True Street Theater
By Lavanya Ramanathan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 14, 2009
Although it would seem that having free run of a street and all its infinite props would open up a world of possibilities for any actor, the biggest challenge for Washington Improv Theater's Neutrino Video Project is actually procuring a place to act.
You try, for example, to find a sofa on which to "make love." In public. With a clock ticking.
The production sends three teams of actors and cameras into the streets outside the Source theater on 14th Street NW to perform and videotape a series of two-minute skits based on audience suggestions.
There's no time for editing, multiple takes or improving the sound. Instead, runners grab the tapes and head back to Source, where, in the theater, an audience is waiting to watch the results. (The movies tend to look like more sophisticated YouTube videos or the funny-awkward skits on the Web site Funny or Die .) Meanwhile, the teams are shooting the next batch of scenes. Their first attempts were last weekend, and you can catch the show through early September.
"It's always a rush," says Tyler Korba, the director of the show and a holdover from its last run in Washington, in 2004. "It's an interesting skill set. You don't get to play in those nice long, drawn-out, open scenes that we do on stage."
In fact, the video project, first created by a New York company called Neutrino and now performed in cities across the country, is as much about logistics as it is about acting.
"It's more limiting in a way," Korba says. "When we're on stage, we can do anything anytime we want to: You can pull things out of thin air and make up whatever you want. When you're out in the real world, you can't really do that."
The theater informed its commercial neighbors on 14th Street that actors might be popping in to shoot a scene or make a ruckus outdoors, but there is really no way to clue in passersby.
"We generally have some guidelines we try to stick to when people are out in public," Korba says. "Like, don't scream 'help,' because people won't know you're doing a show. We've actually had some people who've stepped in and made sure everything is okay." But in 2004, while shooting in Adams Morgan, a member of one of the teams took it a little too far.
"He was walking down the street with his hands up, screaming how he owned D.C. ... He went for it a lot more than we usually do, because he didn't know that we usually don't," Korba says.
So, did it make for a good skit?
"That's the thing: You can't walk down the middle of 18th Street and have that much impact in a stage show. Seeing it actually happen is really cool. It gets a big reaction."