Improvising Actuality: On the Fly Fuses Narrative and Improv in Latest Performance
Some might think members of improv groups are gluttons for punishment: to put oneself onstage in front of an audience that expects to both participate and be thoroughly entertained by thrown-together scenarios borne of unpredictable topics sounds like a tall order. However, to listen to Daniel Jokelson, one of the founding members of On the Fly Improv, talk about the art of improv you can’t help but see something charmingly and playfully human.
“Everyone is different in how they see the world and that’s beautiful,” offers Jokelson when asked how the group is challenged by the unpredictability of audience-suggested topics.
He doesn’t, in fact, seem to see a challenge at all, but rather an opportunity for creation and exploration via humor and exploring real life.
On the Fly Improv started almost three years ago after students from an improv workshop with Eve Smyth of the Hamazons, a local improv darling, decided that even though the workshop was over they were just getting started. Of the eleven original members, On the Fly has become the combined efforts of Daniel Jokelson, Cat Gould, Kirk McKenzie, Kate Sullivan, Mike Wills, and Rochelle Webster, acting director for the current pair of shows.
The group rotates to a new director for each new set of performances and uses the idea of director loosely: though there is a leadership aspect to organizing this playful group, the effort is largely communal. At each rehearsal, On the Fly hones their ever-evolving improv skills as well as practices whatever format they’re preparing to bring to the public. They follow, Jokelson shares, the “Harold” format, which develops and weaves together three unrelated scenes with help from the audience and was widely used by well-known comedy troupes such as the Upright Citizens Brigade.
Early on, the group focused more on theater games, but as they developed as improvisers and as a group, they moved into “more challenging and more narrative-based approaches, creating parallel storylines,” continues Jokelson, clearly proud of how the troupe has developed.
What can audience members expect of On the Fly’s upcoming shows? They will be, as always, totally unscripted, with a family-rated showtime as well as an unrated one. Though the performances are not expressly holiday-themed, the group will employ an interview format which will, for the first time, bring select audience members onto the improv stage and will likely tap into the humor and humanity which comes out of this particular season. Potential volunteers can expect a warm welcome from On the Fly.
“It’s not going to be an embarrassing thing; we’re just looking for a storyline,” assures Jokelson.
On the Fly Improv: A Holiday Hotseat
8 pm, Fri., Dec. 4
Medford Library, 205 S Central Avenue
$10 – $15 donation
7 pm, Sat., Dec. 5
Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland
$10 – $15 donation