Beckwith to host improv performances Friday, Saturday

Published 9:18 am Thursday, February 21, 2019

DOWAGIAC — This weekend, a show that no one has ever “scene” before will be coming to Dowagiac.

The Beckwith Theatre will host several improv shows by the Beckwith Improv Group this weekend. Friday, there will be a youth improvisers show at 7 p.m., which is suited for viewers of all ages. At 9 p.m. Friday, there will be an adult-only show. The shows will continue into Saturday, with a family-friendly show at 7 p.m. and an adult-only performance at 9 p.m.

There is no set ticket cost, though donations will be taken at the door. A cash bar will be available at all shows. Round Oak Revisited is sponsoring the show.

Improv, short for improvisational theater, is a form of unscripted comedy that relies on games, frameworks and occasional audience participation, to create a unique set of scenes and skits. The performances this weekend will mark the fifth year in a row that the Beckwith Improv Group has hosted such a show in Dowagiac, and its directors, Ryan Murray and James Huffman, said they are grateful for the way the community has embraced them and improv comedy.

“We thought that this was going to crash and burn after the first one,” Huffman said with a laugh. “The fact that we are able to do this for a fifth time around is good. It’s a good feeling. … This has been successful beyond our wildest dreams.”

“Our shows have always been well attended, and we are very grateful to those that have come out,” Murray added. “We appreciate that people continue to support us.”

Though the group has now been hosting shows locally for half a decade, this weekend will be one of firsts for the group, as it will mark the first time the group has organized a second night of shows. Previously, the improv group would host two shows on a single night, but Murray said that due to high demand, they decided to add an extra night of laughs this year.

“People would say to us, ‘you have to host an extra night’ because our seats would fill up, and we would have to turn people away,” Huffman said. “We are listening to the feedback and hosting an extra night.”

Hosting a second night of shows is not the only first the improv group is taking on this year. Additionally, Friday night’s 7 p.m. performance will be the first time the group has let a group of high school students take the stage for its youth improvisers show.

Murray said the improv group was inspired to bring on young performers after several local students expressed interest in trying their hands at improv. So far, Murray said the move has been successful and brought new energy to the annual show.

For the students participating, the opportunity to perform improv has been a way to flex their creative muscles and show off their comedy chops.

“It’s insane,” said Jonathan Stockwell, 18, of Dowagiac. “I’m really glad I did it.”

“My family has been with the theater for a couple of other plays,” added Jonathan Brooks, 16, of Dowagiac. “When I heard about improv, I thought it would cool to join. … It’s fun.”

Whether audiences come for the youth improvisers show or any of the three other performances this weekend, both Huffman and Murray said that they are sure to have a good time and leave with a smile on their faces.

“It’s just a really good night — now nights — of entertainment,” Huffman said. “No matter what comedic avenue that people enjoy, I’m sure there will be something in the show to make them laugh.”

For reservations to any of the performances, call (269) 782-7653.