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The Hothouse: Improvised Theatre

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I have never been an improv fan. Another empty back room? Another watered-down drink? ANOTHER bunch of folks asking me to “name a city” so that they can squeeze some cheesy hilarity out of it? No thanks. Me and my Friday night are gonna hang out on the solo tip.

However, I will drop everything I have when there’s an improv show at the Hothouse in the NoHo arts district. Every Friday night until the end of the month, go see how it should be done: improv with a brain, improv with a gutsy, gut-busting sense of humor, improv as – dare I say it? – art.

On the Hothouse stage, the actors create their universe without audience suggestion. The lights fall, the live band begins to play, and it’s on. There’s a distinct feeling of playing here – like when you were a kid and you just kept playing make-believe with your tablecloth-cape and headband-tiara until it was time for dinner.

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Through collective movement and a lot of eye contact, the actors create stories so well-executed, relevant and funny that I have often heard audience members ask each other after the show, “was that really all improvised?” (Yes it is). I’ve been twice in the past month, and I’ve seen everything from an eloquent yet witty exploration of spirituality and God, to a damning political commentary on a certain senatorial scandal in the Minneapolis airport men’s bathroom.

More on the Hothouse including when and where after the jump!

Each actor on the Hothouse stage has been through the theatre's established and extensive training program. The directors teach this long-form improv style, perfected by the granddaddy of improvised theatre, Del Close. Indeed, the theatre's directors John Thies and Todd Stashwick even trained with Close, so you know you're in good hands. And unlike many improv stages where men dominate the cast, women thrive at the Hothouse, rounding out that grunt-grunt male humor you sometimes have to tolerate at other places.

The shows run every Friday at 8pm, until Nov. 30th. There's a live band, and as I mentioned, BYOB. For $10, you get about two hours of entertainment: two 22-minute shows by the theatre's graduates (the "Project 22" shows) and one 40-minute show by the alumni, which is usually the highlight.

Tickets sell out quick so come a little early, buy your tickets and maybe grab some pizza at the Pit Fire Grill down the street. Whatever you do, go to this gem of a theater and witness what improv is really about: wit, guts and imagination.

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The Hothouse
4934 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood, CA 91601
(818) 331-2611

Photo by Aarti for LAist