Veteran improv performers will swagger while wannabe improv innovators sweat during Vancouver TheatreSports' latest parody, Dragons' Improv Tank, which opens April 19.
Improv inventors who think they've devised winning improv games will pitch their ideas to hardened panelists who'll decide whether to invest their money, time and talent into performing scenes while providing audiences a glimpse into what really works on the improv stage.
Dragons' Improv co-creator Louise Moon says the rotating three-person panel of improv old hands are being asked to draw on their own personalities for this position of power.
"Because in the improv world, there's a bit of healthy egotism going on there," she said.
The take-off on CBC TV's Dragons' Den and ABC's Shark Tank, which see entrepreneurs propose their products and services to secure investments from business tycoons, could see a pitcher acting as a bricklayer from Coquitlam who proposes a scene that builds a strong foundation. If the dragons are interested, the bricklayer would pick a panelist with whom to perform the scene. The audience will ultimately decide whether the improv venture runs at a loss, breaks even or doubles its money. At the end of the night, the dragon who invested most wisely gets to choose which game was the most successful. That game will be forwarded to regular TheatreSports matches.
"It's the bragging rights of inventing a brand new game," Moon said. "And also there's talk of maybe putting it up on the website in an archive to share with everybody."
Inspired by a lifelike prop of a doll wearing a diaper, one of the players invented a game called "change the baby" during a Dragons' Improv workshop. Every time the sound booth played a baby sound effect, the players had to attend to the diaper. The hook was that it was during a tense, adventurous scene.
"The suggestion was invading Cuba, so there were two tough army characters, a commanding officer and a soldier, so they're getting ready to invade the island and in the middle of this the baby would cry and then they have to stop and change the baby," Moon said. "It had this sort of commentary that life may be really suspenseful and important, but you've got to change the baby."
Moon expects audiences to be entertained not only by the improvised scenes, but also by the rivalry between panelists who are competing to secure the next best thing with limited funds.
"It's the intensity of the competition between the dragons to be the one to discover the next great game," she said. "In a way, the audience gets a little insight into how improvisers think and what they look for in a scene and what sort of thought process goes into creating challenges or handles that would be good on a repeat basis and entertaining for an audience."
Moon co-created Dragons' Improv Tank with improv performer Roger Fredericks. The two co-created previous parodies Star Trick: The Musical, Star Trick: The Next Improvisation, Impro-vivor, The Lord of the Things, CSI: BC and The Imprentice.
"We like to take whatever's out there in pop culture and adapt it to an improv setting," said Moon, who credits her brother for introducing her to TheatreSports when she was a University of B.C. theatre student in 1985. She eventually became a writer "almost by accident," and also pens TV programs for children and youth.
But Moon isn't an improv artist. "I'm chicken. I'm shy," she said. "That's why I'm such a big fan. It's because I can't do what they do."
Dragons' Improv Tank runs until June 30 at The Improv Centre, 1502 Duranleau St. on Granville Island. Tickets are $10 for students and $12 for adults. For more information, see vtsl.com.
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