Witness improvisational comedy come to 'life' with The Available Cupholders this upcoming Sunday at the American Stage Theatre Company in downtown St. Petersburg.
The Austin-based improv comedy group, formed a decade ago, goes beyond the off-the-cuff shtick of other troupes. Its members perform experimental routines that “explore and expose an art form cloaked in natural communication.” Their spontaneous acts are uniquely rendered in the moment to jibe with the their audience and setting. The Cupholders' natural ease and flexibility not only speak to their collective talent, but their mission: To merge theater and reality onstage with a comedic twist.
Comprising members from Well Hung Jury, a defunct Austin-based improv collective, the Cu Ace Manning, Bill Stern, Jeremy Sweetlamb, Kaci Beeler and Michael Joplin say they are now focused on above-the-bar, experimental performances that make people laugh out loud, and they also offer a series of educative workshops to impart the foundations of improv . They work on topics that range from risk-taking to acceptance of failure, to the act of listening and commitment, and storytelling. Their interactive master class series are for beginning or advanced improvisers alike.
Lucky for us comedy improv buffs in Tampa Bay, The Available Cupholders will stop off on their 10-Year Anniversary Tour to make a pitstop in the Tampa Bay area and Sarasota. You can catch them at the Sarasota Improv Festival this weekend, or at American Stage on Sunday, July 13, at at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10. The Cupholders' workshop session, The World of Narrative Improv Workshop, precedes their performance, from 1 to 4 p.m., also at American Stage. Tuition is $40.
CL caught up with troupe member Michael Joplin to find out more about the group's craft.
CL: First things first, why the name ‘Available Cupholders’? Is there any particular, interesting meaning behind it?
MJ: Available Cupholders was a name that we pulled out of a hat. It was the first combination we pulled. It was a dadaist experiment.
There’s something so philosophical about calling improv comedy “the theater of everyday existence.” The act is improvised but it is still performed on a stage. So what is it that makes this statement true for you?
No one walks around with a script telling them how to feel and what to say all day. We are all improvising all the time. When we do it on a stage we are tapping into the truth and comedy of everyday life.
What do you think makes the perfect improv experience? What about this type of performance makes people engaged and excited?
The perfect improv experience is one where the audience forgets that the performers are performing and really see the lives of the characters. When you watch a performance and forget that a performance is going on it is very rewarding as an audience member.
What do you hope to achieve with experimental comedy?
We are always pushing the limits and trying new things. There is still a lot of unexplored territory in the world of improvisation. We hope to discover as much as we can.
One of the many things that are exciting about The Available Cupholders is the workshop that comes attached to it. Could you describe the process and the perks of these workshops?
Our workshops are designed to impart the lessons and exercises we have learned from doing improv together over the last 15 years. Prepare to surprise yourself and be connected to others on stage.
What can the audience expect from the upcoming Available Cupholders' performance at the American Stage Theatre Company?
Real spontaneity, interesting characters, and a lot of laughs.