The Joy of Improv

Ms. BehavinLast night was a performance with Foxy Veronica’s Peach Pies at the Mercury Player’s space here in Madison. I arrived a little late due to some family obligations, but actually only got there a little after Ms. Behavin’ began her opening number – the sound system problems that seem to follow the troupe from venue to venue were in full force, and she’d had to spend the first 15 minutes doing a Leno-esque monologue while the crew tried to get the CD’s working.

Later, when a CD full of our set list failed to play, she managed to pull out an old show CD, map the current night’s set list to the tracks, and make notes that enabled most of the acts to go on unimpeded by the vagaries of technology.

Moxie RoseExcept mine. No fault of hers; I didn’t perform in that particular show. But back in the dressing room she informed me that I would be performing to Outkast. “Love Hater”, to be precise. A song I had heard of, but not actually heard…at the same time, a change in the roster of Peach Pies meant that I was also going to be tying a person I’d never performed with before – Moxie Rose. Thankfully, Moxie is an experienced dancer whose facial expressions alone can keep the audience in stitches, and who has a great deal of gymnastic and dance training (earning her the title of “BendyGirl” before I knew her personally, or as my friends would call her, “That girl with the ass.”

I’d dressed in RopeTekNinja garb, black shirt, dark tie, and Matrixesque sunglasses, trying for the dark ominous look to contrast with the virginal nightie she wore (that Kitty LaRue would cut off of her as the number went on). The minute the music started, however, I knew that I was not going to be able to pull that off. It was nice music, melodic, hell, I felt like we should be waltzing…so I slowed the rope down, made a show of pulling it through the Big Hole, moving around her.  Then I got to hear some of the lyrics, and began miming them:

Everybody needs someone to rub their shoulders
And scratch their dandruff
And everybody need to quit actin hard and shit
Before you get your ass whooped (I’ll slap the fuck out ya!)
And everybody needs somebody to love
Before its too late
Its too late

…and of course she got her shoulders rubbed, her head scratched, and her ass whupped in between the flying tails of the takate-kote. Normally this number has a hard point involved, and after the model is suspended the other performer (in this case, Kitty) would descend like a textile piranha and snip off the dress for the traditional burlesque “reveal“…but in this space, there was no hard point. So instead I used the multiple points of suspension on the takate-kote to move her, up, down, pose after pose, each one punctuated with a little “snip!” of Kitty’s scissors. Moxie’s facial expressions ranged from the innocent little moue of a flapper to Billy Idol snarls, and by the end of the number all of us – audience and performer – were laughing hysterically.

Just goes to show that being flexible, and not taking yourself too seriously, can lead to some really fine performance.

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