date.

The one thing that is present in every game is audience participation. YOU, the audience, get asked for suggestions, which the actors have to incorporate into the scene they are about to make up from scratch. You might be asked to suggest a household item, or an occupation, or a non-geographical location, or even a cartoon character or accent. From there, the actors have to take that suggestion and turn it into instant comedy. It is both fascinating and deliriously festive to witness.

One of my favorite games is called “try that on for size.” One of the actors begins by “miming” the movement associated with an everyday task, such as hammering a nail. Then another actor enters and asks the first actor what he or she is doing. The first actor says “I’m hammering a nail.” Next, the second actor has to use the same exact movement, but give it an entirely new explanation. For example, “Well, I’m conducting an orchestra, try that on for size!” And this continues with the entire troupe cycling through elimination style, with new movements each time someone gets eliminated. It can get absolutely crazy when two actors manage to hang on for dear life, and have to think of potentially endless new explanations for that original “hammering a nail” movement!improv

From shows featuring short games like “try that on for size” to full-length improvised comedy spoofs of classic plays like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, Nine & Numb has been bringing outrageously fun shenanigans to the Carrollwood stage for the past couple of seasons. If you haven’t been out to see them yet, it’s time. You need a good laugh. We all need a good laugh! These comedy superstars have not only decked our halls with laughter, but they have also donated every single penny raised (to the tune of thousands of dollars) to help support the ongoing programs of our theatre. That ALONE is one heck of a great reason to come out and support Nine & Numb and give them a wild, raucous audience to perform for!

To find out the complete schedule of Saturday Improv After Dark shows, just visit our Facebook page or check out Nine & Numb’s website. I hope to see you at the next show on March 22nd at 11 p.m. I’ll be the guy taking your money!

Why Community Theatre?


ericby Eric Misener

It’s 2014. The cable guide includes channels in the thousands. There is a device, which I can carry around, on which I am able to talk to and see my brother and his daughters in New Jersey, in real time. I can watch movies and television shows any time I want, virtually commercial free. Basically, there are more entertainment options than there ever have been in the history of humanity, and there are more on the way. There is nothing wrong with technology, nor taking advantage of its ability to thrill and entertain. But I want say that, even in this world, live theatre, and, more specifically, “community” theatre, can be a great option for a different kind of entertainment experience. Let me explain:

Live theatre has a visceral feel to it that comes from being in the same room with the performers. Most of our information about others as human beings comes not from their words, but from subtleties of facial expression and body language. There are nuances that can be conveyed in a live performance that simply don’t translate when an image is projected on a screen. Further, as social animals, we human beings have a craving for communal experiences. When you go to a live show, you are part of what is almost a living, breathing organism: an audience. Rather than sitting by yourself or with one other person, your encounter with the show is altered by the people around you. Laughter or sadness is infectious; we are wired to pick up on such signals, and it heightens the experience. And, unlike a movie audience, a live theatre audience can give and take not only from each other, but the performers as well. An audience at a live show can alter not only each other’s perceptions of the action, they can alter the performance itself. This give and take between people is something that can be experienced during live theatre that is generally not present in the electronic forms of media.

“Alright,” you might say, “but why should I go to a little strip mall, when I can see professional actors in a beautiful venue like the Performing Arts Center?” Well, professional theatre is great. I encourage everyone to check it out. And yes, budgets being what they are, you aren’t going to see hugely expensive special effects or settings at a community theatre. What you will see, however, is much more creative use of those effects and settings. Because community theatres have little money to spend on each show, more has to be done with less. This means directors and producers have to find interesting new ways to get their message across, be it representational staging and costuming, or use of lighting and sound to create different settings, rather than a whole scene change. What you will also see, rather than famous people who lead their lives thousands of miles away, are your neighbors and people who live and work in your own community. Your dentist, or accountant, or your kid’s English teacher might be playing Sherlock Holmes or that naughty maid!

Which brings me to another point: you don’t have to stay in the audience. The real genius of community theatre is that it is open to everyone. Always wanted to act? Go to an audition. I promise, we love to see new people come out and play with us. Not sure about being on stage? No problem, everyone has skills that can be used. Good at painting, or sewing, or building things? There’s plenty that has to be done for every show. Are you one of those ultra-organized people that always make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be? You might be a great stage manager. A technological whiz? Volunteer to run the lighting or sound effects. There really is a part everyone can play.

The bonds that are formed among a group of people working toward a common goal are irreplaceable. Working on a show for two months before performing or seeing it performed is much like being involved in a team sport. Most of my best friendships have been made through the theatre. I also happened to find my love there as well. But, regardless of your situation, you will meet some of the most interesting people you are likely to find in your life, and working with them is a most rewarding experience.

Finally, by going to, or being involved in community theatre shows, you are supporting a local charity. Carrollwood Players, like many community theatres, is a non-profit organization that exists to serve the community in which it operates. (Note that this means any donations you make to the theatre are, indeed, tax-deductable.) This past season, Carrollwood Players has run the “Black Coffee” series, giving local writers a chance to have their work done in a “staged reading” environment, with an eye towards possibly getting those plays fully staged in the future. Also, a special showing of the radio play version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” was performed for students of Academy Prep Center of Tampa, which offers a chance at a free private school education to economically disadvantaged children. And every year, the one act weekend allows play-writes from all over the country a chance to have their short works shared with an appreciative audience.

Do yourself a favor, and look into your local community theatre. If the above reasons aren’t enough, remember that it is one of the few places you can go and have a good excuse to turn off your cell phone for two hours. In fact, it’s highly encouraged.