The newest DCH sketch revue, Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations, premieres this Thursday, September 4th at 8PM. This sketch revue is the first revue created and performed entirely by students who have gone through the sketch program. Nick Scott, who taught this group for every level and directed the show, took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about the show, the sketch program, and the difference between improv and sketch. (Full disclosure: I am a writer of and performer in this sketch revue.)
How is this revue different from the earlier sketch showcases? The sketch showcases were just a selection of funny sketches written within those levels. They weren't connected thematically or narratively. A sketch revue is a full show that includes sketches, musical pieces, and monologue elements that are brought together to serve a specific theme or idea. You get to both laugh (hopefully) and think (hopefully).
What can you tell us about the show? The show is an exploration of what happens when we have big expectations about life that aren't met, and the ways that we cope with that disappointment. Also there is a Millard Fillmore joke. It's a culmination of everything the students have learned in the DCH Sketch Program. All the elements they have learned from week one of level one on are in the show in some way.
How is sketch different from improv? Improv is raw and in the moment. You can refine your personal improv skill set, but you don't get to refine specific scenes. You also get a lot of leeway and added laughs from the fact that the audience knows that you are making it up on the spot.
Sketch is refined and prepared. You take that initial scene, find out what the beats are, tighten up the dialogue and action, and work on the performances to make it just right. The audience expects something more polished and refined since you're had time to work out all the kinks, whereas they might laugh at those very kinks if they were in an improv show. There is a more discerning attitude in sketch.
In improv, what you throw out there is the end product, so when someone throws out an idea, everyone else's job is to make that idea as successful as possible. In sketch you do that when you first run the idea, but then you have to be able to sit back and say, "Well this move should've have been done this way," or "This idea probably wasn't the best to begin with."
You've been with the current sketch group since level one. How have you seen them grow over the levels, and what challenges have you faced taking a group of improvisers and turning them into a sketch troupe? The biggest way I've seen them grow is in their performances. Not just within sketch. I've watched them in improv shows over the past 6 months or so, and I've seen them play much more confidently and get to ideas much faster. I think that's something sketch does, because you are forced to do the same scene over and over, and you can actually dig into a character. The more you do that, the more you're able to access it quickly, which shows up in both sketch and improv.
I've also seen them get a better grasp on what will and what won't work on stage. They might not even realize it, but their pitches and ideas have become much clearer and easier to work with as they're progressed. Getting improvisers to do the same thing over and over can be tough. The scenes lose that initial, on-the-spot energy. And it can feel like work rather than play. Getting a group of improvisers to adjust to that and still find their ability to play and enjoy the scenes can be tricky.
What have been some of your favorite sketches or monologues from this group? The Too-Tight T-Shirt Guy? The Neighbors Who Share A Love Deeper Than Food? The Whale Scene With the Guy Who Makes All the Black Fish References? Hmm. None of those really impressed me. Actually my favorite sketch is one that we never found a place for. It's about this guy, who finds out he is adopted ... And his mom is really hot.
That sounds like a winner! Anything else you want to say about the show? Yeah, it'll humor the Dicken out of you! ... I'm sorry.
Oh, boy. We really can't end like that. How is this revue different from the earlier sketch showcases? It will revue the Dicken out of you!
Charles Dicken's Great Expectations runs Thursdays in September at 8PM. Get your tickets here.