They call them “actletes.” The 50 people who improv with ComedySportz Indianapolis, traveling from city to city or occupying the group’s theater, are both actors and athletes because they structure their stage show that way.
On Friday night, the Market House Theater will be transformed into a comedy playground by the traveling troupe. During the show, two teams of “actletes” will split the crowd to play improvised games and create a game show atmosphere complete with a referee and a meaningless trophy.
“Around Chicago, there are all kinds of improv clubs,” owner Ed Trout said. “But outside of that, we are scattered. So when people get to see us, it’s a lot of fun for them. We stand outside as they leave and give high-fives. You can tell people are still having fun as they are leaving the show.”
Trout says the entire show is improvised and relies on audience suggestion. Much like the television show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” it is presented as a sporting event. The referee for the night is the same as the emcee, who also calls fouls to keep the show family friendly. The show relies heavily on audience participation, but Trout says that is never an issue.
“We’ve had our more reluctant audiences,” Trout said. “The ones who are hesitant aren’t normally familiar with us and how we operate. We aren’t here to make fun or abuse them, so eventually every good audience warms up and becomes a great audience.”
The games the group plays vary. For example, one game called “Shakespeare” forces cast members to create a scene out of thin air in the style of Shakespeare. There’s also “Forward Reverse,” which challenges the actors to do a scene where you reverse on command, or “Five Things,” where actors must act out five complex activities that the other team must guess. Trout, who has been with the club for 20 years, says the best thing about his job is the unpredictability.
“I love the fact that you get to be creative and work with other people to create something that will be alive for only that moment in time,” Trout said. “It’s different every time. It’s like some sort of magic.”
Call Corianne Egan, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.