Stand-up comedians are solitary animals because their parents didn’t show them enough love, say those who have studied funny people in their element, while sketch and improv performers come from happy families where their parents were maybe a little too supportive.
In improv, the comedy family that plays together stays together. So it’s surprising to hear that the latest production by the long-running Louisville Improvisors group is “Single Shots,” a two-evening festival of solo theater. The shows take place Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20-21, at The Bard’s Town, a home away from home for the troupe. Why solo, Improvisors?
“Actually, this is a total group effort,” clarifies Chris Anger, the artistic director and a co-founder of LI and the star of one of this weekend’s shows, the hour-long “Animal Farm.” This vehicle is the finale of his trilogy of autobiographical shows.
“Animal Farm” is directed by Alec Volz, another LI member and co-founder. Volz, who directed Anger’s earlier solo shows, will direct two other shows during this festival. Third member Brian Hinds stars in the 20-minute-long “Karen.” Even when they go solo, the LI can’t get away from each other.
“We’re very much about staying busy and creative,” Anger tells Insider. “We don’t ever want to get locked in or boxed into just doing one thing. One of the best ways to avoid that is to generate your own work, which is what we are all about.”
From this festival to other ventures, he says, including their podcast “What Happens Next” or live fake radio show “The Buddy Gilm Show” or “Late Night Shakes,” their improvised Shakespeare show, when they’re inspired, they apply improv’s golden rule of agreeing with what’s been presented and continuing down that path: “Once we find an idea we like, we ‘Yes, and’ the hell out of it,” says Anger.
“Chris, Alec and I have improvised hundreds of scenes together over the past four years,” says Hinds. “In that time, we have developed a hell of a trust and chemistry, which ideally comes out of longtime collaboration. These solo pieces are a great way to expand and enhance that collaboration. We won’t be on stage together, but Alec is directing us both, and Chris and I have sat in on the other’s rehearsals and offered feedback.”
Volz adds, “We’re still team players. It’s just that our roles have changed. We’re still all in the same rehearsal room … each of us has a lot of input into each piece.”
For the trio, one exciting aspect of this event involves bringing other partners into their intimate relationship. Comedian Raanan Hershberg revives his show “Crying Behind 3-D Glasses,” which explores his love of pop culture as an adult, while “Karen” is an original commission by playwright Tad Chitwood (directed by Volz) about a man reacting to a break-up. And just when you thought it was all about men, there’s “Agatha,” written and performed by Melinda Beck (and also directed by Volz).
“From working together for the last 16-plus years, Alec knows me really well,” says Anger. “He knows my voice and how I write, so he can tell me if I’m heading in the right direction. If I tried to bring someone else in, we certainly wouldn’t have the history and trust that Alec and I have built up over the years.”
“I love the chance to work on new scripts and to work with playwrights,” Volz adds. “Chris and Tad have both written amazing pieces for this festival. With Chris, it’s been the chance to see the culmination of what I’ve been calling ‘The Green Chimneys Plays.’ He is an extremely insightful writer and has a great eye for detail. And our wives think we’re really married to each other.”
When the trio devised their festival, they wanted to do different things without asking an audience to stick around for too many hours, so they’ve divided the mostly short shows up, with two performances at 8 and 10 p.m. each night. The Bard’s Town’s Doug Schutte liked their idea immediately and signed on as a co-presenter.
It’s clear that while our world may be filled with strife in many ways, there are a few folks in Louisville who have found a happy home together.
“It’s a great little intimate theater where everybody can tell their stories intimately,” says Volz. “It’s about as close as you can get to having Raanan, Chris, Melinda or Brian sitting in a booth with you telling you such an interesting, involving story that you forget to pick up the dog from daycare.”
“Single Shots” runs at 8 and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20-21, at The Bard’s Town, 1801 Bardstown Road. Tickets are $15 for each time slot, or $25 for both. Click here to see a schedule and/or buy tickets.