Despite the names of the performers, you won’t see any transformation of base metals into gold, nor will you see any bones crack — we hope — at this showcase of regional improv troupes, but you will have a dang good time. All three of these groups have been to the Comedy Festival before and rocked it, so go buy yourself a ticket already.
The Richmond, Va.-based Coalition Theater is an improv school and performance company that takes creativity to the next level — even for improv. The theater’s touring company goes all out to make the audience feel like part of the show.
“The amount of influence the audience can have on the show, through suggestions and through their real-time reactions, is one of the things we love most about improv,” says Matt Newman, touring company member and managing director of Coalition Theater. “We’ll dig in someone’s music collection, their Facebook page, their purse, whatever we can find.” You might want to remember that when you’re deciding how close to the stage you want to sit.
At their home in Richmond, members of the Coalition Theater have also come up with a new show that Newman thinks might be the inspiration for their Charleston set.
“We just debuted a format called ‘What Was I Thinking?’ that’s partially inspired by the Mortified project, where actual adolescent diary entries, poems, or artworks inspire the comedy that follows,” says Newman. Although that format’s been popular with their home crowd, Newman and his partners David Pijor and Katie Holcomb — two members of the touring company — haven’t set anything in stone for their festival performance. “Whatever format we do, we like to bring a tight, high-energy set to festivals,” Newman says.
Alchemy Comedy Touring Company
Hailing from Greenville, Alchemy Comedy is an upstart improv company with a large roster of performers that does weekly shows in an underground coffeehouse-theater in the city’s downtown. For the Charleston Comedy Festival, Alchemy likes to bring the cast of one of their most popular shows, Local Legends. “We do improvised interviews, kind of When Harry Met Sally-style,” says Harrison Brookie, the company’s founder, executive director, and artistic director. “Then we do scenes inspired by that.”
You can expect a lot of structures at an Alchemy show, Brookie says. “That’s sort of the Alchemy style. We like to dive deep into the emotion of a scene, and then heighten things with speed.”
For Bonecracker, strange is good and stranger is better. “We did a scene once where we ended up in a brewery that distilled spirits from dead bodies,” says the improv group’s Vinny Valdivia. “We love it when we go to weird places.”
One reason they’re able to get to those bizarre scenes is that they favor a stream-of-consciousness approach — which is like taking the improv maxim to always say yes even further. “That’s why I love Bonecracker — we all can do or say anything on stage, and the group is 100 percent on board before you even know what is happening yourself,” Valdivia says.