Something Wicked is Happening at Harlequin

olympia improv
Humorous improv comes easily on stage to Something Wicked co-stars (from left) Christian Doyle, Mark Alford, and Dave Beacham.


By Alec Clayton

heritage bankI recently discovered that when you sit down to interview members of an improv comedy troupe you immediately relinquish all control; all you can do is hang on in gleeful desperation while the madcap actors take you on a roller coaster ride.

Christian Doyle, improv teacher and manager of Harlequin Production’s Something Wicked Improv, said when auditioning for the troupe he looked for people who were quick and supportive of each other, not just funny, and the original four members of the troupe — Doyle, Mark Alford, Vanessa Postil, and Dave Beacham (aka David Axhandle Bulletwound Beachham)  — are all of that plus funny.

Doyle and Alford, newly hired as Harlequin’s Development Manager, proposed to Harlequin co-founder Scot Whitney that they do a night of improv comedy as a fundraiser. Doyle said, “Mark was very excited about it but I wasn’t.” Much to his surprise Whitney went for it, but Doyle didn’t get the message until he saw it on the theater’s schedule — “Improv with Christian Doyle and Friends” slated for the next night. They had less than a day to put it together.

olympia improv
Humorous improv comes easily on stage to Something Wicked co-stars (from left) Christian Doyle, Mark Alford, and Dave Beacham.

Fortunately, his friends were old hands at improvisational comedy.

The four actors decided to do a more ambitious show and invited every improv company in the area to take part in the “First Annual South Sound Comedy Festival.” Beacham feared that only friends and family of the actors would show up. Alford thought, “If only we could get a hundred people that would be great.” With greater confidence, Doyle told Whitney, “I think we can sell it out.” He was right. It was standing room only, and from there Something Wicked (the name taken from a line from Macbeth) was off to an auspicious beginning.

Local actor Brian Hatcher, most recently seen as the dour but loveable Eeyore in The House at Pooh Corner and prior to that as the heartless title character in Titus Andronicus, said, “comedy improv is one of theater artists most difficult challenges — stay focused, keep the action moving, be clever, and for the love of the gods keep the audience entertained. Watching the crew of Something Wicked perform their inaugural show, it is clear that these folks have what it takes to become Olympia’s top Comedy Improv Troupe. Oh, and they’re quite funny, too!”

Actor and professional storyteller Elizabeth Lord, locally famous as the impresario and mustachioed master of ceremonies of Lord Franzannian Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show, said, “as a seasoned Improv actor myself I went to the Something Wicked show with a critical eye expecting to cringe. Not the case. They were surprising fluid together on stage, doing all the right things. I guffawed outloud several times, and am looking forward to their next performance.”

Unlike many improv groups, they do not do short, game-type bits, made popular by the television show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” Instead, the foursome performs full-length but unscripted plays. Each actor is given a character and put in a situation and is expected to stay in character throughout the show, reacting to the other actors as their character would in any given situation. Doyle said, “It’s acting without thinking. It’s Zen archery, shooting without aiming.”

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The cast of Something Wicked (from left) Robert Humes, Dave Beacham, Maggie Lofquist, Vanessa Postil, Christian Doyle, Mark Alford, Taylor Dow, Ryan Holmberg, Miguel Pineda, Lauren O’Neill, Chris Ode.

They say their next show will be about conflict. “It’s a war story,” one of the actors said, but they were firing back and forth so quickly during the interview that I don’t know which one said that, or perhaps maybe it was a joke.

Despite not having a script, the group does rehearse to grow accustomed to working together. Postil said they get to where they almost know what each actor is going to say before they say it. When asked what they do when having to respond to something unexpected Beacham said, “If you’re given a square peg for a round hole you grab a big hammer and pound it in.”

Doyle said, “It’s all very risky. Rehearsal is preparing yourself for almost anything.  Almost none of rehearsal ends up in the show.”

Something Wicked is also different from other improv troupes because their shows are musical. Almost everyone in the troupe sings, dances or plays a musical instrument.

Other members of the troupe are Taylor Dow, Ryan Holmberg, Robert Humes, Chris Ode, Lauren O’Neil, Maggie Lofquist, and Miguel Pineda. Their next performance will be “Something Wicked Strikes Back,” Wednesday, March 19 at 8 p.m. at the State Theater, 202 4th Ave E, downtown Olympia. Tickets are $10-$25.

Call 360-786-0151 for tickets and information or visit Rush tickets available 30 minutes before curtain.


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