The Popalopalots like staying a few steps ahead of the audience.
In the past, this improv performance troupe has achieved this goal by introducing new games to its shows like Popalotta Balloons, where three performers wearing balloons try to burst each other’s party favours, and Mouse Trap, where 100 live mousetraps are laid out on the stage and two blindfolded actors are given a scene and forced to perform it as they walk through the live mousetraps in their bare feet.
This time, cast members Rob MacDonald, Graham Putnam, Dylan Miller, Jordan Cameron, Ben Hartley, Justin Shaw and Cameron MacDonald are presenting a new game, Long Form, in their upcoming show set for March 16 at The Guild in Charlottetown.
“It starts by us getting a simple idea from the audience,” says Rob. “Then we start doing a bunch of short little scenes that focus on that theme or idea. We try to make it funny, building a little soap opera around it for 20 or 30 minutes. Then we wrap it up in a nice little bow tie.”
Hartley prefers to package it another way.
“The way I see it is what we did last year was more quick, short bursts of energy in our games. This one is more of a slow burn. It’s going to take more time to develop, but the payoff is going to be much greater,” he says.
The troupe was inspired to try long form after taking a workshop from Sarah Maher from Second City from Chicago. She visited P.E.I. this past October with the Norwegian Cruise Line.
“She spotted one of our ads, contacted us and came by,” says Shaw.
During her visit, she went over some of their games and said, ‘this is a lot of great short form stuff, but have you ever considered trying long form?’” he says.
So they did and immediately noticed an improvement.
“That’s because with short form, you’re flexing your right arm and with long form you’re flexing your left arm. So by trying different things, we’re becoming well-rounded performers — versatile in different styles of improv,” says Shaw.
It’s all part of the troupe’s mandate to constantly recreate themselves, says Putnam.
“We try to keep the productions and the shows fresh for us and, as a result, fresh for the audience. I often get tired of things so I like to change it up a little bit. This provided a great opportunity,” he says.
Rob is looking forward to directing this fresh, new energy into the March 16 show.
“Specifically, it’s hard to say exactly what people are going to see because we make a lot of it up. But we’ll definitely guarantee that we’ll entertain the audience 100 per cent. Basically, we’ll be doing some of the games that people know and love from Popalopalots plus we’re adding this new element that will maybe surprise some people. It should be a great night,” says Rob.
And what about the future?
They’re hoping to perform one night a week somewhere this summer.
“It hasn’t been announced yet. So stay tuned for further details,” says Rob.
Sally Cole is a features writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 629-6000, ext. 6054.