May 10th, 2015
What an adventure it's been!
After eight months of Off-Broadway performances at St Luke's Theatre, the curtain is drawing to a close on my experience with GOING ONCE, LAUGHING TWICE.
This was the first time that I've been with a show since it's initial development, and it's been a fascinating and thrilling process to see how far the show has come from conceptualization to the product that is being performed on stage almost a year later.
GOING ONCE, LAUGHING TWICE is an improv-heavy show based around a fake art auction. You the patrons are handed fake money and paddles, and you're introduced to a zany cast of characters leading up to an actual auction, where if you win the art pieces up for bid, you get to take them home!
My character's name was Jean-Paul Georges-Ringeau, a pompous French minimalist who is the star artist at Chump's auction house. I've had improv experience and training before this show, but I've never had the rare opportunity to interact with audiences in character for such extended periods of time. Several characters (mine included) would enter the lobby before the show and begin talking with the guests, introducing them to the world of the play. The audience would then be let into the art gallery, where they could peruse various art works, sip on fake champagne, and meet more of the cast.
Eric Parness, our visionary director, was instrumental in keeping all the pieces together and moving. Scenes between characters would occur in the midst of extended improv scenes, so the level of focus required from the rockstar cast was immense.
Every night, my favorite part of the show were the extended improv scenes at the beginning, culminating with me picking a few lucky audience members to help me paint my latest masterpiece COLOR BURST (which was a completely black canvas with a small white dot at the top.) When I would introduce myself, many audience members were game, but there were many who didn't quite know how to interact with a performer in character. But, to my surprise, after a few minutes the audience members would accept my French accent and flamboyant ways, and they would slip into normal conversation with me as if I was actually a famous artist.
I would also ask the audience members I picked to interpret my masterpiece COLOR BURST as they painted it. The many, amazing descriptions I received for what the little white dot was on the black canvas over the months was simply delightful. From the moon shining down on the earth, to elaborate stories or lost loves that the audience saw in the minimalist painting, it was incredible to me how entertaining it was night after night when the audience was put front-and-center and they were really made part of the experience.
GOING ONCE, LAUGHING TWICE was all made possible by the writer, producer, star Brian Jaffe, himself a comic auctioneer, and the auction at the end of the show where he led the audience on madcap bidding of various hilarious sight gags was a sight to behold!
While my journey with GOING ONCE has ended for now, I would love to explore this show again further down the road if the stars align!