With a large repertory of original devised works, and the proven skill set and methodology to bring innovative new concepts to fruition, creating original improvisational plays is a passion and a strength…
A Devised Play for Every Taste
Devising work spans a wide variety of styles, formats and purposes. Looking for a short-form competition? Scared Scriptless, Championship Improv, Making It Up As We Go Along, and RIP Tag provide samples of high-energy no-holds barred creations utilizing community and student performers bringing improv to the masses! And an original take on Keith Johnstone’s Gorilla Theatre takes traditional improv games up a notch with a fully professional ensemble exploring different themes each evening.
If style is your cup of tea, explorations with long-form narrative or “dramaturgical improvisation” have crafted crowd-pleasing favorites such as Private Lies: Improvised Film Noir, Upton Abbey: An Improvised Comedy of English Manors, The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare, It’s All Greek to Me, and Murder We Wrote: The Improvised Whodunit. Each genre-inspired work includes a process of meticulous research and development, balancing spontaneous freedom with a deeply earned appreciation of form, historical setting, and structure.
Musical improvisation serves as another major area of specialty: numerous explorations have resulted in exciting and dynamic productions, ranging from experimental pieces such as Insta-Musical: Just add Water, to small scale productions designed to tour like Family Drive the Musical and (Your) Opera in a Trunk, to fully realized professional productions such as FourPlay: The Improvised Musical and Lights Up! The Improvised Rock Opera (currently in production.)
Or, if you’re in the mood for something a little more earnest and thought-provoking, original creations include multiple one-act structures: E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many One, Variations on a Theme and Cut To… explore central themes and relationships with care and nuance; ImprOvientation and Mixed Messages are designed to gently elucidate college transition issues and the import of consent and bystander intervention respectively; and the award-winning Is This Seat Taken? offers a dynamic variation of the two-improviser show, weaving together short-form playfulness and surprises with detailed narrative storytelling.
And the devising continues…
Featured Original Works:
Private Lies: Improvised Film Noir
Set in the last gasps of the Great Depression and America’s failed Prohibition experiment, Private Lies follows an ill-fated gumshoe, Richard Lies, as he strives to make a difference in a bleak and unforgiving city. Will the forces of evil and Eddie the Hand ultimately win, or will our improvising detective finally uncover the fate of his dead parents and reveal the identity of the Cleaner? Featuring celebrity guest authors drawn from the local arts community each performance, Private Lies premiered on the historic Annie Russell Theatre stage.
Click HERE for an article about the dramaturgical process supporting this production made possible through a generous grant from the Rollins College Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program.
Click HERE to join the Lights Up Facebook group and to stay apprised of upcoming performances.
Lights Up: The Improvised Rock Opera
What do you get when you take some rock and roll, add a dash of musical theatre and mix it all together with a team of fearless improvisers? Lights Up: The Improvised Rock Opera! Inspired by such classics as Tommy, Spring Awakening and American Idiot, Lights Up pushes musical improvisation to the next level, creating a completely original and rocking performance each evening based off a single suggestion. Currently in residence at SAK Comedy Lab, Orlando, Lights Up is a true audience favorite.
“Whatever it costs or takes, get to this show. It is beyond!”Jessica Henlser, Online Review, 2020
Upton Abbey: An Improvised Comedy of English Manors
As the ravages of the Great War march forward, Abigail Cranworth, her sizable family and an army of servants strive to keep their manor and very English way of living alive. Will (Upton) Abby ever be able to pursue her dreams and love interests unfettered? Will her older brother survive the Front and make it home in one piece? Will the shadows of her long-dead mother finally be put to rest? And will the new footman manage to keep his job on the Estate for more than a day? This epic improvised 30-character serial long-form set box office records during its acclaimed run.
