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Among other projects, OKC Improv collaborates with Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park with ‘Fortune’s Fools,’ a Shakespearean comedy minus the Shakespeare.

Charles Martin January 26th, 2011

Few scenes in the city have blossomed as quickly as improv. Five years ago, it was barely a glimmer; now, local improv troupes can be found at arts festivals, working with student theater programs and touring nationwide.

A major contributor to the growth has been a weekly Saturday showcase at Ghostlight Theatre Club as part of the umbrella group, OKC Improv.

“The fantastic part of being Oklahoma’s first ongoing showcase is we get to highlight all these different troupes that are going through classes and getting encouragement from the rest of the improv community,” said Eric Webb, an OKC Improv coproducer and Oklahoma Gazette theater writer. “We went from five active troupes a year ago to 19 active groups.”

OKC Improv uses the weekly showcase to feature various troupes, all putting different twists on the wideopen world of improv.

“Each of those groups approaches improv in a unique and wonderful way,” said Clint Vrazel, an OKC Improv co-producer. “You get Villain: The Musical or Twinprov that has music built in, and then you have improvised Shakespeare. So you come and you will see all these different groups taking on the art form in completely different ways.”

Each Saturday, OKC Improv presents two shows at Ghostlight Theatre Club. This week’s 8 p.m. show includes OKC Improv All-Stars, Everybody and Their Dog and The Ones Your Mother Warned You About. The 10 p.m. performance includes Magician William Rader, The MiDolls and The Bat.

Feb. 5 marks the debut of “Fortune’s Fools,” a collaboration between Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park and OKC Improv veterans who will take William Shakespeare off-script and improvise a play as it could have been penned by the Bard.

“I call it ‘improvisation resembling Shakespeare,’” director Shane McClure said. “A lot of Shakespeare was based on the Italian comedies, which were improvised.”

The players begin with common Shakespeare archetypes and a basic plot, but then more modern improv devises like crowd suggestions will be infused to keep things interesting.

“We will have the wheel of plots,” Vrazel said. “Since Shakespeare’s plots are somewhat disposable and repeat — shipwreck, revenge, magic — you can spin the wheel and it will add an extra spice.”

Don’t expect strict iambic pentameter, but McClure said that years of improv and Shakespeare will help him regurgitate lines off the cuff that would make the Virgin Queen wilt.

Webb said he thinks the performances will help stretch the skill set of both troupes, as well as offer the audience a unique glimpse into the humor of The Bard that often gets lost in modern productions.

“A lot of what people miss out on is just how brilliantly funny and raunchy Shakespeare is,” he said. “Some will treat Shakespeare as if it is sacred and, therefore, is too serious to laugh at it. But it is funny, and I hope a show like this will get people thinking about the humor inherent to the production when they go to see an Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park production.”

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