To Improv Be True
Shakespeare-inspired group infuses performances
with spirit of the Bard's plays
of the first salvos in the 11th Annual Del Close Improv Marathon this
year was the Chicago-based group, Improvised Shakespeare, seen August 11
in a performance that took all the biggest traditions of Shakespearean
plays and transplanted them into improv comedy.
Whether it was knowing asides to the audience, high drama or low crude
humor (albeit achieved through sophisticated wordplay), the five-man
group managed to capture all these tones in their 50-minute performance.
Although at times they would violate the cardinal rule of improv, of not
negating what a fellow player has said, the group themselves and the
audience laughed these instances off -- they were so funny that no one
minded -- and were fodder for asides to the audience. A great example of
the group’s skill in incorporating the audience came late in the
performance when disturbed by a cellphone ring, fortuitously in the
middle of a scene about wedding rings, and the players roundly condemned
the inconsiderate audience member and the institution of marriage at the
Improvised Shakespeare also tapped the Bard’s tradition of bawdiness
with a scene about a gala dance that had several puns on “balls” with
the dance organizer being the “ball master.” “364 days out of the year I
am the subject of much laughter,” he said. “But tonight I am well
Also, the nature of the story the group created had the arc and language
of Shakespeare -- in this case a tale of two couples who go through
intrigues on their way to the altar, with one couple pledging to still
find each other anew at a masquerade ball, without being tempted by
anyone else. Of course, being improv, the group did not stick to their
Shakespearean format completely, throwing in a few modern references as
The marathon will present a lot of the types of groups that fit improv
into another style, with performances of improvised musicals,
improvisations all within certain characters or voices, and the like.
But Improvised Shakespeare is one group that truly takes the idea of
doing improv within the bounds of another context and really plays with
the spirit of what they are paying homage to.
Improvised Shakespeare performs again Aug. 12 and 13, and within the
marathon at 7 p.m. Aug. 14 and 9 p.m. Aug. 15.