What is an indie team? They’re performers who – as an independent group – aren’t connected to a theater. It could even be you!!
You get to take the initiative to pick the players you want to play with. Sometimes when your team or project ends a run of shows – or as a students, you end a session of classes – you want to stick together.
Sometimes your practice group or improv jam's great dynamic makes you want to keep playing. Other times, you have an idea for a type of show. You ask around and find a team who wants to try it.
Sometimes the stars align. You don’t even know how it happened.
You get to decide on your own priorities. You don’t have to follow any rules! You can make big comedy choices. Play for drama, genre, or tragedy. You can be a solo act, two people, or bring way too many people on stage to see what happens.
Brian Shea produces The BIG Indie Showcase that helps you put your ideas in front of a crowd. Read the transcript below to find out more.
Tell us all about your show.
When the first round of Conservatory teams were re-organized in Fall 2017, my Fractal teammates and I wanted to keep performing. BIG was looking to expand its schedule to seven days a week at the same time, so I proposed the idea of a monthly show that showcased independent teams. Sure, it was a slightly selfish way to make sure Fractal got more shows, but I also wanted to make sure the existing indie teams had a place to play and provide a monthly show to encourage new indie teams to form. So far, it's working out perfectly!
How might you describe it to someone who knew nothing about improv?
You're going to see people who give up their own free time to organize an improv team perform in the most joyful way possible.
For the more knowledgeable improv crowd, what do you hope they’ll take away from the show.
I hope they see that they can always be a part of the fun. If you have fun in a class or a Caucus and want to keep performing with those folks, contact me to do an indie show. If you have a format you want to work on and need a show, I'm your guy. We have Impropourri and The LAB shows. Bring those ideas to me for Indie Night. I saw an Indie Night a the Magnet Theater last year where one woman performed with her dog (which was voiced by another improviser on the side of the stage). I don't know if we will ever have someone doing that, but I want people to aspire to that kind of delightful weirdness.
What’s the story of how you entered into improv?
I had never performed on stage (except for elementary and middle school Christmas things) until 2009. I was 41 and got convinced to play a small part in a play at the high school in Hanover, Pa., where I live. They had turned "Miracle on 34th Street" into a community production. I was hesitant, but quickly realized I really enjoyed performing. That led me to community theatre which led me to improv. I had been on the BIG mailing list for years, but never took the plunge. For some reason, I got up the courage to sign up for 101 in January 2015 and haven't looked back.
What question (or questions) do you wish I’d ask you? How would you answer?
I wish you would ask me "Now that we have three Brians in BIG, shouldn't we use our collective power for good and make sure that only people who spell the name our way will ever be accepted into our community?"
[Editor's note: Yes. This is something we Brians are actively doing!]
What’s a story you’d like to share that doesn’t necessarily have a connection to improv?
It took me a while to accept, but I realize that my failings can entertain others as long as I don't take them too seriously. Like the time I fell down Federal Hill. Or the time a friend snapped a photo of me sitting alone in a booth in a crowded restaurant. Or the time I walked into a meeting with my fly down. None of them killed me so why not laugh about them?
If you could write a TV pilot, what would your plot be?
I have actually written three pilot scripts just for fun. One is just a Dad-style sitcom filled with characters from places I have worked. One is about life in a small town like where I live. And one is about the youngest child in a big family who hides his success from his parents and siblings because they constantly criticize the way he chooses to do things. Not that I would know anything about that.
What was a memorable show that you performed in? What made it memorable and what did you take away from it?
I started a troupe in Hanover, Pa., called Hot Like Tinder (with now BIG-gies Erin DiNello, Courtney McDougall and Trista Morgan). We did workshops at the community theatre where Courtney, Erin and I serve on the board and then made plans to do a short montage (with some other people who had done the workshops) at an open mic night hosted by a local record store. Everyone else there was playing music, and we got up there and did 7ish minutes of improv off the suggestion "Ruth Bader Ginsburg" by a friend of mine. After we finished, the host put the mic back in its place and said, "I don't think I've seen anything like that before at an open mic night."
Check our show calendar to find the next The BIG Indie Showcase time slot. Show up and talk to Brian Shea about getting your team on stage too.
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