Pittsburgh Shakespeare within the Parks drops the script for “Backside’s Up”

Shakespeare’s works are reminiscent of passionate romance, witty humor, breathtaking sword fights and for the improvisation team of Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the parks, Rocket ships made entirely of sausage.

On Saturday evening PSIP presented “Bottom’s Up”, a Shakespeare-inspired comedy without a script. The virtual fundraiser, the proceeds of which will help PSIP showcase free theater in parks across Pittsburgh, was broadcast on the company’s website Pull out and Tilt Channels.

At the event, PSIP’s improvisation team – Jennifer Tober, Aaron Crutchfield, Cat Aceto, Craig Snider, Kip Soteres and Jason Young – spoke in Shakespeare-like language and improvised scenes based on the audience’s suggestions.

The unwritten narrative followed the idea of ​​a “sausage station,” with protagonist Aloysius Philomel Brick’nmortar (Young) dreaming of traveling to the International Sausage Space Station after the collapse of his massage parlor business. But his ambitions cause difficulties for Titonya (Tober), captain of the international sausage space station, who protects her sausages very much.

Though the premise bears little resemblance to anything Shakespeare wrote, the team set up the show to follow the narrative arc of a typical Shakespeare comedy. According to Crutchfield, PSIP’s improvisation team leader, the actors organize each improvised narrative into five scenes to allow for exposure, climax, and resolution.

“What we do fits Shakespeare so well that we try to make up five scenes,” said Crutchfield. “The first scene is an intro to a lead. The next scene introduces the anti-leadership or an opposing, contrasting force … Then we finally have the opportunity at scene four or scene five to culminate the conflict and then resolve it in scene five. “

By the way, supporting characters with their own ambitions make Aloysius’ search for sausage-powered space travel more difficult. For example, local sausage merchant Dim Snoozemeyer (Soteres) is becoming a vegetarian and threatening to replace all of its products with soy meat substitutes.

Crutchfield said managing so many characters with different wants and needs can prove difficult, but adding extra layers to a scene can also give actors new material to work with.

“Instead of having a singular ‘I want’ that is easy to follow and specific details can then be added to, we have to go two ways,” he said. “We had a lot of fun figuring out how to do it. And it actually gave us an additional wealth of characters that we hadn’t really expected. “

In addition to the five-step narrative arc and eccentric supporting characters, the actors added Shakespeare flair to the show by taking iconic lines straight from other plays, engaging in self-talk and speaking in rhyming couplets. Aloysius, for example, started the first scene with a series of rhymes lamenting the loss of his massage parlor.

“If lotion is the food of love, rub it in. My favorite movie is ‘The Wrath of Khan,’ ”Young rhymed. “My life and my dreams are so strange these days that I sometimes feel like I’m walking around in a haze.”

Young said that when he rhymes on the spot, he looks at the end of the first line to make sure the last word provides him with success on the next line.

“You can slow down a bit on that second sentence if you’re trying to find some syntax to get to the rhyme,” he said. “So if you put the word ‘difficult’ at the end of a sentence, you’re really screwing yourself up. But if you put the word ‘hard’ at the end of the sentence, then you have a better chance of getting somewhere. “

To make the virtual performance more interesting, the actors also added props – kitchen knives, swords, blue wigs, and frozen hot dogs – and regularly broke into song and dance numbers.

The audience could request new props or musical interludes on a topic of their choice and vote in the chat about which character would be successful at the end of the show.

Crutchfield said that new audience ideas like this one can help actors get out of their own heads and have more fun.

“We’re so careful and painstakingly attentive to what we’re trying to do to make sure the narrative has some coherence,” he said. “But sometimes coherence is damned, especially when the audience is having a good time with us and they want us to go on a tangent.”

During PSIP’s improvisation rehearsals, the team works to incorporate emotions into their scenes to strengthen their improvisation. According to Crutchfield, Shakespeare’s carefully crafted verse is useful for expressing drastic moods.

“You can put big, huge, crackling, strong emotions in those cautious words,” he said. “Often when I work as an improviser and we work on the genre of improvisation as a Shakespeare performance, we really try to believe this idea of ​​great emotions.”

Tober said improvised shows like “Bottom’s Up” help PSIP make Shakespeare fun for audiences who would otherwise shy away from the archaic language and perceived seriousness of the playwright’s original work. She said the company’s improvisational comedy helps make Shakespeare accessible to everyone.

“One of the things we love to do is make it very accessible to people and make it fun for people,” Tober said. “Just turn it upside down, make it accessible, make fun, make it contemporary. Bring it to people in a new light. “

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