This week is the Gatlinburg Improv Festival in Tennessee, it runs between the days of March the 1st to Saturday the 2nd and is the home to a number of great improv acts and workshops! There are 60+ performers and 17 troupes performing including Shenanigans, Nashville Improv, Einstein Simplified and Wordplayers Playback just to name a few. If you are in the area the Festival is held at Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre, all shows are $10 and weekend passes are $25.
Over the next week we are going to have a chat with just some of the great acts that are performing. Today we talk to Einstein Simplified from Knoxville to find out all about their set.
Hello! Tell us about Einstein Simplified?
Einstein Simplified is a short-form comedy improv troupe that has been performing in Knoxville, TN and the surrounding area since 1994. We brand ourselves as comedy improve as we are in the business of making people laugh over the course of our 90 minute shows.
How did you come up with the name of your troupe?
Back in the day the thirteen original members all put in at least 10 suggested names, so we had about 150 to choose from when all the names were collected. They ranged from ridiculous to thought provoking, and when the votes were finally tallied Einstein Simplified won out as the name. Turns out to be fortuitous as our first shows were in a bar called Manhattan’s and we are close to Oak Ridge, TN (The Secret City), so all thing being relative, it was the right name.
What is your time slot?
Our time slot at the Gatlinburg Improv Festival (GIF) is Saturday, March 2nd at 8:00pm. The slot runs from 8 to 10 pm, and we will share that with three other troupes, effectively yielding four 30 minute shows in that block.
Tell us a little bit about your style of show?
Einstein Simplified does short form improv. Similar to the show Whose Line is it Anyway? We play games, getting suggestions from the audience to assist with the premise of each game. One example is the Alphabet Game, or ABC. Two players are involved, and each player must start their dialogue with the next letter of the alphabet, getting the starting letter from the audience. Additionally we ask the audience for a non-familial relationship for the two players or physical location where the scene is occurring. Then we do the rest. We have over 150 different games in our repertoire, so it is guaranteed that no two shows will ever be the same.
What will your set be about?
Our set is all up to the audience, we are 100% driven by the audience suggestions. Every year we like to premiere a game that we have come up with in the time in between festivals, so that is one thing that we specifically set. We do keep it a closely guarded secret though.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at the Gatlinburg Improv Festival?
It may not be fair to say all of them, but it really is all of them. We are extra eager to see people from troupes that we have known over the past festivals, which would include any troupe from Knoxville, Nashville, Atlanta, and Asheville. There are some that we have a closer bond with than others simply because we have known them longer, but we all have a blast together.
Have you done the festival before? What have been some of your favourite shows to date and why?
Yes, we have been participating in GIF since the first year in 2011, so this year marks our eighth appearance at the festival. Some of our favorite moments are seeing show styles that are new to us. The first year the Red Pill Players performed was a wonderful moment, and we still discuss that to this day. We even had two of them up from Atlanta to perform with us after that festival. Another highlight is the Improv Jam where random performer names are picked from a hat, or even just I need five people is shouted out and we mix and match troupes to play games. Last year we all went to a restaurant and entertained ourselves and the staff for two hours, that was a show unto itself.
Some acts have already tried it and done shows in the environment but do you think virtual reality has a space to be used in a stage environment and what other modern technologies do you think could alter the way we interact and watch stage shows in the future?
Live streaming is something that is now relatively easy to setup and implement, in fact we have seen it done at a festival before. We do like how it can expand the audience, and with our podcast we extend our reach beyond the stage show. Getting live suggestions from the internet poses a slight technical challenge, but that can be overcome easily. I will say that nothing compares to the experience of being there for a live show. Even watching past shows that we’ve recorded, the difference is noticeable.
What have been some of the most unique and different shows you have seen this year and why?
We have had several of our members go to other festivals, and come back with stories of different approaches and styles of shows. We ourselves participate in a medieval faire and a pirate fest where we have seen a multitude of different stage shows incorporating the theme of the festival.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
You can find us at our website: http://www.EinsteinSimplified.com, on Twitter
@EinsteinImprov, on Instagram EinsteinSimplified, on YouTube EinsteinSimplified, and of course facebook EinsteinSimplified. All of those links are available at our website.
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Continual amazing entertainment.
GATLINBURG IMPROV QUICK FIRE ROUND
Best thing about performing at the Gatlinburg Improv Fest?
Seeing old friends and making new ones.
What are your pre show rituals?
Dinner, watching the show block before us, and then the super secret backstage warm-up.
What advice would you give to others who want to perform at Gatlinburg Improv Fest next year?
Come out and see it this year, take the workshops, and submit for next year.
What are your three favourite things about performing?
Making people laugh, the audience disappearing when you sink into a scene, being surprised by what happens.