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Improv Jelly providing comedy for everyone

The story starts with a bride walking down the aisle in slacks. As in a game of broken telephone, this wedding-themed narrative is pulled in unexpected directions by four story-telling improvisers (a Snickers melts in the pocket of the groom’s white pants, there’s impromptu dancing in the aisle), until it ends with a traditional kiss at the altar.

The story starts with a bride walking down the aisle in slacks.

As in a game of broken telephone, this wedding-themed narrative is pulled in unexpected directions by four story-telling improvisers (a Snickers melts in the pocket of the groom’s white pants, there’s impromptu dancing in the aisle), until it ends with a traditional kiss at the altar.

The scenario was spun by players from Improv Jelly at a recent performance at the Red Deer Public Library.

It illustrates what Nicole Leal likes best about improv: “I love that the stories come out of nowhere, they turn out to be so funny, and they make sense. It’s like, wow, we just nailed a story, out of the blue!”

Red Deer’s newest improvisation and sketch comedy group was founded in January by two former Bull Skit/Veal Skit players, Leal and her partner Paul Sutherland.

Leal said she loved learning about improv as a member of Veal Skit, Bull Skit’s junior group, but found she couldn’t commit to the intense practise schedule required for its monthly shows.

She and Sutherland decided to form Improv Jelly with the idea of only having two rehearsals a month. This would allow for a slower-paced introduction to improv for people wanting to test their wits on stage but without the time — or courage — to go pro with Bull Skit.

“We keep it pretty clean. We tell people they don’t need to go to explicit content,” said Leal. She believes Improv Jelly’s twice-a-year shows at Central Alberta Theatre’s Nickle Studio will therefore draw all-ages crowds.

Improv Jelly is so far appealing to participants from all walks of life, including a couple members of Calgary’s Improv Adventure Theatre, took part in the May show. People from their teens to their 60s have attended in the group’s two Saturdays-a-month practises. (They go from September to November in preparation for two back-to-back November shows, and January to May for two May shows).

“We try to do the shows on nights that don’t conflict with Bull Skit,” said Leal, who believes Red Deer is big enough for two improv groups with different aims.

Improv Jelly, which runs with eight to 12 members, is connected to Central Alberta Theatre, for which Leal is production manager. The Red Deer College Theatre Studies graduate is also director of Tree House Youth Theatre. She and Sutherland have been in plays by CAT and Prime Stock Theatre.

Leal said she’s thrilled to have a hand in so many local arts endeavours. “It’s been very fortunate to have these opportunities pop up.”

She believes Improv Jelly presents a fun way to flex mental and imaginative skills. It’s for those who once did improvisation and got out of it, said Leal, or those who have never done improv, but wish they had.

It’s particularly great for people who don’t get to be creative in their 9-5 jobs, she added. “I’d especially love to see more girls come out. I think girls add such a different element than guys, and they’re not seen enough in comedy.”

For more information about joining Improv Jelly, please call Leal at 403-597-8957, or email nicole.c.leal@gmail.com. The group’s shows will be listed on the Central Alberta Theatre website.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com