Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"Blackout Improv" at Mixed Blood Theatre

Friends, it's been too long since I've seen Blackout Improv. Now in their fifth year, this all-POC improv troupe performs every third Monday at Mixed Blood Theatre. Now that #TCTheater is winding down for the holidays, I was finally able to go see a show, just in time for their year end/holiday show. If they're not already, Blackout Improv should definitely be on your radar going into 2020 for the unique perspective and performance style they bring to the Twin Cities performing arts scene.

Each performance features a rotating cast pulled from their company members. This month, Alyssa DiVirgillio, Ashawnti Ford, Duck Washington, Joy Dolo, and Theo Langason began the show with a bit of Christmas song/rap/improv, accompanied by musician Khary Jackson who does his own improvising on various instruments. For a bit of festive fun, we played a game to win gift cards, and Joy interviewed an audience member about her day. The troupe then re-enacting the story in a very warped and funny way. Act I closed with Joy reading a piece she wrote about swearing and family that was hilarious, profane, and profound.

What Blackout does best, and what makes them unique, is what comes in Act II - the "swag hat." Before the show or during intermission, audience members submit topics that are then drawn out of said hat. The performers (now joined by company members Kory LaQuess Pullam and John Gebretatose) first discuss the issue for 5-10 minutes, then perform an improvised scene inspired by what they talk about. Topics cover pop culture, politics, the personal, and more, and discussions can get real and intense. Which makes the improv piece of it so wonderful - first we do some deep thinking and listening about what can be heavy topics, then we're given the opportunity to laugh and release all of that tension. This month's topics included Lizzo's booty, hotdish, Tinder while dating, and being single going home for the holidays.

Besides being a lot of fun, Blackout represents an important and often unheard voice in comedy/improv. Or rather, multiple very different voices that are all smart, funny, and silly, as good improv should be. Their next performance is January 20, continuing the third Monday of the month throughout the year. Watch their website and Facebook page for more info.