Improvaoke puts TRU audience center stage

The interactive comedy put the audience on the spot, leaving plenty of laughs

Alexis Stockford, Contributor Ω

Actors Noah Lepawsky (left) and Taz Van Rassel (right) ham it up during Live at TRU!’s Improvaoke on Feb. 27. Alexis Stockford/The Omega

Actors Noah Lepawsky (left) and Taz Van Rassel (right) ham it up during Live at TRU!’s Improvaoke on Feb. 27. Alexis Stockford/The Omega

Audience members got a chance for the spotlight during improv-theatre show Improvaoke, held in the Clock Tower Alumni Theatre on Feb. 27 as part of the Live at TRU! performance series.

Around 30 people showed up to enjoy the comedy talents of Vancouver-based actors Taz Van Rassel and Noah Lepawsky, with some getting the chance to be on stage themselves.

Unlike traditional theatre, Improvaoke engages the audience as an active participant. According to the Vancouver TheatreSports League, which owns rights to the show, Improvaoke is “a combination of karaoke and improvisation, where audience members challenge themselves with improv professionals.”

One such audience member is Grant Bennett, who was tapped for a hilarious exercise in which he acted as Lepawsky’s arms while actors played out a scene according to audience prompts.

“It’s different when you’re participating as opposed to watching,” Bennett said. “My wife told me afterwards that I used my arms too much. You just don’t really know what you should be doing, but it was fun.”

According to Van Rassel and Lepawsky, improv comes with both unique challenges and unique rewards.

Audience member Grant Bennett acts as improv actor Noah Lepawsky’s arms during Live at TRU!’s Improvaoke on Feb. 27. Alexis Stockford/The Omega

Audience member Grant Bennett acts as improv actor Noah Lepawsky’s arms during Live at TRU!’s Improvaoke on Feb. 27. Alexis Stockford/The Omega

“Things are going to go wrong constantly,” Van Rassel says. “There’s always variables. But then if you can use those variables and then make them part of the scene, that’s sort of the whole concept of improve – just use what you have and go along with it.”

“I think one of the treats about improv is that it’s more open to what is actually happening.” Lepawsky adds. “You’re not tied down to a script, so if something happens between two actors, as actors you can acknowledge that and incorporate it into what’s going on. So that becomes part of the entertainment and it’s fun for us and fun for the audience.”

Van Rassel and Lepawsky are currently in the middle of a five-week tour, bringing Improvaoke to schools across British Columbia. While the two ordinarily preform for younger people, the more mature audience at Thompson Rivers University allowed them to incorporate some more adult themes.

“This is the first sort of community open show that we’ve done. We’ve got a couple more of those on the tour, and they’re a little bit different. They’re a little more open than we might do at an elementary or high school.” Lepawsky says.

Improvaoke is one of the last Live at TRU! events scheduled for this year. Fans of the series will get one last chance on Mar. 20, when classical quintet ARC Ensemble will preform. Anyone interested should visit the university’s website at www.tru.ca for more details.