Kitten Bomb: Off Script - Scenic Route
- By gentleguide
- On Thu 05 sep 2019
I don’t typically cover improv shows here at the Gentle Guide, but because of the direct link to theatre I wanted to put up an article about Kitten Bomb. This improv group has been around for a few years, but more recently they’ve begun to experiment with a longer-form show. Essentially, they’re creating an entire two-act comedy in the moment, with light cues, music, and a continuing storyline with emotional climaxes. Their next show is Saturday September 14 at the Stoner Studio at the Civic Center, with the subtitle of Off Script—Scenic Route.
Forming an Idea
Michael LaDell Harris is a member of the troupe, in addition to being in numerous other theatre productions around town. He joined Kitten Bomb, and his previous theater experience (along with the others in the organization) led the group from doing typical improv short games (which they still perform) to their very successful Play format.
“The group started in 2016 from a bunch of performers at the now-defunct Last Laugh (soon to be reborn as TeeHees Comedy),” says Harris. “The group was excited to try new forms, and I immediately brought a few different long forms to try. Initially, the group was doing improv more akin to Whose Line Is It Anyway, and then ending the show with a montage of scenes.”
“The first plan of action was to create our own version of Montage, we ended up calling it the Hannah Montana, or Hanny Manny. It was Montage with more of a structure, making sure to bring back storylines created in the flurry of scenes. This was our first toe-dip into prolonged storytelling within improv.”
“Eventually, we progressed to Movie form and experimented with different genres. After getting a bit worn out on the terminology and requirements of the Movie form, we looked into the Devised Theatre form, or also known simply as the Play form.”
The Road Map
The Play form has requirements unique to the improv scene, but utilizes other things that are familiar to any theatre person. The ideas of story arcs and consistent characterization throughout a show aren’t usually part of the improv world, so there are definite challenges for the members of Kitten Bomb. But the end result is often rewarding to both performer and audience.
“It's obviously different than theatre because there is no scripting, nothing, none at all,” declares Harris. “I don't know who my character is before I step on stage, so it's a pretty big leap. Theater skills come into play when you are trying to keep a character going through a full improvised two-act play, as well as an understanding theatre so you can hit those generic plot structures.”
“Our last play, Off Script: In Space!, only had the direction that at 45 minutes we needed to end Act 1, and Act 2 was to end at around 25 minutes. As the show progressed, one of the main characters was a genetically modified puppy who could shoot lasers out of its eyes. He ended up sacrificing himself for his newfound owner who loved him deeply. The emotion to come out of the owner was deep and definitely felt by the audience. The play ended with the puppy looking down from heaven and saying a few words, and it was definitely an artistic highlight for our group. Don't really know how we are going to top it!”
Finding Your Way
It’s a continual learning process, and while nothing is ever perfect, the members of Kitten Bomb take the time to figure out where improvements can be made for the next show, and how to shine brighter every time.
Harris explains. “We go over what worked, and what didn't. Then we go about trying to figure out aspirations for our next show. We definitely talk about everything as a group and constantly check in with each other to see where our heads are at.”
“Each show we are trying to bring new elements into the form, but the benefit of that is that they tend to bleed over into our short forms as well. For Off Script: In Space, we worked really hard on emotional climaxes. Not being afraid to let a lot of emotion out, have screaming arguments, and spill your guts about the person you love. Generally, in improv, you avoid arguments and shouting matches, but theatre is the exact opposite. The difference is that plays are allowed to have these moments because there are high stakes built by the history of the given characters, as well as the action happening in the story. So I really worked on bringing that to our group and making it okay for the improvers to go big, and lay it all out there on the stage if they have been able to earn it.”
“If you want to try this form, you really need to trust everyone and know them very well. Having trust, having the safety net of an amazing partner is bigger than talent. This is a form that gets easier with time, but I personally believe it's the hardest form out there.”
Harris is hopeful that more and more people will find their way to a Kitten Bomb show, whether it’s a traditional short-form show (which they typically perform monthly at Java Joes/4th Street Theatre) or if someone comes by to see the specialized long-form production. “I want to say thank you to the community, and also reach out to anyone that has never given our show a try. They are cheap, $12, and these are shows you cannot catch anywhere in the midwest.”
Kitten Bomb - Off Script: Scenic Route is a one-night-only event at the Stoner Studio in the Civic Center. The performance is Saturday, September 14 at 7:30pm, and tickets are available through both the Kitten Bomb website or from the Civic Center website. Literally anything can happen with this show and this format, and you’ll laugh your way through it all!!!