Washington Improv Theater Adds fun and Play to a Weeknight

Fisticuffs and Knife Club took the stage for the first time at the Washington, D.C., venue, the Source Black Box, Tuesday night.

No, this wasn’t a rendition of the infamous “Fight Club.” The two performance groups engaged in the theatrical technique known as “improvisation.”

The groups are two of the Washington Improv Theater’s (WIT), newest teams who performed in front of more than 60 people after only one rehearsal together at 9 p.m.

The theater puts on weekly Harold Nights for free at the Black Box on 14th St. NW in D.C. A “Harold” is a type of longform improv, where improvisers build scenes based on suggestions from audience members, according to WIT.

What makes the “Harold” unique from other longform improvisation techniques, is that performers take the characters and storylines from three separate scenes with the goal of combining all three into one presentation.

Eight of the nine Fisticuffs members began their performance based on an audience-requested theme of a birthday party.

Amanda Lee Barber and Dan Hardcastle of Fisticuffs receive a helping hand from their fellow players, John Hesier (left) and Jordana Mishory(right) in writing a party supply list as dancers for a diabetic birthday party. (Nicole Choi/Bloc Reporter)
Amanda Lee Barber and Dan Hardcastle of Fisticuffs receive a helping hand from their fellow players, John Hesier (left) and Jordana Mishory(right) in writing a party supply list as dancers for a diabetic birthday party. (Nicole Choi/Bloc Reporter)

The performers planned a diabetic birthday celebration, creating a scene where a branch manager fires her employees after seeing all the signatures on her birthday card written in the same handwriting.

Based on the theme of exercise, Knife Club entered the stage and created a scene where players went on an adventure up Mt. Kilimanjaro.

In one of their last scenes for the night, Patrick Slevin, Steve Major, Erica Geiser and Stephen Mann (from left to right) of Knife Club come together on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro for a bowling tournament. (Nicole Choi/Bloc Reporter)
In one of their last scenes for the night, Patrick Slevin, Steve Major, Erica Geiser and Stephen Mann (from left to right) of Knife Club come together on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro for a bowling tournament. (Nicole Choi/Bloc Reporter)

Jamie Binger, Knife Club coach and director, said support and physicality are her group’s strong suits.

“The thing that delighted me about their show tonight was how they were all on board,” Binger said. “They brought fun things and they know how to support each other as a group.”

Columbia Heights resident Geoff Corey, 23, said the show was innovative and entertaining.

“They were both new groups and yet both of them were very funny,” Corey said,  “and I think the longform kind of improv lends itself to that. [Longform] lets the actors be more creative.”

Mark Chalfant, artistic and executive director of WIT, said the company has collaborated with improv groups from colleges in the surrounding community, including University of Maryland’s Erasable Inc.

Chalfant said improv can be a fun art form for college students.

“[Improv] is a personal, vulnerable, social experiment in what we’re doing,” Chalfant said. “You have to bring yourself to your improv because you’re making choices and doing things so quickly. We’re in love with this art form, so it’s our mission as a nonprofit in D.C., to try and share this with as many people as we can in the city.”

writersblocheadshots06Nicole Choi is a senior English major and can be reached at nchoi76@gmail.com. 

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