Two years is monumental for any organization trying to build a community-arts program from scratch — even more impressive if that art form is improv.
The performance style never really had a home in the metro until Ghostlight Theatre Club opened its doors to OKC Improv, which stages two shows every Saturday night, as well as hosts classes for burgeoning performers. Continued success earned the troupe a spot on the Oklahoma Arts Council’s Performing Artist Roster, a certification of the high level of skill and artistry practiced.
Buck Vrazel said a key to keeping the community vital has been drawing more performers into the talent pool.
right, The Memepunks
“We now have people coming over from the theater, musical theater (and) the college scenes are getting stronger,” Vrazel said. “It seems like every day, we find a new group growing out of the woodwork. It’s sort like uniting the lost tribes, and there are still a lot of groups out there operating in anonymity.”
More than 100 people currently work with OKC Improv, which gives the group tools to keep crowds swarming to those Saturdays shows.
Its three-week anniversary celebration includes several debuts, including nerd-pop/folk-rock/hip-hop duo The Memepunks and The Big O, comprised of OKC Improv students. Both new projects are slated for Nov. 26 and feature pianist Kyle Gossett, who cut his troupe teeth in Villain: The Musical and has served as an accompanist for improv groups eager to work with a musician capable of matching their frantic pace.
“With improv, there is a keen sense of something beyond yourself,” Gossett said. “It’s an endless feedback loop. The actor is offering me something, and I can respond to it.”
Ryan Drake is another new addition to OKC Improv since starting classes in January to supplement his stand-up career and co-hosting a live comedy show at 8 p.m. Sundays on thespyfm.com. He said OKC Improv has made the art form approachable to the wider public.
“People are doing it, not necessarily to be famous improvisers, but because it helps you with life skills like conversing with people,” Drake said. “As a comedian, it is giving me a ton of material with all the randomly generated ideas from classes and rehearsals. It’s more material I didn’t have to think up myself.”