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Mountain Improv Alliance ready to satirize awards season

“[We’re] creating something that has never been done before, and will never be done again.”

CANMORE – Ringing in the new year with a show lambasting movies, music, celebrities and awards season, the Mountain Improv Alliance is ready to make the Bow Valley community cry tears of laughter.

Lead organizer with Mountain Improv Alliance (MIA) Rob Murray said the show, titled the Participation Awards, will find the lighter side of awards season in Hollywood.

“We really hope people come to see it,” Murray said. “[We’re] creating something that has never been done before, and will never be done again.”

The improv group will celebrate awards season using audience suggestions to inspire scenes about movies, music, television and more using their favourite improv games.

Improv is a fun form of theatre to embrace, Murray said, because improv “creates something from nothing.”

“It’s agreeing with the reality of what your scenic partner has just built, and then building upon that – it's slowly making the building parts for a great scene together as a big group,” Murray said. “We have no idea what’s going to happen on Friday (Jan. 10) night, and that’s part of the excitement.”

The show at artsPlace will feature around a dozen members from MIA, he said, including new and returning faces.

The group has been rehearsing to nail down the structure of the show and the short and long-form games they will be playing for the Participation Awards. It helps that they see each other weekly and in some cases have been performing together for three years.

“I’ve met some really cool people through this, and I’ve made some really good friendships,” he said.

Murray added he hopes the audience comes to the show with an open mind and ready to have fun. He added people can be active at the show sharing suggestions with the actors, or can just sit back, relax and enjoy.

The Participation Awards marks the sixth show MIA cast member Liam Brett has performed in. Brett said that he is getting excited about the show because each performance is more fun than the last.

“It should be fun to have the people from the Bow Valley area come together to laugh for a night," Brett said. 

"The show is essentially a bunch of us actors getting together on stage and trying to create something funny on the spot. We’re just trying to make a theme, and that’s going to be the structural base to our scenes.”

It helps to have an audience that works in tandem with the group, he said, explaining this means knowing when to laugh, when to give silence and when to participate.

“Their [the audience] energy is the number one factor to how we perform because we don’t have a script to fall back on,” Brett said. “Their laughter, their enjoyment, when they gasp – it just really fuels us. 

"They're really the ones driving the show."

It is a thrilling feeling knowing that at any moment he could be called up on stage during the show and dive headfirst into a hilarious scene. Brett added that it is a freeing experience being able to go with the flow and trust that the scene he creates with his fellow cast members lands with audiences.

“Everyone is here to just laugh and have a good night,” Brett said.

Making her debut on the improv stage, Rachael Meckling said she is eagerly looking forward to making audiences laugh after joining the group a little less than a year ago.

Meckling comes to MIA rehearsals as often as she can because the team’s practices have become a highlight of her week.

She said the group will be coming to the Participation Awards as a blank slate with no preconceived ideas, so they can be open and “yes and” each other to a successful scene.

“You’re really building on each other’s ideas,” Meckling said. “It’s a really, really great place to get creative – it’s almost like yoga for your mind. You totally release and really just be yourself.”

MIA will be hosting their first show of 2020 on Friday  (Jan. 10) at artsPlace at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $12.75 for artsPlace members, $15 for non-members and $7.50 for youth.

The improv group always welcomes new people to come and join in on their drop-in rehearsals at the Canmore Royal Canadian Legion Three Sisters Branch basement every Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“It’s a really fun and liberating experience,” Murray said. “It’s not just you going up on stage on the spot, that’s not what improv is about, it’s about building something together as a group.”


Chelsea Kemp

About the Author: Chelsea Kemp

Chelsea Kemp joined the Cochrane Eagle in 2020 as editor, bringing with her experience as a reporter and photojournalist. She writes about politics, health care, arts and entertainment and Indigenous stories.
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