Hide­out theater gets gig at Long Cen­ter

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE&STYLE - By luke Quin­ton

The Austin im­prov scene has boomed over the past decade and given birth to a suc­ces­sion of new the­aters and 30 troupes.

And for the sec­ond time since Jan­uary, the im­provlov­ing Hide­out Theater has landed a gig at the Long Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts’ Rollins Stu­dio The­atre, a venue four times the size of the 49-seat room tucked up­stairs at the down­town venue.

In April 2009, when the orig­i­nal owner of the Hide­out didn’t want to con­tinue his lease, Ka­reem Badr and two friends stepped up. “We took over the Hide­out be­cause we didn’t want it to go away,” Badr said.

Helm­ing the city’s old­est venue for im­prov per­for­mances and classes suits Badr — the gig draws on his pas­sion for im­prov (his troupe, the bril­liantly named Par­al­lel­o­gramophono­graph, just played its 300th show) and his en­thu­si­asm for pro­mot­ing it.

Dur­ing its decade as the only im­prov show in town — be­fore the re­cent mo­men­tum that now sur­rounds the some­what clois­tered im­prov move­ment — the Hide­out was prone to oc­ca­sional lulls, Kacey Samiee of troupe Girls Girls Girls says. “There was a pe­riod of time where we would come to do shows and they would be can­celed be­cause there was no audi- ence,” she says. “This lasted a very long time.”

Last year, now sur­rounded by new the­aters, Badr’s group suc­ceeded in bring­ing new vigor to the Hide­out. “Now, the rare thing is to have a house that isn’t full,” Samiee says.

They chose “Bat­tle of the Sexes” for this week’s show, a for­mat that’s played at the Hide­out ev­ery week­end for the past 11 years.

But the at­mos­phere changes for these big­ger shows, Badr says. The theater sud­denly fields calls from peo­ple who’ve never been to an im­prov show, and the au­di­ence fills with the unini­ti­ated.

As with their first show at the Rollins Stu­dio The­atre, they’ll be joined by vis­it­ing im­pro­vis­ers of some renown. On this oc­ca­sion, it’s Am­ber Nash and Kevin Gillese from Dad’s Garage Theater Com­pany in At­lanta, who’ll cap­tain their re­spec­tive gen­ders’ teams.

The for­mat is a se­ries of chal­lenges: One team chal­lenges the other to do a scene with­out the let­ter “S” or to stage the most dra­matic scene it can imag­ine; sort of the the­atri­cal equiv­a­lent of a game of horse. Each scene is then scored by three judges.

Badr and Samiee also stressed some­thing about im­prov that’s mis­un­der­stood: It’s not just about the jokes. “When the crowd is on your side,” Badr says, “mak­ing a joke is the eas­i­est thing to do.” What is much harder to do is to leave them with a sense of awe.

“I’ve been do­ing im­prov long enough that mak­ing an au­di­ence laugh isn’t hard, but if I can make them gasp, or lean for­ward in their seats be­cause they’re so wrapped up in what’s hap­pen­ing — that’s some­thing that re­ally good books, re­ally good movies, re­ally good theater, does, and there’s no rea­son im­prov shouldn’t do that,” Badr says.

The cost to rent the big­ger theater was picked up by Cat­a­lyst 8, a group of phi­lan­thropists ded­i­cated to pro­pel­ling ris­ing stars to the Long Cen­ter’s big­ger stage. This sparks a bit of im­prov to end the in­ter­view.

“What nice peo­ple!” Samiee says, af­ter hear­ing about Cat­a­lyst 8 for the first time. “Their name makes it sound like they stand around in robes while you make your pitch,” she adds.

“Well yeah, there was some kind of ‘blood-let­ting’ cer­e­mony,” Badr re­calls with a quizzi­cal look.

Samiee: “Yeah, vir­gins and goats.”

Ka­reem Badr hide­out the­atre

Jill Bernard and Asaf Ro­nen com­pete at the Hide­out The­atre, where an im­prov bat­tle of the sexes has run on week­ends for 11 years. The event comes to the Long Cen­ter on Satur­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.