This past Thursday saw the official gala premiere of Vancouver Theatresports League’s latest mainstage show, The Superhero Show. Each night, the cast (or Su-performers) create a full length episode of a comic-book show that never existed, with inspiration taken from the audience’s suggestions.
The show is the brainchild of mainstage cast-member Michael Teigen (a Spider-Man fan). When I asked him about his inspiration for the show, he said:
[box]Teigen: “Well I’ve always been into superheroes. They’ve been huge forever. I’ve always loved superheroes. Who doesn’t? I first pitched it about seven years ago and I pitched it many times throughout the year and since then, but it’s finally up! It has gone through a number of incarnations. When we first did it there was a lot of games. We performed it a number of times for kids at Science World, so it really was a kids’ gamey-type show. Over the seven years its changed. We as a company have become a lot more skilled at doing more long-form and one long story. So the format has evolved along with the evolution of our company here. It’s quite a different thing now than what it started to be and it’s pretty exciting!” [/box]
VTSL Artistic Director Denise Jones (a Batman and Iron Man fan) comments about the show’s format:
[box]Jones: “We’ve done longer pieces before, like our Christmas Queen show last year, which we’ll be re-mounting this year, we did an improvised cop drama as well a number of years ago. I think the majority of our audience will like it. Obviously there’s the people that come down and expect to see theatresports […] and maybe theatresports is more their thing. I think we approach it with such a sense of play. We want to approach it with such an earnest sense of improv and because the content is going to be absolutely ridiculous… I mean, we’re going to be getting the superpower from the audience, so it’s going to be weird, like ‘he can shoot macaroni out of his eyes’ or something crazy. So I think the more serious we take it, the funnier the show will be. We recently did an improvised sitcom and found the audience really gets off on getting to really decide what the story is.”
Teigen follows up:
Teigen: “Yeah, as opposed to just coming up and getting ‘What’s something in your fridge?’ ‘A Chicken.’ and doing a short scene or a game based on that, the things we get from the audience will affect the whole night, the whole arc of the story. So it’ll be fun for them.”
Jones: “One thing we’re hoping to do here, we didn’t want to just go after one side of the genre, like Saturday morning cartoon superheroes. We also wanted some of the gritty darkness that all of the superhero movies have now, and also the sixties movie style, that really shlocky, intense acting. Superhero shows back then were almost like a soap opera in the style of their performance. So that’s sort of what we’re going for. We want to have a bit for everyone.[/box]
The Superhero Show also has some new elements that it will be introducing to the VTSL stage:
[box]Jones: “You’ll see we have a camera mounted on [one of the flats] that runs to the booth and onto the projector there. So we’ll be able to have ‘People of Earth!’ sorts of messages to our heroes… Facetiming our heroes!”
Teigen: “It’s me! The Commissioner!”
Jones: “Yeah! We’re excited for that.”[/box]
How does the show work? Well Michael Teigen rolls out in an electric wheelchair and the realist bald cap that you’ve ever seen, not unlike certain mutant professors that shall not be named for fear of litigation. Teigen then takes up the mantle of a radio-show style narrator wisking the audience through several key locations in Big City, allowing the players to establish a number of characters that we’ll see through the show. From there, the audience is informed that one of these characters is secretly our hero and it is up to them to vote for who it should be.
In our show, the audience unanimously picked performer Ken Lawson’s bird that did a quick fly-by in the park. The audience wanted it, and they got it! The cast dove on the bird theme with great enthusiasm and a surprising amount of educational trivia. From there, the story unfolds on the spot through the performers and Teigen’s announcer, complete with requisite super-hero flashbacks, origin stories and cliffhangers.
The long-form narrative will seem like a big switch for fans of the classic Theatresports format, which is normally rapid fire improv games, but it’s something that audience members will likely embrace quite quickly. In fact, I think it makes the show sometwhat primed for repeat viewings, being a different “episode” (and different cast members) each night. It’s definitely something I would come back for again and again.
The show itself is, without a doubt, hilarious. Will it appeal to comic book fans? Certainly. Do you have to be a comic book fan? Not at all. All the story you need is on the stage. As a note for parents: while some innuendo is almost unavoidable in the improv world, VTSL does keep their early shows decidedly PG, so you’re likely more than safe here and it’s definitely something kids could get into.
The Superhero Show delivers the laughs faster than a speeding bullet!
The Superhero Show runs until November 15th! For tickets and more information, visit the Vancouver Theatresports League website at: www.vtsl.com