The award-winning teen improv troupe Creatures of Impulse will present four lively episodes of teenage angst, heartbreak, drama and improvised hilarity in "Tri-Valley High: The Series 2019," the next four Wednesdays, starting this week, in downtown Pleasanton's Firehouse Arts Center.
"Tri-Valley High: The Series 2019" will consist of four shows that are completely unscripted and improvised, with each show's performance being based off audience suggestions while also building upon what happened from the previous week.
"Every show is going to be different, the difference with 'Tri-Valley High: The Series' is it's episodic," said Mark Duncanson, the troupe's founder and recreation coordinator for the city of Pleasanton. "It's like a teen sitcom ... We don't rehearse the characters in a situation; we don't even talk about them; we just do a recap of what's already happened (in previous shows) and then go."
Duncanson added that since each show will provide a new experience, guests can buy a ticket each week and be guaranteed to view a new "episode" of the series.
Troupe members have been working hard in preparation for the show, meeting for rehearsals where they practice creating scenes that require quick and witty thinking. However a key difference to rehearsals from other plays is troupe members never practice scenes that will appear come showtime. In fact, improvisers never discuss what will happen, only what has already happened -- doing so in order to ensure that performances are as spontaneous as possible.
"People regularly accuse us of scripting" -- an accusation the group considers a great compliment, according to Evan Hoopes, an Amador Valley High School student and troupe member.
Hoopes explained that improvisers want "Tri-Valley High" to feel like a TV-sitcom, so to prepare his troupe has been studying popular shows like "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The Office" and "That '70s Show."
"During rehearsals, we really just get into the mindset of how would people in a sitcom think and how would they respond to certain situations," Hoopes said. "One of the major things they will do in sitcoms is focusing on a small detail and making it important ... Knowing some little niche things about sitcoms makes it more authentic of a show."
Preparation for a show also means mastering the rules of improv, chief among these arguably being "Yes, and ..." -- the practice of accepting an improvised scene set by a fellow performer and adding onto it.
"If you want a scene to progress, every improviser in the scene needs to live in the same world. So if we're all creating a scene based only off of our hits or what we think should happen next, then the scene itself won't play out in a structured format," said troupe member Leah John, explaining the rule. "'Yes, and ...' obviously doesn't necessarily mean 'oh, I have to say yes to every single idea that they say,' but yes to the world that they create."
"So if (someone) says 'hi Sarah' and I be like 'haha my name's not Sarah,' then your scene is stagnant and the world that you're living in is confusing for the audience. So I think it is more of a 'yes and-ing' the stage that they are setting rather than the phrases that they are saying," she added.
Student improvisers set to appear in "Tri-Valley High: The Series 2019" include Hoopes, Bethany Chase, Kinsey Ferrera and Katie Wiest from Amador Valley High School; Claire McNerney and Aidan Riechers from Foothill High School; Megan Geiger from Granada in Livermore; and John from Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon.
"Tri-Valley High: The Series" will hold performances at the Firehouse Arts Center Theater, 4444 Railroad Ave., on July 3, 10, 17 and 24, at 7:30 p.m. each night. General admission tickets cost $5 students and $10 adults. Tickets online can be purchased online at www.firehousearts.org, or by calling 931-4848, as well as in-person at the box office.