The Kimmel is a soaring space on Broad Street (Avenue of the Arts) in Philadelphia and provides a new home for, among others, the Philadelphia Orchestra in addition to the newly renovated Academy of Music a few blocks away. We, of course, were not performing in one of the main venues but upstairs in the Rendell Room, a rehearsal/recital space for which we had to provide our own lights and were at the mercy of the unions who were the ONLY people authorized to move chairs or flick a light switch. I kid you not: when it was suggested that one of us could turn off the overhead lights to start the show, we were told that only the Union guy could do that. (It sounds like one of those off-the-wall stories you hear, but it's true. Proof positive that many of today's unions have little, if anything, to do with worker safety, fair pay or rights, as they were originally intended.)
|White tie & tails: a musician's trunk. (Photo by F. Andersen)|
But the fact remains: we played the Kimmel Center! From my vantage point it looked like we sold out and the audience was mostly people who had never seen us perform before and had little idea what it is we actually do. People tend to think of improv as that kind of wacky, jokey hit-and-run stuff you see on TV, usually hosted by Drew Carey and his friends. Which is fine, can be very funny, but it's not what we do. We call our form "spontaneous theater" because we do a whole hour based on audience suggestions and the scenes run the gamut from hilarious to touching, even painful sometimes. Audiences are always amazed at the fact that it's all made up as we go.
In any case, it was a kick being there. There were other performances going on at the same time, concerts in at least one of the big halls, and men in white tie and tails and women in long, black gowns were coming and going backstage on their way to or from the stage. (At one point I opened the door to what I thought was a men's room, only to come face-to-face with a very startled pianist practicing at an upright in a small dressing room. He wasn't pleased to see me. I apologized and vanished.)
Of course, regulations forbade us taping the show, unless it was strictly for archival purposes, so our brilliance is lost to the ages, except for the hundred or so people who saw the show, or performed it. Ah, well...
At least I played the Kimmel.
(And if you're in the Philly area, we have two more shows next week, Friday and Saturday! Come see us!)