Putting the "Laughter" in "Slaughter" at FST



The folks over at FST Improv get into the Halloween spirit next week with a one-night-only, feature-length, fully improvised horror “film” played out onstage in Florida Studio Theatre’s Bowne’s Lab. Entitled We’re Doomed, the typically touring apocalyptic show makes a pit stop in its hometown for a special Halloween rendition, seeing six actors and one musician take the stage to improvise a 90-minute horror film—all based on a title suggested by the audience.

The improvisation and audience interaction begin right away, with the actors spontaneously creating three “movie posters” onstage for the crowd and prompting them for potential movie titles until all three have been named. “And the audience gets to pick which movie they want to watch,” says FST Director of Improv Will Luera. The two not selected become brief improvised trailers to tease the audience about the path not taken.

Divided into two 45-minute acts, with improvised piano accompaniment throughout, the actors have nothing but their bodies—no props or special stages—to recreate movie magic. Playing with perspective, they create wide shots and close-ups for the audience by shifting actors in the foreground and background. “So it looks like we’re zooming in,” says Luera. They even mimic special effects like walking on walls or flying, all with their bodies. “It’s one of our more physical shows,” admits Luera, who will also be performing in next week’s show, and made no easier by the extended length. “But a lot of us really enjoy that difference.”

To make things even more complicated for the actors, the audience is given three wrenches that they can throw into the works. Technically they’re toy balls given to the audience prior to the show, but each remains powerful in its own way. Usable once per show (twice if the performers are feeling generous) each ball demands a particular change to the performance, even if just for a moment. One changes the language of the performance (forcing many actors to resort to accented gibberish), another activates the “director’s commentary” (forcing one or two actors to adopt the roles) and the last turns the film into a 3D movie as the actors enter the audience.

With no way of knowing what the audience will throw at them come showtime, preparation boils down to general brainstorming. Anything too exact goes against the spirit of the enterprise. Largely, the group gathers and goes over common horror movie tropes and clichés ripe for lampooning, being careful to distinguish between the different subgenres, such as slasher, paranormal, monster or alien. “Even within horror,” says Luera, “there are so many flavors.”

But once the show starts, the brainstorming stops—even the conversation stops. As director, Luera does not allow his actors to talk offstage. “Because the moment you start talking offstage, you start missing what’s happening onstage,” he says. “And that’s what’s more important in that moment.”

We’re Doomed runs for one night only on Oct. 27 at 7:30pm at Florida Studio Theatre.

Pictured: The still-living cast of "We're Doomed." Photo courtesy of Florida Studio Theatre.

« View The Friday Oct 20, 2017 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Other Articles in Theater

Feb 1, 2018Phil Lederer

Seat at the Table