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Kinkonauts give John Hughes classic the improv treatment

The jock the pretty girl and the outcast ditch the script

The Kinkonauts Calgary’s long-form improvised-theatre troupe will be teaming up with Victoria’s Paper Street Theatre Co. this week to take on cinematic legend John Hughes who is remembered for ’80s teen films like Sixteen Candles The Breakfast Club Pretty in Pink Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off .

“We’ll be doing an entirely improvised The Breakfast Club ” says the Kinkonauts’ artistic director Owen Chan. That doesn’t mean the film’s plot will be replicated in precise detail onstage. What it does mean however is that audiences will see the archetypes popular in Hughes’ work — the jock the pretty girl and the outcast — carry out a story in Hughes’ style onstage. And of course there will also be a classic ’80s soundtrack accompanying the production.

This is not the first time the Kinkonauts and Paper Street Theatre have teamed up to present a show; last year the two companies offered an improvised evening of film noir. Chan says it’s important for the Kinkonauts to bring guest improv troupes to Calgary and compares it to touring bands. “It really enriches the music scene. Cities have their own regional styles and cross-pollination makes everything richer” he explains noting that the same rules apply for the world of improv. “Our philosophy is to constantly do new shows put new things onstage. That’s what’s exciting about improv.”

Improv is also finding new fans as Chan says the local audience continues to grow. “Calgary audiences are appreciating the high value of work that’s happening…. The idea that improv is a high-risk audience experience is no longer true” he adds.

In a departure from the Kinkonauts’ usual performing space in the Birds and Stone Theatre An Improvised John Hughes will take place in Lord Beaverbrook High School — something Chan who teaches drama at the school describes as “a fun marketing angle.” “We’re doing John Hughes in a high school” he adds with a laugh.

The show is also a fundraiser for Lord Beaverbrook High School’s improv team which just represented Alberta on the national stage at The Canadian Improv Games in Ottawa.

While the show’s characters dialogue and plot are completely improvised the evening of the show Chan admits the troupe will still get together for a rehearsal of sorts during which the members will explore the various tropes and patterns that come up in Hughes’ work. They may even do a practice run of the show to see how certain character archetypes “feel” in the body. “It’s like basketball. You practice lay-ups not knowing if and when you’ll use them but if the opportunity arises in a game you’ll need to use that skill” he explains.

Chan says what distinguishes long-form improv from some of the short-form improv people might be used to seeing is that the cast of improvisers don’t continually ask for audience suggestions. Instead they may ask audience members only a question or two off the top to get the show rolling. Also unlike some improvised shows there is no director who calls out scenes setting the storyline’s direction.

“The show forms itself by the moves of the individual players without ever breaking out of the show’s reality. It’s much closer to a theatre experience in that way” he explains. “It’s an interesting collaboration of artists real time in front of an audience.”

The Kinkonauts will host four shows on April 25 and 26 starting with a performance of An Improvised John Hughes at 7:30 p.m. both nights and followed by a second show featuring various improv acts ( kinkonauts.com ). The bill include Notorious an improvised hip-hop act; Obviously Improv featuring some short-form improv; the improvisers from Lord Beaverbrook High School; improv duo One Lion; the Kinkonauts’ two “house” teams; and Mixtape: The ’80s which includes members of different troupes working together to create a show inspired by music of the 1980s.

Chan says offering variety has become “a touchstone” for the Kinkonauts. “I truly feel you could come to all the shows over the course of a weekend and not see anything even remotely similar.”

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