Michael Baldon | Daily Texan Staff
Pierce Purselly joins members of Girls Girls Girls, an all-female improvisational troupe, in a free-verse song to warm up for the first “Boys of Summer” show of the year on Friday at The Hideout Theatre.
Girls Girls Girls
, an Austin-based, all-female improvisation troupe, has been producing its “Boys of Summer” show since 2006, when the members decided that they wanted a chance to perform with men from the Austin improv community. “Boys of Summer” is the only Girls Girls Girls show in which the troupe brings in outside male talent, adding a new dimension to the troupe’s production style.
“Usually, we’re all big stage hogs and we’re fighting for stage time and want to sing songs, and in this show we have this outside guest that we’re trying to take care of and make him shine,” said Shana Merlin, a founding member of Girls Girls Girls. “Having this one different person in the cast can change the whole dynamic of the group, so it’s a really fun chance for us to get to stretch and grow and try new things when we add this new element.”
For the first of six “Boys of Summer” shows of the season, four members of Girls Girls Girls were joined by male actor Pierce Purselly. In quintessential improv style, the cast created an original musical centered around a subject randomly suggested by the audience. Last week, the troupe wove together three distinct story lines — one about a theater owner and her son, another about an elementary school feud and a third about two movie reviewers — in an hour and a half. The show had no fewer than five musical numbers, and each cast member played an average of three different characters. And, as is the nature of improv theater, the entire show was made up on the spot.
Not only do the storylines change with each show, but “Boys of Summer” showcases a different male guest star each week.
There are many improv troupes in Austin, but Girls Girls Girls is one of the few that uses a long-form, musical format for all of its shows.
The men also get a chance to try new things through their experience with “Boys of Summer.” While the members of the troupe have been practicing and refining their musical theater chops for seven years, the male guest stars for Boys of Summer usually have no prior experience with improvised singing.
“We have some guys that just blow us away with their vocal ability, and even though it’s their first improvised musical they just nail it right away,” Merlin said. “And we have some guys who are really comfortable with the comedy part but hesitant to sing, so we’ve got to pull it out of them. Everyone brings a different take on the improvised musical.”
During rehearsals with the “Boys of Summer” guest actors, the cast improvises a number of songs to help the men get used to the musical format. The only downside of these rehearsals, troupe member Erin Molson said, is that some of their best songs and material will never be performed in front of an audience.
“When something is created spontaneously, as it is in improv, part of what makes it special is the fact that it was created spontaneously,” Girls Girls Girls member Aden Kirschner added. “So, to take something and write it down and do it again, you find that it’s often not as clever, funny, special, sparkly — anything — as that first moment because what was making it magical was that it was coming out in the moment.”
While reusing material diminishes its original humor, the troupe enjoys bringing back some of its favorite characters and puts them in new situations.
“You can get to know those characters better,” Kirschner said. “Maybe the first time you meet a character that you do, you learn what they sound like, but then maybe later you learn what their sense of humor is, or maybe later you learn what they’re like when they’re in a bad mood.”
“Or you just like to make the voice,” Molson added, referring to a voice she used during the first show that made her sound like a child with a bad cold.
The members of Girls Girls Girls try to have fun on stage, no matter what character they’re playing or voice they’re using.
“I just always want to entertain myself and be entertained,” Kirschner said. “I’m hoping that if it makes me giggle, it makes the audience giggle.”
WHAT: Girls Girls Girls presents “Boys of Summer” with guest star Josh Krilov
WHERE: The Hideout Theatre
WHEN: Tonight at 8
TICKETS: $10 at the door