Thursday, August 9, 2001
Comedy? In abundance.
Live, uncanned laughter?
Perpetual Commotion, the local eight-person improvisational comedy team, delivers all that in its 90-minute show, playing next at Hood River's CAST stage Friday, Aug. 17, at 7:45 p.m. Admission is $7.
For the uninitiated, improvised comedy, or "improv," brings the stage actors close to the audience, which offer suggestions for stand-up skits and songs that Perpetual Commotion creates from near nothingness.
Aptly named, Perpetual Commotion constantly weaves its unrehearsed lines -- drawn from history, sports, current news -- into the situation stuck in front of them.
In "Groundhog's Day," the team starts a skit, freezing in midstream at a judge's command whistle. Then they repeat the first part of their sentence (changing the ending) until the judge is satisfied and quits blowing the whistle. After much audience laughter, the judge allows the piece to skitter off in a new direction.
Or "The Battle of the Bands," which pits half the comedy team with guitarist Scot Bergeron, and the other half with guitarist Harold McBain of Mosier. The audience picks band names and song titles, watching the bands battle it out.
"For a lot of us, it was learn by doing," says Janet Renfroe of Hood River. "Incorporating music is just something we've started doing. It's fun to do and it's fun to watch."
Another thing about improv is that, even with the exact actors, you'll never get the same show twice.
Here's what group members have to say:
"I really, really, really enjoy being with people in the improv group," says Bergeron, 40, who's only been with the group a few months. "It's really fun and mentally stimulating people. (Rehearsal is) like going to a party every Monday night where people play charades. It's great. . . . They play with me every Monday night."
While Bergeron speaks, hyena-like shrieks and noises erupt from behind the curtain.
"It exercises my brain, and having to think on my feet in public situations -- it's great!" said Bergeron.
Five years ago, Perpetual Commotion's founding members -- Peter Tappert of The Dalles, Jeanette Burkhardt and Renfroe -- groped their way around before finding some direction.
In some ways, they're still searching, but they have branched out to offer workshops.
"We teach the community about improv," says Tappert, "and promote (Perpetual Commotion) and look for talent."
In essence, the team is looking for more group members -- ones that'll fit in. "Chemistry is a really huge thing with improv," says Tappert.
The team exudes chemistry, and members say it has evolved into something magical.
"We've worked together on other productions -- at The Dalles community theatre and [CAST in Hood River]. It's a rebirth of an old group," says Sergio Fossa, 52, of Carson, Wash. He says the best part is working with the others, developing good relationships and a high level of trust and commitment.
But enough of the serious stuff. Fossa adds, "It's one level of wackiness to the next."
"Improv is really a great opportunity for creativity. Your imagination is your only limitation and what's really neat is that everybody else's imagination sparks yours.
"What happens is we become a team, camaraderie, family, formed by participation of the art form. It's great stuff."
In addition to those listed, members also include Emily Silver, a Hood River Valley high school student, and Bill Lytle, a drama teacher in The Dalles.
For Burkhardt, comedy is a great vehicle for reaching deeper levels.
"I'm interested in things that are challenges," she says. " . . . digging deep inside you and pulling things out that you didn't know were there. Especially with this group. It's synergistic.
"We end up losing ourselves somewhere. And sometimes you say things or do things you're not even (aware of) . . . and you're not just amazed at yourself, but at others, too.
"If you think too hard or if you try too hard, it doesn't happen. It's something that just wells up.''
To contact Perpetual Commotion, you can visit their website at www.perpetualcommotion.com, or call Peter Tappert at (541) 386-7660 for more information. CAST Performing Arts Center is located at 105 Fourth St., Hood River.
'Improv is really a great opportunity for creativity. Your imagination is your only limitation and what's really neat is that everybody else's imagination sparks yours. What happens is we become a team.'
-- Harold McBain
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge