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Understanding Improv

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Dear Reader:

I would like to respond to Lawrence Bommer's review of Frank Booth in the Blue Velvet Lounge [October 27], and to improv reviews in general. With all due respect to Mr. Bommer, I believe that many reviewers simply do not understand what improv is all about. The underground art form is still not understood by the mainstream.

The rules of reviewing an improv show should differ greatly from reviewing a regular show, just as the two art forms are completely different. A scripted show is the same night after night, so regardless of when the reviewer comes, he or she will see the same thing. An improv show is always different, you'll never see the same show twice. The hard fact that so many reviewers ignore is that sometimes improv works, and sometimes it doesn't. After all, we are watching a group of people who are making up a whole show from start to finish. They don't have a chance to rewrite or start over, there literally is no net. It has always been my opinion that to fairly review an improv show, the reviewer must see it more than once. They never do; reviewers simply come one time and that's it. Should the cast suffer for one rough night? I say no! The two shows I saw prior to the one that was reviewed were highly entertaining on many levels. Frank Booth is (as anyone who has seen them more than once can attest to) one of the finest ensembles to come down the pike.

Based on what I saw, I believe a more fair review of Frank Booth may read like this: "After seeing the show more than one time, I can honestly say, "Take a chance on improv.' Even though there are rough moments, the excitement of seeing something created on the spot is undeniable. I was once told that all improv is 50 percent garbage and 50 percent gold. (Frank Booth's numbers are probably much better.) But even if that is true, it's worth sitting through the garbage to get to the gold. Improvisation is an underground art form, with rewards for the actor and audience member alike far greater than anything one could write or preconceive. Such a perilous art form must be respected and understood."

Rich Talarico

Improv Coach and Performer,

Improv Olympic

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