As a young veteran of the children’s theater world, Kristi Parker-Barnhart, director of The ComedySportz Crew Meets Peter Pan, she knows how kids like to get into the act. Over two years of directing and performing in touring shows by the National Theater for Children and the Hampstead Stage Company, she saw school age kids so involved in the stories presented that they would scream out to the characters on stage to “watch out” for whatever next act of villainy awaited their hero. “Interaction with kids with entertainment was not invented for the world of video fantasy games, she says. It’s been around a long time. But in our children’s shows at ComedySportz, we take it a step or two farther and totally break down the “fourth wall” of theatre and bring the kids right into the story. They’re totally a part of the action and determining what the story will be. You don’t know in advance what’s going to happen, so our show is not only an introduction to theater for many of our kids in the audience; it’s an intro to improv as well.”
Of course Peter Pan is arguably a pioneer of interactive children’s theatre, she points out. “Remember how the kids in the audience have been asked to ‘think happy thoughts’ and save Tinkerbell? We’re taking that much farther with our ComedySportz adaptation of Peter Pan. While past audiences of our shows have learned to use their imagination through the use of the “Imagination Box,” this time we’re going to show the kids that they don’t need a box to be imaginative. And even though we have a cast of seven and some very cool costumes for Peter Pan, using one’s imagination is still an important part of experiencing this play or any other theatre. Theatre is never as literal as TV, movies or video games where the settings are all shown in great and realistic detail.”
“With our children’s shows at ComedySportz, we’re looking to give kids an introduction to performing arts on two levels,” she says. “The kids are not only going to get experience in watching live theater, but through our interactivity, they’ll get to perform on stage as well.”
ComedySportz’s Dwyer and Pallesen Return to Chicago Sketchfest as Kerpatty
ComedySportz ensemble members Pat Dwyer and Erin Pallesen were just two guys with dreams of making it in Chicago’s improv scene when they moved to town some eight years ago. Fate brought them together as classmates in an improv course and two months later they became roommates. Sharing close quarters and collectively ignoring household chores could only have helped them learn how to work together and play off each other’s strengths. While students in a ComedySportz Training Center class, they developed the act now known as Kerpatty that will take the stage at Chicago Sketchfest in the prime spot of 8 p.m. this Saturday, January 14th. This will be their fifth consecutive appearance in the festival and in fact it was at that festival that the group made its debut.
“We decided to apply for a slot on a whim as we had mostly been doing improv up until that point,” Dwyer says. “We were a little shocked when we got selected and had to get serious about putting together a fully written show.” Fortunately, their instructor at the ComedySportz Training Center, Jen Ellison, offered to direct them. “We got a standing ovation at that first Sketchfest appearance, so we figured we had come up with something worth pursuing.” Over the next several years, they performed as a duo at a variety of theaters around Chicago addition to both making it into the main ComedySportz ensemble.
Dwyer labels Kerpatty’s brand of humor as “stupid fun.” “It’s pretty physical,” he says. “Very playful”. Their experience as best friends and former roommates was something of an inspiration for their sketches. For instance one scene is about two guys exchanging gifts on “Best Friends’ Day.” In that sketch, one friend gives the other a new computer and receives only a kiddie play slide from his buddy in return. In the end the scene is about how close friends know you sometimes better than you even know yourself.
They credit their improv training with their performance style as Kerpatty. “The things I’ve learned at ComedySportz directly apply,” Pallesen says. “Our sketches follow a fairly strict outline, rather than a set script. The journey of the characters stays constant and we have certain checkpoints along the way, but the dialogue and business we do in between is pretty close but not always exactly the same. This gives us the ability to tailor our performance to the audience. If we see they’re responding to physical stuff, we can dial that up. Or if the cerebral parts seem to be landing better we can focus on that. You’ll never see the same exact show twice.”
Kerpatty has performed at Sketchfest every year since that first appearance in 2007 and they create a new show for Sketchfest each year. They’re one of just two local comedy groups that appeared at the TBS “Just for Laughs” Comedy Festival in Chicago in its opening years, and performed at the Toronto Sketch Festival this past November.
It seems a little dangerous to share a stage for a performance of improvised comedy with someone who knows you as well as a former roommate. With both of them together on stage, though, there’s always the chance for an improvised rebuttal to answer any slights.Kerpatty will perform at Chicago Sketchfest at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, at 8 pm. Saturday, January 14, 2012. Ticket information is at www.stage773.com or by calling 773-327-5252.
The ComedySportz Theatre to host the 5th Annual College Improv Tournament on January 14 and 15.
16 Area Teams to Compete This Weekend
Preliminary Rounds: 12pm; 2pm; 4pm
Cosby Sweaters / DePaul University
Droppin' $cience / Columbia College Chicago
Spicy Clamato/ University of Illinois
Finals Round: 3:30 pm
Complete Lineup of 20 Comedians Announced for New Year's Day Hangover Comedy Marathon
The Second Annual ComedySportz New Year's Day Hangover Marathon will again be hosted by ComedySportz' Jamie Campbell. This year's show will run from 6 - 10 pm on Sunday, January 1 at the ComedySportz Theatre, 929 W. Belmont, Chicago.
The 2012 New Year’s Hangover Stand–Up Marathon line up includes:
•C.J. Toledano (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Lincoln Lodge)
All seats are $10.00. Doors open at 5:30 pm, with a cash bar available before and throughout the show. Tickets are available by phone at 773-549-8080, at teh ComedySportz Box Office or online at www.ticketmaster.com.