((Left) Renny and Caren (Right) TV WEEK Cover for ‘L.A.T.E.R.’ | Photos courtesy of Renny Temple)
Ever consider trying your hand at improv? Or, do you enjoy some belly-busting laughs in an intimate, participatory setting? If you answered yes to either question, your opportunity has arrived! Out of Thin Air, a new improvisational theater company founded by actor, director and writer Renny Temple, is here to deliver the comedic goods to Central Oregon!
The phrase “out of thin air” is what Temple uses to describe the spontaneous way members of his improvisational theater troupe generate unrehearsed dialogues sure to make audiences roar with laughter. The idea is simple: Two actors take the stage and ask the audience a few fundamental questions like, “Who are we?”, “Where are we?”, “What are we doing?” and maybe “What emotions are we experiencing?” One courageous audience member gets the ball rolling by blurting out, “Husband and wife!” while another chimes in, “in Disney World!” The provocateur in the crowd shouts out, “You’re stuck on ‘It’s a Small World After All!’” followed by another who proposes, “love and hate!” Now equipped with context and relationship, the actors might request the first and last lines of the three- to six-minute skit that clearly designate its beginning and ending. And with that, the impromptu performance begins!
For many including myself, “out of thin air” evokes grabbing unbridled spontaneity, free flow, randomness and something a bit mysterious, like the phrase “source unknown” used to describe rivers like the Metolius, the origins of which elude us. Although spontaneity is central to improvisational theater, Renny assures me that there are rules — a blueprint — to follow in order to deliver a successful piece. “Most people think that Improv is just people making things up, but there are actual rules: how to communicate on stage, how to say yes to each other,” Temple explains. “The idea is to play the rules and play the reality that the audience has given you, and the humor actually comes out of that. You don’t have to be funny; you have to be real… in a comedic way,” he says with a smile.
The knowledge Temple offers stems from many years of experience in both New York and Los Angeles, world-renown centers of the arts, especially for thespians. Renny himself worked as an actor and director of stage and television for over thirty years. He starred in nearly one-hundred commercials; wrote award-winning screenplays; and directed television shows like Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Head of the Class and Empty Nest. Equally notable, Temple, along with his wife, actress Caren Kaye, helped found the multi-awarded, critically acclaimed WAR BABIES, a preeminent Improvisational Theater Company in the 70’s and 80’s that moved from New York to L.A. upon an invitation from Dick Clark to perform on his Hollywood set. Through WAR BABIES, Temple and his company took improvisational theater to new levels both conceptually and in terms of performance (rennytemple.com).
Here in Bend, Renny offers interactive and entertaining Improv for Life workshops designed to build confidence and enhance communication skills, among other benefits. The next limited seating workshops take place October 4-27, each Monday and Wednesday from 5:30-7:30pm at Open Space Events Studio (the old 2nd Street Theater location) and include eight sessions. Renny hosts several workshops a year. Perfect for colleges, schools, businesses, private groups and associations, such workshops, as their title suggests, are intended not only for stage but also for your personal and professional life. As Temple stresses, “The rules of improv that make it successful also take care of your life improv, which you’re also making up as you go along.” Through encouragement and positive reinforcement, Temple provides various exercises and games that cater to the specific goals of the course. For example, after a couple weeks of “in-house” workshop exercises, Renny has participants do “street exercises,” which involve consciously improvising with someone you don’t know. “Hey, where did you get that shirt?” might be an opening line and then, as he explains, “all the sudden, they’re talking to you, you’re talking to them, you’re exchanging information.” The ability to generate such impromptu conversations builds a short “scene,” leading to new insights, a new friendship, or just an amicable dialogue that fosters goodwill among humans, all of which are invaluable in these days of political division and technological absorption.
Opening night for Out of Thin Air Improvisational Theater Company took place on Tuesday, September 28 (after this article was written, though I’m confident it was smashing!) at Open Space Events Studio, the old 2nd Street Theater. Beginning with the September 28 performance, The Company will continue its improvisational quest every other Tuesday night at 8pm, same location, for the remainder of the year. In addition to the audience-informed improv skits, a sprinkling of rehearsed comedy sketches will be tossed in the mix. With respect to these performances, Renny reminds me that, “Every show is different! That’s the important thing about improv. People can come back and never see the same show twice!” Caren, who met Renny through WAR BABIES, adds that audiences “sometimes come with lists noting what they’re going to give us since they know us so well.” Such a participatory sentiment creates a truly interactive, fun experience for all to enjoy!
For some great laughs, don’t miss Out of Thin Air performing on October 12 and 26, November 9 and 23 and December 7 and 21, all Tuesday nights at 8pm at Open Space Events Studio. And while you’re at it, consider joining Renny’s Improv for Life workshop each Monday and Thursday from 5:30-7:30pm, October 4-28 at Open Space, and feel the benefits of increased creativity, quick decision making, enhanced trust in oneself and others and more!
To register for his workshop or to learn more about Renny Temple himself and his Improvisational Theater Company, please visit rennytemple.com.