Whether in a book, a song, a poem or any other form, fantasy is always a tale.
With fantasy, anything is possible. The only limits are the boundaries of an individual’s imagination. In most cases, there is planning involved and a set path for the formulated plot. In rare cases, the story comes spontaneously. The characters, their background and even the rhythm is majestically presented
on a whim. A true art of its own, separate from a learned rhyming pattern or a well thought out twist. Improvised storytelling works from the clues surrounding the storyteller. Not everything can always be planned.
For the cast members of Dork: Dungeons and Dragons, improv is their forte. Each show works with a few suggestions from the audience to create a comedic, improvised story.
Dungeons and Dragons has been an improvised fantasy game since the 1970’s, while Dork: Improvised Dungeons and Dragons plays a literal game of Dungeons & Dragons on stage.
One of the creators, Todd Couch, directs the story as the Dungeon Master. Couch will write a broad script with a Mad Lib format, leaving spaces for the audience to fill in random nouns to guide the story. From there, the cast will improvise the mission.
“We just ask for animals, parts of body, things like that and it builds out the entire legend for the dark crystal and fills out the adventure throughout the night,” Couch said.
The main goal is to find the dark crystal. The cast is told the outline with the audience during the opening scene and the rest is their creation.
“He lays out this whole guideline and then we improvise the rest of it. So all the words are made up, we never know what we are going to say, we never know where we are going to go, who we are going to meet. It’s really fun,” said Elizabeth Frazier, one of the main heroes who normally plays an elf ranger named Xandriel.
The show used to follow three main heroes on a large journey. Couch wanted more of the cast members to have an opportunity to play the hero, so he switched to the Mad Lib crystals and switches the heroes and villains each time. Sometimes, the characters will still refer to a prior show for backstory.
“When I told the story about my father killing my demon son, that really happened,” said Thomas Robinson, who usually plays a pirate bard named Jurek.
One of the characters relates himself to his personal life. Rahul Shah plays a wizard hero in many of the shows and is also a magician in real life. Shah will perform magic on audience members in the lobby before the show.
After Dork is One-Shot, a live action comic book with the majority of the same cast. Tony McNitt is the director for One-Shot while also doing the lighting for Dork.
One-Shot takes two photographs from an old comic book strip as the guidelines. The show opens with a picture to start and the cast is required to end with the closing picture. Everything in between is improvised.
The stories used to follow a superhero theme, but now it relies on the melodrama of older comic books.
The cast came together taking classes at the Voodoo Comedy Club. They were part of another improv called Hotdog City. Steve Wilder, the owner of Voodoo, invited Couch and McNitt to direct Thursday-Nerdsday improv nights. The night is designed to be two hours of nerd comedy on the first Thursday of every month.
Voodoo Comedy Club is known for hosting improv classes and having a majority of improv comedy shows for audience members.
“I would recommend every person to take improv classes,” Frazier said. “It’s like playtime for adults. So I recommend everyone to do it. It can build confidence, it can make your mind much faster.”
Thursday Nerdsday is the first Thursday of every month starting at 8 p.m. at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse 1260 22nd St. in Denver.
Shah will also be having a magic show Feb. 25 at the Boedecker Theater in Boulder at 8:30 p.m.