Provo’s new Echo Theatre offers a humorous improv experience that is a refreshing alternative to typical theatrical performances.
The theatre’s new improv troupe refers to themselves as “Improv Friends,” a title highly fitting for the cast. The nine member cast is a close-knit group, both on and off the stage.
Patrick Newman, Improv Friends member, explained how the troupe genuinely loves spending time with each other.
“The group is called Improv Friends, as the formation of the group was chosen based on people who meshed well together.” Newman said. “My favorite part is working with other talented friends.”
Members of the troupe came together through shared classes, church, roommates and work. They practiced together just for fun for a year before they even thought about doing shows.
The recently married Jeffrey and Julianna Blake purchased the Echo Theatre property in March, shortly after their honeymoon. The Blakes participate in performances at their theater and are two of the nine Improv Friends.
“We are all actually friends,” Julianna Blake said. “We have a special bond with a lot of trust. I know everyone has my back.”
Improv Friends focuses on telling stories rather than just on random comedy. Performances begin and end with an entirely improvised story. Stories are broken up by several mini-skits, referred to as a “Scene Jam,” occurring in the middle of the performance. These scenes go from one to the next without any breaks.
Christopher Davis, another member of the group, emphasized the importance of being present and focused while onstage.
“Improv is about trusting yourself and everyone else and just letting go,” Davis said. “You need to be in the moment and trust that whatever material your partner gives you will help further the story—and that’s what works. When we force it, it doesn’t work out.”
Although other cast members have come and gone, the current roster of Improv Friends are here to stay for a while. The group is not exclusive and does not want to be seen as a clique, but these friends are the ones who seemed to fit really well together and have a passion for what they do.
“The greatest part of the group is that they all are very good actors,” Jeffrey Blake said. “Everyone is a heck of a lot of fun to be around backstage as well as onstage.”
Due to the Echo Theatre’s recent development and the troupe being brand new, Improv Friends currently faces the challenge of not being well-known to the public. This can prove especially difficult to a type of theater who relies heavily on the participation of and connection to their audience.
Riley Workman, a member of Improv Friends, explained how a more enthusiastic audience typically makes for a better show.
“Performances are easier when feeding off the energy of an audience and when we have made a connection with them,” he said.
Although audiences for the show have been small so far, Jared Lynton, Improv Friends member, said the cast loves performing for any number of people. After all, this group is all about spending time with friends.
“It’s really great that we have any audience,” Lynton said. “But even if we didn’t, we’d still do improv and enjoy our time.”
For information on Improv Friends next show, visit theechotheatre.com.