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Austin Improv

'Dusk,' Confidence Men, and PGraph go the distance

By Robert Faires, Fri., July 2, 2010

The cast of <i>Dusk: Improvised Tween Erotica </i>
The cast of Dusk: Improvised Tween Erotica
The cast of PGraph in Seattle
The cast of PGraph in Seattle

Improv troupes are so numerous in Austin nowadays that you likely wouldn't notice if one or two were to go missing some week. Thus, it's my duty to inform you when troupes disappear, especially when they're among the scene's more polished, clever, and successful ones. Last week, it was Confidence Men, whose improvised playlets channel the testosterone-fueled attitude and style of David Mamet's works, and Parallelogramophonograph, the B. Iden Payne Award-winning creators of improvised Charles Dickens, improvised French farce, and improvised screwball comedy, among other formats. Next week, it's Dusk: Improvised Tween Erotica, which gleefully riffs off the Twilight series and all its vampiric/sexual angst. But not to worry, these absences are only temporary, and the troupes are going away for the best of reasons: They've been booked to perform in other parts of the country. PGraph and Confidence Men were both part of the Twin Cities Improv Festival in Minneapolis-St.Paul, while Dusk will be off to New York City for a three-night stand with the Tank, an arts presenter in the heart of Manhattan.

It's becoming increasingly common, this Austin-improv-hitting-the-road situation. The musical-improvising gang of Girls Girls Girls has also been to the Twin Cities, as well as Atlanta, and last week's visit to the Twin Cities was a repeat for PGraph, which has also toured to Providence, R.I.; Omaha, Neb.; Tulsa, Okla.; Seattle; and Honolulu. In April, Dusk was slaying audiences at the Chicago Improv Festival, while Dusk mastermind Shana Merlin and improv partner Shannon McCormick have taken their duo troupe, Get Up, to improv festivals in Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Amsterdam, where they were the sole American representatives in the 2010 International Improvisation Theatre Festival: more proof, as if any were needed, that our city's booming improv scene is as much about quality as quantity. More and more we're seeing that the cream of our improvisational crop can stand with the best improvisers on the continent – and perhaps even the planet.

And the best thing about that news to date? After our local improv artists wow crowds in other cities with their quick-wittedness, ingenuity, and ensemble playing, they always come back home. Which means we get to savor their skills ourselves all over again. Of course, you'll have opportunities with all three of the traveling troupes mentioned. Dusk is holding the second of two fundraising performances for its New York trip Friday, July 2, 8pm, at Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd. (For tickets, visit www.dusksummer2010.eventbrite.com.) PGraph is back in its weekly slot at the Hideout, 617 Congress, teaming with a different troupe each Friday at 10pm for the show dubbed The Spectacle. This month, they'll partner with Junk on July 2, the Starter Kit on July 9, and on July 23, none other than Confidence Men. (For information, visit www.hideouttheatre.com.) As for those Mametian rascals, they'll also have a show of their own on Saturday, July 17, 10:30pm, at Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd. (For information, visit www.confidencemenimprov.com.) Think they'll show vacation slides?

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