Mark Baratelli of theDailyCity.com organized the first annual Orlando Improv Festival. I know he has been organizing the event for months so I had to stop by the Winter Park Playhouse and see how the inaugural night played out. When I arrived Mark seemed a little harried but from the start I could see that the event was a success. The lobby of the playhouse is warm and inviting. There are comfortable couches and a full service bar. It has what I consider a Parisian flair. I sketched the box office where Dina Peterson and Ileana "Blue" Johns, were greeting people as they entered. Dina would chime in with, "So, are you here to see a show?" The lobby quickly filled up. Hannah Miller who was also a volunteer sat with her handmade high heeled bunny slippers, working diligently at sidoku on her cell phone. Rabbits that resembled Betsy Die's wonderful quirky creations were everywhere. I texted Betsy and she explained that Mark had asked her to create rabbits as improv mascots. She didn't want to spend the 2 hours needed to sew each rabbit. Mark recruited the mom of a friend who ended up sewing the lookalikes. Betsy did have final approval of the final product but some of the demonic charm was lost.
I heard a woman seated at the bar say to her friend, "I think that is Thor." Since it is a small lobby, I heard her and walked over to say hello. Terry stopped in after work, but she had to get up early the next morning so she didn't stick around for a show . Hannah and Mike Maples sat at my table and we talked and laughed for the longest time while I finished my sketch. Hannah and Mike went to get some sandwiches and we had dinner before finally heading in to see a show. when we entered the theater, it was pitch dark. I got my iPhone out to use as a flashlight and Hannah shouted out, "Hey help guide us in with your cell phones! " I believe Sultana or Brian guided us to some seats in the third row.
Mark bounded on the stage and the crowd hooted and hollered . He introduced Boston Improv and everyone cheered. They had me laughing out loud from the start. Scenes changed quickly and the fast pace never slackened. 0ne scene was at a dating service where one woman was training another on how to act when first meeting her date. Someone was pulled from the audience and he was seated next to her. She pushed up right next to him and rubbed her head on his chest like a cat. when she was reprimanded she clutched his knee refusing to give him any space. When she was prompted to say something about herself she said, "I like to drug people while they are asleep." I couldn't stop laughing.
The second act I went to see was Droll Academy from Orlando. I was told they perform every week at "The Funky Monkey". They started with musical improv which had me bopping my head to the beat while I laughed . They too pulled an audience member on the stage. They chose a beautiful Asian woman who they serenaded gently till the lyrics showed the truth, that they wanted to make love to her. As she stood embarrassed one actor writhed on the ground as he continued to sing.
Both performances I went to were packed and people lingered in the lobby between shows. I hope this festival grows and returns bigger and better each year.