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Happy Birthday, Moral Fixation

Greg Tavares and Lee Lewis talk 10 years as an improv duo

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Moral Fixation, the often-funny, sometimes-serious improv duo of Greg Tavares and Lee Lewis, turns 10 this year. To celebrate, we asked them to interview each other, which they graciously did. Read the results below.

Lee Lewis: Can you remember a couple of moments that you think define our show within our 10-year history?

Greg Tavares: Oh, that’s hard. The true answer to that is no, I can’t — but if I had to, I mostly think of just believing in the characters.

LL: So it’s a bad question. Let me change the question. Moral Fixation…

GT: When I think about the reason i love doing it, I think about how during Moral Fixation shows I feel more like I’m doing scripted work than when I’m doing any other improv. By and large, when we’re in a scene — when it’s working, it’s just like being in a play. I’ll know so much about my character. I’ll know just as much about my character in that moment — and it’s going to be over in two or three minutes —  as I would if I spent a month on a character.

LL: Because when you’re doing a play, you develop your character over hundreds of hours.

GT: And in just that amount of time, one minute, three, five, I'll know everything I would know going through the full process. so that’s kind of the magic for me.

LL: I guess I do have a little better memory for performances — one moment that really stands out to me was when we went to Chicago for the Chicago International Improv Festival. I remember very vividly doing a scene about two brothers that were going through their father’s old stuff after their father had passed away. I guess [the theater] had about 75 seats and there were about 60 people there, and everybody in the house was completely quiet.

That is so counter-intuitive to what you think improv normally is, but in that moment I could feel that the people in the audience really cared about the characters and really wanted to see where the scene was going. and that was really refreshing. Because in Charleston — I mean Charleston has a great improv scene and community — but you’re going to get real nervous laughter. So that can kind of drive the scene sometimes, in serious scenes. But everybody was so quiet during that 10-minute scene, and it felt really rejuvenating and energizing.

GT: And when that first happened it was like, was that just the worst show we ever did? Then you realize, 'Oh, no, they’re just going to give us time and space to be serious. We don’t necessarily want to be serious —  the show’s going to tell us what it wants ... the goal is for it to feel like a piece of art, a piece of theater.

LL: Over the years we’ve changed a good bit — we went from three people to two, and when we first started the show our feeder, the information we use to inspire the scenes, was personal stories. We both sat on stage and told personal stories that were inspired by something the audience had said. Now we do scene painting, where we describe a set on stage that allows the audience to connect mentally to the location so they can go deeper quickly.

The one thing we haven’t changed over the 10 years is the basic tenets of the intro. We always tell the audience some of the scenes will be funny, some serious, but by the end hopefully all the scenes together will mean more as a whole than they do separately.

GT: Ok, now I want to some rapid-fire, almost free association thing, where I ask you a question and you just say the first thing that pops in your head.

LL: OK.

GT: Lee, what is your power animal?

LL: Well, the first thing that popped in my mind was raccoon.

GT: And that’s because they’re mischievous and they eat with their hands?

LL: Yeah, I think it's because they’re the only rodent that can eat with their hands ... Greg, what color is your soul?

GT: I’ve never been asked that question and I’m just going to go with what I’m seeing. Which is an indigo or a deep azure blue. Blue going on to purple.

LL: That’s very narcissistic. I mean, purple’s the color of kings so it’s like you want to call yourself a king but you’re backing off just a little.

GT: Right — in my mind I’m seeing twilight. Not the novel. But the time, the sky.

LL: If you could only direct one more play in your life which one would you do? That’s not Shakespeare.

GT: That’s such a hard one. I would have to have it be like — I would have to do a musical. Because I’ve never done a musical. That’s the gayest thing I could say. It just makes you seem like a homosexual, and I’m not.

LL: You’ve never directed a musical.

GT: I haven’t. But I’m hungry to do so. But I was going to say, like, Hamlet. And my question for you is, if you could only play one more role in your lifetime on stage, what is the role?

LL: I think I might have to do a musical too. I might want to do like [Officer] Lockstock in Urinetown.

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