The 2013 Out of Bounds Comedy Festival is officially over and, boy, am I exhausted. First of all, let me explain that I do not have the money just to go to the festival or any of the many festivals this city is known for. So how do I insure that I get to be there, to be a part of it? I volunteer… and volunteer… and volunteer. I spent the majority of my festival doing just that, volunteering. I was your basic usher. I did registration. On two nights, I was the all powerful stage manager. I loved it all but I loved stage managing the most because I really got to know many of the performers. Continually yelling times at them (10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, places) fosters great friendships. Okay maybe not friendships but definitely a sense of respect and safety that I’ve got their backs. We are not going to start without them. Good performers know that you cannot do this job without your crew. And OoB performers are the best of the best.
So you may be asking what did I see when I wasn’t volunteering. Well, one of the side effects of volunteering as much as I did was that you’re too busy to see much, but I think I chose wisely when I could. The first night I only volunteered for the first shift so I got to stick around and watch My Best Fiend, starring Christopher Allen and Andreas Fabis. If you’ve never seen this show and have a chance to I highly recommend it. They are the epitome of playfulness. You see the joy in what they’re doing every step of the way. Which, of course, then transmits to the audience.
Following that I saw The Tribunal, created by the wonderful and talented Marc Majcher. The cast is huge so I won’t even begin to attempt to name them all. I will say this, I’ve heard nothing but great things about this show and it lives up to the hype. This is a show that doesn’t come from a comedic slant. It’s about grounded work, real responses to a dire situation which might end with someone’s death. Of course there were comedic moments because that’s real life. There’s never a moment so dire that laughter will refuse to come through. As a matter of fact, laughter is a necessity to break that tension. The characters were clear and concise without being cliches. And the drama was parable. Another show I highly recommend seeing if you’re so able.
Another volunteer break and then right into Fitzgerald’s for Hire. (I missed the first troupe of that block.) Kaci Beeler and Curtis Luciani have such great chemistry and play off each other so well. Again, you can tell they’re having fun. And I think Curtis is a man made completely up with wit. The show was shortened, as festival shows typically are, but they dealt with it like the pros they are. Tied it all together with a giant Kaci destroying their foe and then deciding never shrink back down.
Then came the headliners for that block: Audience of Two, starring Ben Masten and Sam Dingman. I have seen Ben play before since he moved here but I have not seen Sam. It started off slow but soon they found their groove. It was basically a mono scene where they played a single character the whole time. This is the kind of improv I’d like to do. It takes great improv stamina to play the same character for a 25 minute show. Typically a scene is 2-3 minutes or less. To play the same scene for that long is what many of us strive to do and they did it beautifully. Also, Ben has this way of finding an angle on a moment or even just a line of dialog that you don’t see coming. Although I will say that I’d love to see him play more higher status characters, use that height to his advantage.
After that I didn’t get to see anything else, not in full at least, until The Mayfly Jam, starring Todd Stashwick with guests Dave Razowsky and Ezra Weisz along with many local Austin improvisers, again too many to name. When the schedule came out originally the Mayfly wasn’t at my theater (I was stage managing that night) but right before the festival began they moved it TO MY THEATER. I was so happy. I saw Mayfly back in June with Todd Stashwick was here for the ATX Television festival and loved every minute of it. So to get to see it again was very exciting for me. And they didn’t disappoint. This is a hard show to describe because it’s organic improv. It’s about the feelings one has in those moments. And every moment leads to another. There are no edits, scene flows into scene, with often breaking the fourth wall. There was live music with musicians ranging from a keyboardist to a classical opera singer. And the beauty of organic improv is that they go until they go. When they feel it’s time to end they end. They’re not beholden to a set time so it doesn’t feel too long, it doesn’t feel too short. It just is. My favorite moment during the show was when the entire theater bursting out singing Eye of the Tiger. This can only happen in organic improv. This is the type of show I would love to someday be a part of (if only as a vocalist in the band) because the only thing better then watching this show has to be playing in it.
Okay, this blog is becoming a bit lengthy so this is now part 1 of 2.