Inspired by the comedy of New York City’s Improv Everywhere troupe, Director Nancy Owen and her daughter Kate Weston decided to use the unconventional approach to help promote the spring musical “A Chorus Line,” to be performed at New Paltz High School April 7-9. So if you see a group of high schoolers busting out into an impromptu skit or song at a New Paltz restaurant, business or grocery store, chances are it is part of the act.
“My daughter first introduced me to Improv Everywhere,” said Owen, who has been directing New Paltz Central High School plays since 2000. She explained that after seeing two clips of the group -- one where more than 200 of the troupe members descended upon Grand Central Station and set their watches so that at exactly 3 p.m. they froze in place, shaking hands, dropping papers, buttoning a coat, staring upwards -- that she was inspired to take this idea to her high school performers.
“The second clip was amazing. It took place at Trump Towers and involved one improv actor asking another what he was doing and he said ‘lunch,’ and then the first actor said, ‘I love lunch’ and burst into song. Before long, more of the improv troupe was breaking into this hilarious ‘I love lunch’ song. And when the security guard came over, they explained that they simply ‘loved lunch’ and he joined in, the patrons joined in and it was hilarious and joyous. And I thought, what a great concept.”
Owen noted that many of her high school performers have shown an interest in improv and when she proposed this concept to them, “15 were brave enough to step off the ledge,” she said. “I think more will sign on as we get closer.”
Currently she is contacting local restaurants, businesses and other retail outfits to get pre-approval for her performers to come into their establishments on March 26 and do a five-minute, improvised “song and dance” number that will hopefully get the clientele involved as well.
“If you ask any young child if they can dance, they will say ‘yes,’” Owen said. “If you ask any child if they can sing, they will say ‘yes.’ But really, everyone can truly dance and sing, regardless of their ‘ability’ or level of ‘talent’… It’s part of human nature to sing and dance and celebrate. When is it in the development of our kids, teens, adults that they become hesitant to do those things that are so natural and celebratory? That’s what we want to bring out.”
To kick things off, 40 cast members of “A Chorus Line,” as well as choreographer Kate Weston and Nicole Ferrante, the chorale director for the high school, will take part in this Friday night’s “Dancing with the Teachers.”
“Not only will our cast participate, as well as my daughter and Nicole, but we will perform one of our big numbers from ‘A Chorus Line,’” the director explained.
Owen noted that she will be advertising a list of participating businesses and restaurants in next week’s paper so that people might “want to go out and enjoy themselves and enjoy an injection of our local high school talent.”
“A Chorus Line,” which Owen characterizes as an out-of-the-box musical, can be best advertised by such a creative and engaging pre-show as the “Everyone Can Dance” improv in the local haunts of New Paltz.