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The Chameleon Village Collective Improv Troupe

Aren't You Steve? Saturday, March 10 at the Ampersand Guild

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My first exposure to improv as an art form came in the form of Comedy Central-aired reruns of the British tv series Whose Line is it Anyway; I didn’t know anything about improv, but I knew that the show was innovative, original, and hilarious – sometimes surreal, sometimes dirty, sometimes silly, but always compulsively watchable.

The actors always seemed to be having as much fun as the audience was having watching them, and the humor was genuine and unscripted. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this show – I never loved the American version as much as the British one – but it’s exciting to know that we have our own active improv troupe, Aren’t You Steve?, here in middle Georgia, and they’ll be performing live at the 567 on March 10th, showcasing their own blend of “high energy and general zaniness, with strong language and adult situations,” as troupe member and interim leader Noelle Brooks describes it.

       Aren’t You Steve? was formed about a year ago from the mission of the Chameleon Village Theatre Collective – Chameleon Village, a site-specific and exploratory theatre initiative, was founded by Josy Jones in order to forge an outlet for local creatives to express themselves and their passions and talents in a variety of ways. Noelle Brooks had the initial idea to try improv – “I did improv in college and it was one of the best experiences of my life,” she says – and after their first meeting of just three excited and enthusiastic participants, the troupe has grown in size over the past year, and now has nine active members. Josy Jones is still technically the troupe director, though she’s not based in Macon any longer; in her absence, Noelle serves as interim leader. “I try to make it as collaborative as possible,” Noelle says. “I provide guidance when needed, but essentially, we all determine the direction of the troupe together.”

The troupe takes its name from a line from their very first show – during a game of Genres, in which troupe members perform a scene and then re-do that same scene in a variety of different TV or film genres such as horror or sci-fi, one actor called another one Steve; they subsequently got confused about which of them was supposed to be Steve, and the line “Aren’t you Steve?” became a running joke throughout the evening and thereafter. “I really love this group of people and the way we work together,” says troupe member Alexandra Therese. “There’s a lot of trust there, which is necessary in this form of theatre. I also really love how connected we are with the audience.”

Noelle appreciates the connections that come from this kind of performance, too. “I’ve always loved making people laugh,” she says. “It’s how I engage with people and make friends. Improv gives me the chance to perform onstage and use humor to connect and entertain. I also love the freedom – it allows me to let go, to be imaginative and explore my creativity, but it also forces me to be accountable and self-disciplined. When there’s no script and minimal rules to guide you, it’s completely up to you to figure out how to make it work. It’s fun and challenging and scary and something I believe has made me grow as a person.” If this sounds intriguing to you, watch The Chameleon Village’s Facebook page – they’ll be holding auditions for new troupe members again sometime in the next few months.

So what should you expect from a live Aren’t You Steve? show? “We don’t pull any punches, so things tend to escalate quickly,” says Alexandra. “It’s a really fun time all around. Come prepared with some fun phrase ideas for us to use in scenes, or setting suggestions. They may just get used!” My impression is that these shows get raunchy quick, so don’t bring children or anyone who might be offended at a little off-color humor; for anyone who wants to relax, let their guard down, and spend an evening cracking up, this show seems ideal. “Be ready to play!” says Noelle. “The best shows are the ones where those in attendance are having more fun than we are – so relax and find your inner Steve.”

Chameleon Village Theatre Collective’s improv troupe Aren’t You Steve? performs live
When: March 10 at 8 pm (doors at 7:30) at the 567 Center for Renewal, 456 1st St.
How much: $7
www.thechameleonvillage.com

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