Dungeons & Dragons creators Gary Gygax and Dave Ameson couldn’t have imagined the impact their fantasy role playing game, which they created nearly 50 years ago, would have on pop culture. Once viewed as a gateway to satanism, is now socially acceptable, even spawning novels, cartoons and films. Though it’s gone through many iterations, the game’s core ingredients of problem-solving, creativity and improv remain unchanged.
For further proof, one only needs to look at the Charleston-based, D&D-inspired improv group Yes Andventures. The nine-member crew — consisting of Jordan Blanton, Crystal Bruce, Adam James Craig, Patrick Gilmore, Stephan Hughes, Larry Perewiznyk, Lauren Minors, Belvin Olasov and Anna Lin — currently has a residency at the South of Broadway Theatre.
The path to residency was a long and storied one for Yes Andventures. “We all had different inspirations that made us start improv,” Lin said. For Minors, improv was part of her high school theater classes, but she didn’t pursue it further until taking a drop-in class that reminded her how much she loved it. Patrick Gilmore started his improv journey thanks to a love of watching Whose Line is it Anyway and a desire to be a better Dungeon Master, the game organizer in D&D. Lin took her first improv class and instantly fell in love with the supportive, creative community. She loved creating a variety of characters and one-of-a kind musicals on stage while collectively building a story with teammates.
“Yes Andventures started as a D&D campaign during the onset of the pandemic,” Lin said. “It was originally envisioned as a way to continue to hang out with nerdy like-minded improvisers while at home. Thanks to technology, we were able to play together online by creating a Discord server and online character sheets. We played a few different fifth edition campaigns, and rotated Dungeon Master duties. As the world began opening up again, we took our game campaign and made it into an improv show!”
For Lin, Yes Andventures’ style is what sets it apart from other improv acts. The group’s name combines “yes and,” a central tenet of improv comedy that encourages accepting and building upon suggestions given by scene partners, with “adventures” to describe the types of stories they improvise. The shows are longform improv, enhanced by elements of D&D including a Dungeon Master, costumes and props — most notably a large 20-sided die they affectionately call Gary. The Dungeon Master initiates the show by gathering inspiration from the audience to build a world in which players create an adventurous tale. How the tale twists and turns is dependent on the die.
“One lucky audience member is selected every show to roll the die for us at the request of the DM,” Lin said. “The format is fast-paced and fun for audiences, regardless of their knowledge of D&D or fantasy. We also make creative use of props and costumes — some of which are crafted by our cast — which isn’t typical, and adds a bit of whimsy to the show.”
They had their first ever show at South of Broadway in the summer of 2021. In the past year, they’ve performed at Theater 99, Old Trolley Road Theater, as well as being a part of the 2022 Charleston Comedy Festival and 2022 NerdFest.
Before too long, their journey led them back to South of Broadway. Last month, the not-so-wearied travelers decided to test their might in the theater’s Cage Match Improv Series. Yes Andventures went head-to-head with three other improv teams during the tournament: Imperfect Guild, Patti & The Dudes and Octopus Garden. The audience voted online for who they wanted to see compete again.
Yes Andventures won, claiming the prize of a one-month residency. While acquiring a residency is yet another win for Yes Andventures, it’s also a win for South of Broadway who just began offering a variety of comedy performances and classes at its previous Park Circle location when Covid-19 hit. With a new location on Rivers Avenue and The Cage Match (among other SoB offerings) proving to be an unmitigated success, the nonprofit organization is now back to pre-pandemic busyness.
So what will Yes Andventures shows consist of Lin enthusiastically described the proceedings: “Shows will start with an opening team or it will be a double Yes Andventures show. There will be a brief intermission before we finish the night with an ‘open jam’ hosted by the Yes Andventures team. People will put their name on a slip of paper when they enter the theater if they want to participate and at the end of the night, our team will call out names of the people participating in the jam. This is open to all, whether you have improv experience or not! It’s a great way to jam with others and have fun together on stage!”
For more information on the residency, visit southofbroadway.com. To learn more about
Yes Andventures, check out its Instagram @yesandventures or on Facebook.
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