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 speak to short form troupe Blue Plate Special from Northeast Tennessee to find out all about their set.
Hello! Tell us about Blue Plate Special ?
Our group is called Blue Plate Special. We specialize in short-form improv comedy shows, though we have performed long-form shows. We started 5 years ago in the Blue Moon Dinner Theatre, and all 9 of our current performers joined us that first year. My wife Erin and I started the group, and were the only ones with improv experience. I think our success comes from the fact that we have a wide range of personalities, but we are great friends. That chemistry really shows to our audiences.
We plan on branching out into sketches as well, but we all have real jobs too, so finding time is always tough.
Our full-time group is me, Erin Schultz, Daniel Leach, Chris Graf, Dave Hutton, Matt Quick, Faith Rader, Richard Nave, and Andy Ross.
How did you come up with the name of your troupe?
We started in Blue Moon Dinner Theatre, and as soon as Erin suggested Blue Plate Special as the name, we all knew that was it.
What is your time slot?
We are performing in the 10PM slot on Saturday Night.
Tell us a little bit about your style of show?
In our regular shows in Northeast Tennessee, our shows are 2 hours of short-form improv. In some venues we also incorporate a role-playing game form of improv, where we play improv games and the outcome relies on the roll of a die.
What will your set be about?
Our set at GIF will showcase some of our unique talents using our own versions of short-form games. We have a very talented illustrator, some powerful singers, and some physical comedy gurus, so we have manipulated some games to showcase those talents.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at the Gatlinburg Improv Festival?
All of them, frankly. We enjoyed every show from last year, and still quote several acts. But we’ve especially enjoyed getting to know the folks at Full Disclosure, Tomorrowquest Theatre, and Shenanigans. The legends at Einstein Simplified are always inspiring to watch, and of course Nashville Improv impresses, since singing is such a big component of our shows. Basically, all the returning groups because we enjoyed them all last year, and all the new groups too.
Have you done the festival before? What have been some of your favourite shows to date and why?
Last year was our first year at GIF, and it is one of the greatest experiences in our performance careers. Being around such amazing talent would be enough for it to be remarkable, but the fact that everyone was encouraging and supportive made it truly memorable.
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?
That’s interesting! I think any and every medium is primed for improv comedy. While we certainly don’t have the resources to use technology beyond the occasional microphone and slide projector, improv is a resilient art form that could be completely low-tech or entirely digitized. Ultimately it’s just storytelling. We have incorporated social media into getting suggestions from the audience, but we would love to be able to combine recorded/animated sequences in our live shows, or even in shows on an online platform with audiences in their own homes.
Also, holograms would be awesome.
What have been some of the most unique and different shows you have seen this year and why?
Theatre in our area tends to be very traditional, and we are the only improv group within an hours drive, so our definition of unique and different will be a lot different than most. We did all go see a fantastic production of Disney’s Tarzan not too long ago.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
Twitter and Instagram @bpsimprov and Facebook is blueplatespecialimprov
And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?
Singing, drawing, prat-falling.
GATLINBURG IMPROV QUICK FIRE ROUND
Best thing about performing at the Gatlinburg Improv Fest?
The audience is very attractive and intelligent. It’s also a sort of retreat for us to be social and learn from other performers.
What are your pre show rituals?
Trying to find my clipboard.
# what advice would you give to others who want to perform at Gatlinburg Improv Fest next year?
Do it. Make a weekend if it. Talk to everyone. Be ready to learn and to fail. Make time to be at the bar after.
# What are your three favourite things about performing?
We give people a chance to escape, laugh, and connect. We feel like an important part of our community. I get to perform with my wife and best friends.
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