The ComedySportz Crew Visits More Than Just the Classics
By Tommy Dively
No one said these guys were not versatile. ComedySportz Chicago may thrive on their well-known ComedySportz home show but the theatre on West Belmont Avenue offers a variety of shows for all ages. The ComedySportz show is a family friendly show for sure, and the rest of the week features many late night shows for adults only, but Saturday mornings are the kids’ turn, providing them a brief escape into a fantasyland.
David Flora, ensemble member of ComedySportz Chicago, has been apart of The ComedySportz Crew Visits series from its start, adapting famous fantasy tales into hour-long shows meant to entertain as well as inspire kids on a weekly basis. With The Jungle Book winding down and Sleeping Beauty just getting underway, hear his thoughts on his experience thus far.
How has Jungle Book been thus far?
“It’s really fun. I think one of our favorite parts of it is taking the stories themselves and adapting them to fit a ComedySportz-type show and vice versa. So for Jungle Book the book itself by Rudyard Kipling is not at all like the Disney version that I think the people are used to, it’s actually pretty violent and it’s a conglomeration almost of different stories of the jungle. Like the story of Mowgli is just one story, there are a bunch of different stories that follow animals and things like that. What we tried to do was just focus on the story of Mowgli. So, we still follow the stories that people are familiar with, maybe through Disney or fairytales but we also incorporate a lot of that the kids can get up and do with us, a lot of participation type stuff, and a few silly jokes in there for us and the parents sometimes. Not a lot, but the parents seem to enjoy themselves. Making that happen in terms of adapting them is the really fun part of it.”
Compare the show’s structure to improv
“We have a script for every show. The good thing is once we learn the script we’re free to improvise from that if we really need to. Scripts follow a beginning, middle, and end but the kids sometimes participate when we don’t ask for it so we have to be ready to improvise then. We’re free to be flexible with the script once we learn it.”
Talking about Sleeping Beauty
“Mainly Annie [Rijks] is our writer for some of the shows and then once we get it on its feet we will workshop and see if some things need to be taken out. For this one, CJ Tour, who plays the villain Expensivo, is writing Sleeping Beauty is taking the story with more of a unique slant with Sleeping Beauty layered onto it opposed to the other way around. So in this one we have players who are at odds from the beginning because in real life one of them wasn’t invited to a party and that carries over to the story of Sleeping Beauty, where the evil fairy wasn’t invited to the birth of the kid. So, it runs parallel like that. We just have started rehearsing it, we did a table read last week, and we’re going to put it on its feet this week. In any of these processes we find new things and we find what doesn’t work as we go along in the process.”
How long is the writing and rehearsal process for each show?
“It takes us as long as it we need to read the story and then we will probably write two to three drafts of the story. Like I said, in the past, Annie writes it, I read it, then we talk about it and write another draft, then we present it and workshop it from there. It can take about a month to put it all together.”
The prop and costumes differ greatly per show?
“Immensely because for Alice in Wonderland we had a ton of stuff; we had a Mad Hatter scene, there’s a croquet scene where we had actual flamingo puppets and remote control cars for the hedgehogs. For Jungle Book it is very minimalist. We’ve got masks for the characters that are the animals and I think there’s maybe one torch at the end that Mowgli uses and that’s about all the props that we use. It depends on the show.”
How many shows have you been apart of now?
“I’ve been in it since it started with Snow White so that was 2010. It was the first of this series. I know they used to have a ComedySportz for kids of all improv games; they would get kids in here, get them on stage, and do improv games for kids. That happened years ago and I’m not sure how long ago they stopped doing that. They wanted to get kids back in here on Saturday mornings and so they came up with this concept of doing fairytales with a ComedySportz slant. I’ve done about 10 shows.”
How do the children audiences differ from the mostly adult audiences for ComedySportz shows?
“The one thing that is the biggest difference is that when adults interrupt things or shout things out, it’s kind of annoying and they are doing it because they want attention in shows, that’s what I have found at least. For kids shows, if the kids yell something out, they are really invested in it; they are not just being jerks, they are so invested in the story that you have to listen to them and incorporate what they say and go with the flow with that, and that is part of the fun with it. That is the biggest difference, and other than that it’s not much because we are just being silly and they love the silliness too. We don’t dumb it down for them; we are being more receptive to what they give us.”
Any things I should hear about the shows?
“There will be a dragon. That’ll be fun, I don’t know how but we’ll have a dragon in here. I don’t know if people are disappointed that they are not getting Disney versions of this stuff but they are definitely happy when they come out of here at what we do give them. We’re not just doing a story; we’re putting a story with it of our own. It’s a dual story that’s satisfying for kids and adults. And you can watch the Disney version anytime. I watched it online for free the other day. It will definitely be fun for them and give them some experience to get up and do stuff with us, and they will see something different with the story so I think that’s a good thing to highlight. It’s Sleeping Beauty but you’ll see some new things with it with the classic stuff. And we are excited about The Snow Queen next season.
“For the holiday season, November to January, we are going to do The Snow Queen. And then for next season we are doing Beauty and the Beast, Arabian Nights, Robin Hood, and The Nutcracker and Winnie the pooh: Return to Pooh Corner. They are topping out at nine or ten weeks. And we might do something different next season where we do a ComedySportz for kids show in between each run.”The whole group including Flora are continually excited about the prospect of showing kids original takes on these classic tales, many of which the children have either never heard of or have only seen the Disney version. It’s this originality that constantly draws new audiences, kids and parents alike, back again and again and again. So do not miss out on a very fun adaptation of The Jungle Book and be sure to catch the dragon and more in the upcoming Sleeping Beauty right here at ComedySportz Chicago.