The members of Chicago improv group, K.C. Redheart are masochists. There’s no other explanation for the press release I just received. Beginning August 26th at five p.m. they will improvise for thirty straight hours, and we’re all invited to watch. Throughout the marathon performance, the group will interact with tons of other Chicago improv groups and performers, creating kid-friendly shows during the day, and adult comedy at night. Our Town spoke with KC Redheart member Karissa Bruin about the impending event.
Our Town How did you come up with the idea for the Improv marathon?
Karissa Bruin Bill Stern, generally regarded as KC Redheart’s team captain, had done similar stunts with his improv groups back in Austin, TX and wanted to bring [the practice] to Chicago. We're a group of people that are game for anything, no matter how crazy. The marathon is a great and idiotic feat to pull off especially in the name of charity.
OT Right, proceeds benefit Namaste Charter School.
KB Namaste is a public charter school that has a focus on integrating wellness and health with academics. As a group, we're a pretty fit and athletic team. Margaret rows and cycles, Bill plays tennis, Nick plays soccer and George lifts and hits the gym regularly. We all have an athletic streak, so that's definitely the appealing thing about Namaste: it's not just brains, it's brains and brawn.
OT Which brings us neatly back to the marathon. How does one prepare for such a taxing event? Is there carb loading?
KB Mostly we just hoard energy drinks and protein bars. A lot of us will come to the marathon straight from work on Friday, so it ends up being quite the adventure. We also lean a lot on our loved ones and friends. Husbands, wives, girlfriends - those are the people that truly suffer. I sent many text messages last year to my fiancé "Um, could you pick up a ...." because when you're improvising and making up comedy for that many hours in a row, you get weird cravings. I guess it's like being pregnant. But with ideas and a desire to sleep.
OT How does one wind down?
KB Last year, we ended at midnight on a Saturday. I remember we were out in the parking lot and Dave was like, "Hey, we should go get a drink to celebrate," then immediately he said, "We can celebrate later." I think we all felt pretty zombified. I think I slept all day on Sunday.
OT The performers joining you hail from groups like ComedySportz and the Annoyance Theatre. What do they add to the mix?
KB Last year, it was such a boon to have the variety of performers come in. I'll be honest, by hour 12 I think I was pretty much out of ideas. Having performers from other theaters and other styles come in gave us a lift and helped us to really push through what could have been some pretty dark times. During the daytime, we did some shows with groups like Storytown, geared specifically to kids. Improv is truly unlimited. Never once in the previous fifteen hours has we improvised a fairy tale!
OT As an improv performer, are thee any audience suggestions you are totally over?
KB We're all over the obvious ones - really raunchy stuff particularly. I've done the "Dildo" show so many times I could puke. Last year, we had a guy who watched like 9 straight hours of the marathon and he would give us the longest most awesome suggestions. Things like: "The one about Lindsay, the Spanish dancer, who lived in a mud-hut in Germany." I mean - sorry, dude, there's no way we're going to deliver on the specific show you have in mind, but we LOVED getting suggestions like that because it's so much to work with. "Spatula" doesn't really cut it after a suggestion like that.
OT What’s the secret to successful improv?
KB Having fun and being willing to look stupid, uncool, or crazy which essentially boils down to taking risks as an individual and as a team.
OT What about the marathon are you most looking forward to?
KB I'm most looking forward to seeing how many Five Hour Energies Dave can consume in thirty hours. You'd think he'd only need six, but your math would be bad.
The event takes place Friday, August 26, 5pm through Saturday, August 27, 11pm. at The Playground Theater.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Counter Point Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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