Alchemy Comedy Theater: Rather than outlandish scenarios or wild ideas, the Local Legends team that Greenville's Alchemy Comedy Theater is sending to this year's festival began by focusing on their audience. "The four of us that founded that team did improv based on stories from other people," says Alchemy's Harrison Brookie. "We would get people to tell their stories, their legends, and improvise based on those stories."
Alchemy began doing weekly improv shows in Greenville about five years ago or so, and they've been on a steady uphill climb ever since, moving into teaching classes and eventually working enough auditions into their schedule that they plan to have around 75 performers by this Spring. And it's a good thing, because this group has a heavy performance schedule.
Brookie says that performing as much as possible creates a sense of trust and a feeling of closeness within a team that nothing else can replicate. "There's this camaraderie between people who play together and work together and create art every week onstage together," he says. "You get so used to each other. It's almost like a cheat or a shortcut, because you know each other so well. This team has done over 250 shows together so we know the ideas and strategies we might take onstage. It's almost like a second language."
The Dudes: If The Dudes, a group of comedians from Norfolk, Va., remind you of one of pop culture's most famous dudes — The Dude from The Big Lebowski — well, then you're not alone. In fact that movie sort of, kinda inspired the group's name. "Someone said, 'You know what, we're just a bunch of dudes,'" says Rafael Henriquez, one of the group's members.
Henriquez and the rest of the crew were performing at Push Comedy Theater in Norfolk when Henriquez noticed how funny the other guys — Adam Paine, Angel Sanchez, Brian Garraty, Anthony Nobles, Matt Cole, and James Roach — were while participating in a little something called improvageddon. The comedy showdown, which is, as it would appear, three teams pitted against one another in an improv-off, is a special feature at Push Theater, and produces some of the area's best comedians.
The newly formed group was getting ready to compete in improvageddon when they realized they didn't have a name or a gimmick. Thus, The Dudes, a schickt that has the guys donning pajamas and robes, was born.
The Dudes perform long-form improv, which they call The Rant, or, The Walter (a Big Lebowski character who always seems to be ranting). And while The Big Lebowski informs the clothes the guys wear on stage, it doesn't influence the topics they cover, which are chosen by the audience. "It's very organic," says Henriquez. "From A to Z, politics to local inside jokes. We pull from everyday things that you only give a split second thought to and match that with weird and controlled energy."
DSI: Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based theater company DSI brings its founder Zach Ward, and director, Emily Holland to Charleston for what they call a "fast-paced improvised adrenaline rush."
This visit isn't Ward's first rodeo, not by a long shot. "We've been to the Charleston Comedy Festival six or seven times," he says.
DSI dresses up their improv with a style that's, as previously mentioned, very fast, as well as interactive. "It's driven by wild characters," says Ward, adding that he and Holland are especially good at playing bold characters. And while things change up for every performance — this is improv, after all — Ward and Holland have their go-to personalities. His? The kid who's smarter than everybody else. "He left home at age five," jokes Ward.
Ward says that he's game for anything, as long as the audience is game, too. "You can feel something that may be obnoxious to the rest of the crowd, that makes them feel disconnected," he says. "My job is to leave the audience having a good time," says Ward. "It feels more like a party than theater."