(Your) Opera in a Trunk
What can four strolling opera singers and their companions pull out of their trunk to help them create a unique and crowd-pleasing opera? Cobbling together suggestions and characters drawn from the audience, (Your) Opera re-purposes classical arias and duets with completely original improvised lyrics and scenarios, all the while teaching you the basic elements and traditions of opera along the way. A touring production that appeals equally to children and their parents, opera has never been so accessible, understandable and fun!
The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare
The year is 1616, and the King’s Men have gathered eagerly anticipating the arrival of Shakespeare’s latest comedy. When news of his untimely death arrives (instead of his manuscript) they beg the audience for indulgence and assemble a slate of suggestions to inspire their spontaneous folly. Featuring merry song and dance, live Foley and music, and fully improvised scenarios and sonnets, Lost Comedies is an embodiment of the adage that the show must go on… even if you don’t have a script. Lost Comedies has been developed as both a small four-person marathon and a full fifteen-person ensemble piece (as seen here).
Click HERE to read more about the most recent production.
What the critics are saying…
“A number of improv musicals have floated through this town over the years […] but SAK Comedy Lab’s FourPlay is one of the funniest and most coherent I’ve seen.”Al Pergande, Orlando Weekly, 2005
“E Pluribus Unum offered a great example of what the Fringe does best—long-form, thoughtful improv that goes beyond the cheap laughs.”Charles Martin, East Orlando Sun, 2005
“Just because E Pluribus Unum is a different style of improv, that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny or even slapstick, but much of the humor comes from the realistic moments, recognizing yourself in the arguing couple or rude co-worker.”John Graham, Orlando CityBeat, 2005
“Hot on the heels of Fourplay, SAK Comedy Lab presents further proof that there’s more to improv than sketch comedy […] The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare [is] a daring and delightful experiment in fusing pentameter with long-form improvisation.”Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly, 2006
“My very favorite performance, presented by Orlando’s Jester Theater, reminded me of the Steve Martin-John Candy dynamic in Planes, Trains & Automobiles: The sketch, Is This Seat Taken?, concerned a man who is waiting for a bus while being semi-politely badgered by another traveler.”Orlando Improv Festival Review, Jay Boyar, Orlando Magazine, 2010
“Wednesday marked the 450th anniversary of the English writer’s birth (at least as best as historians can tell; no one’s sure of the exact day). That night, I joined a theater full of people in singing “Happy Birthday” to the writer of “Macbeth,” “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Besides singing we also laughed — a lot — at the current offering on the Annie Russell Theatre stage at Rollins College. “The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare” is an improvisational comedy devised by Rollins theater department chair David Charles as an homage to the enduring playwright.”Matthew Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 2014
“The rehearsal act I observed left me impressed, so if you’re still missing the Grantham family’s antics, make arrangements to see Upton Abbey now; you can’t binge-watch this one on Netflix at your leisure.”Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly, 2016
“David Charles, chairman of the Rollins College theater and dance department, has devised this highly entertaining, well-crafted piece of theater.”Upton Abbey Review, Matthew Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 2016
Projects Currently in Development:
The Next Great… [Improvised Screenplay]
Weaving together potentially disparate genres, audience suggestions and unexpected demands from the omnipresent editor, our intrepid author and fearless actors strive to make it to the end of their next great literary creation. Will tonight bring us a supernatural romance, mythological horror, nautical ghost story or another of thousands of possible random combinations? Only time will tell.
An Improvised Life in Revue
It’s not every night that a world-renowned composer and librettist joins a theatre company to celebrate their musical accomplishments. It’s even rarer for the special guest to be chosen at random. True life stories, memorable characters, and whimsical audience prompts result in an impromptu musical revue… for one night only.
Inspired by the prodigious and fanciful French playwright, and the stock of commedia dell’arte characters and situations that he brought to new life on the French stage, Wholly Moliere imagines new audience-inspired relationships, scenarios and plot twists. Will the out-of-touch patriarch get his comeuppance? Will the servant finally escape their superior’s gaze? Will the ingenue ever be free to grab true love? Farcical fun all as if it were penned by the comedic genius himself.