Kids might make the perfect audience for improv comedy. They love to be silly. They have fewer inhibitions than us adults and look out for opportunities for big belly laughs. Many aren't timid about making suggestions or being part of the show.
"I have a lot of fun with my kids and making them laugh," said Mike Beard, a 16-year member of Transactors Improv Company and a father of two girls. "I love children's sensibilities. They are not convoluted."
Transactors, the oldest active improvisational theater in the South, has been making audiences laugh since 1983. Most of their work is for adult audiences with adult themes and situations that might earn them an R rating if it was on the big screen.
But the company has been doing school shows for young audiences as well. And, in the last couple of years, they've offered their family programs to the general public with regular shows at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. The next one is 6 p.m., Saturday. Transactors brings improv to family audiences
Beard is the company's technical director, working on the lighting and sound for the company's main show. But he also performs, often in the group's family and experimental shows.
The 45-minute family performances features short-form improv. These are individual scenes based on audience suggestions.
The performers start out with a list of "forms" that they'll be doing. For example, one form called emotional roller coaster requires the audience to throw out 10 different emotions or states of being. From there, the scene could go in a million directions.
Beard and Steve Warnock, a dad of two and another member of the group, said kids make some crazy suggestions - attacked by Martians or, when asked for a historical suggestion, the Oregon Trail. That might not be the first historical reference an adult thinks of but, when it's been the course of study for a kid, it's the first thing that comes to mind.
"Adults sometimes get stuck in their heads and kids throw out stuff," Warnock said.
The family shows tend to be more physical and goofy than the usual performances for adult audiences. And there's no polite laughter when you're performing for children.
"If kids don't like it," Warnock said, "they'll be bored and move on."
I can't wait to take my older daughter to one of these shows and hope to make it to this one. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 the day off. Seniors and students are $5 in advance and $8 the day of. Hear more from Beard in my video interview with him.
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