NORMAN — It might come as a surprise, but for improv actors spontaneity takes practice.
For improv performer Kenny Madison, member of O.U. Improv!, rehearsals are the difference between mere amusement and laugh out loud funny.
“Terrorism and disease are two worse things than bad improv,” he said.
Madison is a member of one of the 15 local and national improv troupes preparing for impromptu performances during the fifth annual Improv Festival Oklahoma July 12-14 at the Sooner Theatre, 101 E. Main St. For more information on ticket prices visit festival.reddirtimprov.com.
Organized by Red Dirt Improv, this year’s festival brings a variety of comedic talent from across the state and nation together for three days of unpredictable humor.
“No show is the same, and anything can happen in a festival like this, since there are so many different groups,” said James Murray, actor for Red Dirt Improv and a festival organizer.
Festival headliner Jill Bernard from Minneapolis, Minn., is performing a one-woman 30-minute piece called Drum Machine, Murray said.
Another headliner is IMP, an improv duo made up of Karen Wight from New York City, N.Y., and Asaf Ronen from Austin, Texas, who will silently perform stories using gestures and musical accompaniment, Murray said.
Oklahoma troupes include One State Two State Red State Blue State, Everybody and Their Dog, Homemade Fireworks, O.U. Improv!, Red Dirt Improv and Red Letters. Additional groups performing include Maestro, The Band Wreckers, The Victims, In Our Prime, David & Terry, After School Special, Improv in the Dark, Fun Grip, KC Improv Company and ¡ZARZAMORA!.
While people can’t necessarily be taught how to be funny, they can be taught how to tell a story, Madison said. O.U. Improv! actors practice by reviewing basic story-telling elements.
Sue Ellen Reiman, who will be performing with Oklahoma City-based Everybody and Their Dog, said improv may not need as much preparation as a rehearsed performance but the trick is thinking on the spot and being able to build off of each other.