Improv at The Black Box excites


Lizette Chavez

Luke Duffel and Nolan Long play the part of an old man and caretaker during an improv scene on stage at The Black Box in Bakersfield College.

Ambria King, Photo Editor

Bakersfield improv troupe Brian’s Beard graced Bakersfield College with a laugh-out-loud performance on Aug. 31.

The two-part performance took place in The Black Box, which is located in the BC performing arts center, and featured intimate story telling from monologist Miles Worthy, which was then deconstructed into improvised routines by the rest of the troupe.

Brian’s Beard, who derived their name from BC professor Brian Sivesind, also features performers John Spitzer, Martin Arroyo, Carlos Vera, Josh Carruthers, Nolan Long, Luke Gaines Duffels and Jose “Paco” Tenorio.

The troupe covered subject matter ranging from the mundane to the disturbing. During the first half of the show, Worthy shared an intimate story about a horrifying encounter with the Bakersfield Police Department that ended with a homeless man being beaten and pepper sprayed in front of Worthy and his family. Worthy managed to tell the story in such a way as to leave the audience alternating between gasps of horror and fits of uncontrolled laughter.

“Comedy comes from truth,” said Worthy, “I think the more brutal it is, the funnier it is. You can’t be afraid to go to some dark places sometimes. You have to be honest and try to honor yourself as a performer and an artist … I don’t know if it means I’m a damaged person, but when I’m in fucked up situations I’m often thinking, ‘this is going to make for a good story!’”

Audience member Chris Estrada said the story was his favorite part of the performance. “Out of context, it’s like whoa,” said Estrada, “but you had to hear the build-up. It was really funny in the moment.”

The troupe doesn’t limit themselves to just performances. They also offer improv workshops, which they encourage all people, even those who aren’t interested in a career in improv or acting, to attend. According to the performers in Brian’s Beard, practicing improv can help one in all kinds of different situations, from a workplace environment to day to day life.

“As trite as it sounds, real life is improv. None of this is scripted. Even the most type-A personality people, we just have to react to the world. That’s all improv is, just reactions,” said Spitzer, “The skills you need for improv are listening, acceptance, group mind, being able to walk in other people’s shoes, and being able to let go of things that are out of your control.”

Long agreed with this sentiment, adding that practicing improv can really help one to break out of their shell.

Brian’s Beard hope to expand their performances to more local venues, like The Empty Space and Dagny’s Cafe.

For information on upcoming shows from Brian’s Beard, check out their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram @ BriansBeardImprov.