a spooky show
When a friend of mine invited me to an improv show off campus a couple weeks ago, I didn’t have to think twice before I said yes. The description said it would be an “improvised thriller, ” a description that’s almost repetitive, since any good improv show is thrilling. But strange things started happening before the show had even started. We could not find the parking lot behind the theater, so we parked illegally in a McDonald’s parking lot and walked over to the show. There were no lights coming from inside the building, and we tried to open at least three doors before we discovered the back entrance (and the parking lot that we could have used without breaking the law).
We got there slightly late, so when we got to the door, we were informed that the show was sold out for the night…but they let us in anyway. The women we paid made a comment about my “sketchy unsigned card” (I’d recently replaced my debit card and had forgotten to sign it), but she still charged it, and then told us to head downstairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, we were greeted with a musky, waiting-room aura. People sat in chairs anxiously as a girl with a solemn expression stood near the door holding papers and pens. I looked questioningly at my friend who had suggested we check out the show. “This looks like an audition…” I said.
We were promptly handed papers and pens. On the paper was a series of odd questions, including, “How do you feel right now?” (I chose “scared.”) “If there was a closed door in front of you, what would you do?” (The options were try the doorknob, knock, or both. I said knock.) “What do you see when you close your eyes?” The survey concluded with an elaborate question about a bird changing colors.
Every once in awhile, someone would come out of the door and call a few people inside at a time. Then each person was directed to a room, but they were not confined there. The rooms included a waiting room for a job interview from a man with bandaged, bloody wrists who yelled a lot, a seemingly from-another-decade party hosted by a woman with rosy cheeks and a plastered-on smile, a room where you could get your bones read by a mysterious man in all black, and a room with a pile of chairs and a singing girl with a guitar. People could also stand in the hallway connecting all of these rooms.
Within the rooms and mingling in between them were various characters. At first it was hard to tell which people were actors and which people were part of the audience.
I was first placed in the party room, where the hostess would ask people a series of questions, then give them a pipe-cleaner with beads spelling out their name and tell them to put the beads on the pipe-cleaner, and, when they were finished, she would take the completed project and place it on an altar-like display with deranged Barbie dolls. One of my friends went through this ritual while I ate a cookie that was sitting on the table, and our third friend was given something similar to a tarot card containing an image of dolls. The actor who gave it to her told her to give it to the hostess, and not long after seeing the card, she erupted with anger and kicked everyone out of her party for no clear reason. When our friend tried to explain to a different actor where she had gotten the card, the man who had given it to her was seemingly invisible to all the other characters.
My friends and I then talked to a character named Isabelle, who claimed that she and the other actors could not leave. Or, actually, they could leave, but if they left, they would forever look the way they looked at that moment. And their looks had changed since they had come to this place.
Another character, Adley, asked for our names and how many stars we’d seen last time we looked at the sky. Then he asked us to sing with him, and he started to sing a song that repeated, “No more stars/No more stars/No more stars in Katherine’s sky.” You could say that that freaked me out.
Later, I was subjected to a job interview from the man with bloody wrists and a broken mug. His name was Dawkins. He asked me what I was afraid of, since I had put that I was “scared” on my questionnaire. After an extensive discussion, he wrote something on my questionnaire, handed it to me, and told me to give it to “the professor,” another character. When I did so, the professor said that Dawkins thought I was the “most imaginative one of the bunch.”
The singing girl with a guitar, who was extremely sweet, sang to us about how we should run with the wolves when we want to, and she told us to keep that in mind. She seemed sad.
Near the end of the show, I had my bones read, but I won’t go into that. Let’s just say that what was said was particularly, and eerily, accurate.
The performance ended with everyone in a single room, where all the actors began to chant, “Any choice is the right choice as long as it’s yours,” over and over and over. Then they opened the door and told us that we could stay if we thought we had great potential, and otherwise we could leave. A woman who did not seem to be an actor got up to leave and started to shout to the rest of us, “Come with me!” My friend and I got up and left out of fear, but our third friend stayed, because he had been sucked into a circle in the middle of the room and was holding hands with the others. He mouthed, “Don’t leave me,” as we left.
When we came outside, a stack of blank questionnaires was thrown at us, along with pens, and we were told to “start over.” We all stared blankly at each other for awhile, hoping it was a joke, until the rest of the audience who had stayed in the other room were released, and it was clear that we could finally go home. Our third friend said nothing special had happened after we’d left.
And that was the end of the show. I wouldn’t say I disliked it. In fact, it was quite intriguing. I almost want to go again to try and figure out the mystery, if there’s even a mystery to figure out.
As we were leaving, a fire truck pulled up by a bus station as we walked by. We all couldn’t help but fear that the show was still going on.
If you don’t believe me, or if you simply want to experience this for yourself, tickets are $5-$10 at http://improvpig.com. But just keep in mind, it could end up being a completely different show. No promises.