See what’s never been done before


JOYRIDE and Eight Horn Unicorn come together in two teams showcasing Cedar Rapids improv.

By Levi Wright

Two teams will come together through improv this weekend, showing what can be done with just one word.

Today through July 15, Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. S.E., will host Studio Improv with two improv teams, JOYRIDE and Eight Horn Unicorn.

Theatre Cedar Rapids started in 1925 in the “Little Theater” movement. It was a way for local theater enthusiasts to perform for a larger audience. Now, the troupe is a community theater. It brings in the community not to just share stories with people but also to involve them in the creation.

“We are completely functioning through volunteer performers,” said Zach Parker, the education director of the theater. “All these people find this place such a home for artistic endeavors; they don’t care that they aren’t getting paid to perform. They get to volunteer and have a family here. It’s probably the coolest thing we have.”

This will be the fourth year that Studio Improv has been in existence. Parker helped start it after studying improv at the Upright Brigade Theater in New York. It has grown in attendance since its beginning in 2013, creating an improv presence and giving improv actors a place to perform and learn.

“When I came back here, I was on the main stage doing a lot of musicals and stuff. Then we decided to start teaching improv classes just to see if there was an interest, and it took off,” Parker said. “Then, because of that and because we had some talent, and they kept getting better, we decided we need to start performing. We needed to have an audience so we could keep the program going.”

This time, Studio Improv will lend its stage to JOYRIDE and Eight Horn Unicorn. Both have members who have been a part of the Improv and Beer class that Theatre Cedar Rapids holds.

“[Improv] was an attempt to reinvent myself, because for the longest time, I was known as the dance guy,” said L.D. Kidd, a member of JOYRIDE. “The idea of doing something non-scripted that had nothing to do with dance was very appealing. That’s why I started taking classes, and let’s be honest, the class was called Improv and Beer.”

“It’s like playing a jazz solo, you’re riffing, and we’re all using the same tools, but it’s the way we all approach it that’s different,” said Eric Hanson, a member of Eight Horn Unicorn. “So, it’s just a fun challenge to see what you can reinvent, what you can take a risk on every night, see what works and what doesn’t work.”

For the three-day duration, JOYRIDE and Eight Horn Unicorn will blend their two teams into two mixed teams. They use their rehearsals as a way to get to know each other to better play off each other. The show itself is always something new, though — none of it is scripted. When it’s showtime, they will take a single word suggestion from the audience and build a never-before-done narrative around that one word. Sometimes, the performance will be more abstract, taking what the actors think of that word, so no one knows what will happen next.

“We’re all kids at heart,” Kidd said. “We just want to play, so we want to go back to those childhood moments where the sidewalk is lava and in improv, we get to do that thing that we used to do, but there’s this sense of now I’m an adult. I have to do things this way, so we just get to play with our friends like we did when we were kids.”

If You Go

Studio Improv

When: Today-July 15

Where: Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. S.E.

Cost: $10 / 319-366-8591.

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