The Show Must Go On; That’s the Bottom Line

The show must go
on.

Bottom Line Theatre, a 5C
student-run theater organization, was more than prepared to perform Stage Blacks Nov. 1. That night,
however, one cast member fell ill, and the group was forced to pull together an hilarious improvisational comedy show in its place in just a few short hours. 

“I was debating whether or not to
cancel it,” Stage Blacks playwright Christian Romo PZ ’15 said. “But I told the cast that the audience members are
here to see us, not necessarily the play. We scrapped something together and
tried it out that night.”

Stage
Blacks
is a lighthearted comedy filled with nerdy theatre jokes and jabs at
the drama department. The cast included Naomi Bosch
PO ’15, Senja Strage SC ’17, Isabel Semler PZ ’15, Yasmin Adams PO ’17, Annie Moten
PO ’17, Brooklyn Robinson SC ’16, Scott Nanda PO ’17 and Romo.

The night began with a simple improvisational
game, in which pairs of performers held erasers, a long
curtain rope and a metal axe-shaped tool. Whenever Romo hit a
glockenspiel, one pair of performers had to demonstrate a creative new use for
their object; chalkboard erasers became unicorn horns, and ropes became
Rapunzel’s long tresses. This continued for several rounds, and performers had to think of a new use for the materials every fifteen seconds.

The second game featured three
performers, each of whom would add one word to a TED talk-style discussion, with
topics like “the reproductive habits of narwhals.” A game called ‘Party Quirks’ featured an unsuspecting audience member who had to guess the odd behaviors of
her party guests. One girl, for example, fainted upon hearing certain words,
while another could only speak in one-syllable words.

In between games, there were ‘story
slams,’ in which a performer would be put on the spot to tell a short monologue
about a high school experience. Robinson was the first, explaining how
she was asked out by a boy in her first year.

“It took me so long to form a
response,” Robinson lamented. “All I could think about was how I could never go out because
I had so many after-school activities.”

Bosch shared an experience of
being raised by hippie parents and being sent to college with
dozens of mason jars filled with homemade applesauce. Adams finished off
the slam with an anecdote about her high school uniform. She’d mistakenly
bought a long, plaid skirt, thinking she’d grow into it. When she realized she
never would, she threw it into Lake Washington.

The other events of the night
included a dynamic rap battle between Nanda and Semler about dinosaurs and a
game in which performers had to reenact a picture for the narrator to describe—in this case, a skydiving trip gone wrong, complete with drum circles,
plane-induced nausea and broken parachutes.

“Tonight
was great,” Adams said after the performance. “I’m glad everyone laughed.”

The quickly improvised show was successful on short notice, in part because the
group consistently practices in a collaborative environment. Improvisation relies on quick
thinking and adapting to other performers’ actions. Even Stage Blacks had collaborative elements: When the cast first began
the read-through, all the members were encouraged to add bits or jokes, allowing the script to evolve as they continued to rehearse. 

“It was
nice to have the script left open for edits, which made it a truly
ensemble-oriented production,” Adams said. “It was a really awesome
experience. The show is special because it’s truly student-created. Students
wrote it, acted in it and produced it.”

In case you missed
this performance, don’t despair: Bottom Line Theatre has a busy schedule for
the rest of the semester. Graham Bishop PO ’15 will put on his original show,
“Shadowphilia,” in a performance entirely directed, performed and produced by
students. Bishop’s dramatic play chronicles Quentin Tarantino’s sexual
confusion and his attempts to woo a male coworker named Emile.  

The Shakespeare
Company, a sect of Bottom Line Theatre, will also perform The Tempest in
December. The famous play centers around a shipwreck on a remote island, during
which a scheming Duke uses illusions to manipulate his daughter Miranda to her
original position in society.

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