Celebrating two decades of The Hamazons
The Hamazons, Warrior Princesses of Improv, are preparing for “The 20th Anniversary Show” at Ashland’s Mountain Avenue Theatre, Saturday, Sept. 28th. Hamazons: Cil Stengel, Eve Smyth, and Kyndra Laughery will be joined by Hamazon alumni for an evening of improvisation and glamour. I met with Stengel, Smyth and Laughery to discuss their art of improvisation.
EH: How do you prepare for improv?
KL: It’s like a sport: you practice your skills; you run drills; you build your improv muscles.
EH: What are ‘improv muscles?’
ES: Improv muscles might be: staying present; not planning ahead; establishing character relationships, your environment, and an objective. There are certain foundational elements that help improv scenes, whether they are narrative driven or game driven. As long as you have these foundational elements: knowing who the characters are, and what their relationship is, those scenes can take off. You have to develop those skills.
EH: What makes people laugh?
ES: What makes me laugh is when I recognize that universal truth. When we’re having a good time (joy and fun in developing a story) other people have fun. It’s contagious.
KL: Riding that wave of laughter is one of my favorite things to do in the world.
CS: You’ve got to trust and be in the moment. It’s not about being funny, but funny happens.
ES: Since 2012, we’ve started doing “Long Form” which is more story-based. We’ll put on an improvised Jane Austin show, a Holiday Classic, or Shakespeare. The audience comes to a play that has two acts, but it is completely improvised. The three of us play all the characters.
In this upcoming show: we will do, what for many years the Hamazons did, “Short Form” short scenes and games.
EH: How does your art relate to politics?
KL: We might laugh at human nature. We might laugh at human dynamics. We laugh at conventions from the dramas that we do. But we’re not going to attack someone or a group of people in our humor. When commentary does show up, it’s not aimed at a specific person. It’s satire.
CS: Our Company is inclusive and is meant for people to laugh together, as a healing kind of thing.
ES: It’s a community building thing.
KL: This is non-partisan, this is humanity, and this is playtime. We’re going to go to the adult playground and have fun, and remember what it is to be human, and what it is to be delighted in another human’s humanness.
EH: How is improv performance fulfilling?
CS: We produce five weekends a year, and in a different style every time. As an actor, I’m working a lot and playing a lot of different roles all the time.
KL: We have shows; we play whatever parts we want. I can play the traditional beauty; I can also be a really buff dude.
CS: Tina Fay once said, “Improvisation is like actor’s brain and writer’s brain coming together, at the same time, in front of people.” It has stretched us incredibly artistically.
ES: To me improv is the equivalent of skydiving. You are stepping out into the unknown. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and you cannot plan it.
Hamazon alumni include: Bobbi Kidder, Carolyn Myers, Judy Dolmatch, Deborah Elliott, and Sierra Faith. There will be musical accompaniment by Darcy Danielson. The Hamazons will be dressed in “Ham Glam Funny Formal Wear” and invite their audience to do the same.
The Hamazons — Warrior Princesses of Improv, “The 20th Anniversary Show”: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28th, at the Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 South Mountain Ave., Ashland. Tickets: $21 online at www.hamazons.com, or $24 at the door.
Also: The Hamazons teach improv workshops. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director in Ashland. To read more interviews with remarkable people, visit her blog: ashlandtheater.net. Reach her at email@example.com.