So there I was, innocently driving home this past Friday night, when I remembered – tonight was the night I was taking the Human Tape Recorder to her Theater Sports competition.
“Her what?” I hear you ask. Short version – it’s a bunch of kids on school teams competing to see who can do the best improv. Think “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” with 7th and 8th graders, and you’re there.
These 7th and 8th graders are better than average at this, albeit none of them is exactly that dreamboat Ryan Stiles, so I can’t say I’m dreading the trip. Oh wait, yes I can – it’s not the show I’m dreading, it’s the trip to get there. Why? Because I’m not driving the HTR to the show, I’m driving the HTR and two of her friends, who are also with her school’s Theater Sports teams, to the show. For 45 minutes. In traffic. In the dark.
Three 13-yr-old girls on any given day will not be even close to quiet. Three 13-yr-old theater girls on their way to an improv competition is like listening to the Stooges rehearse with a “Beach Boys vs the 1812 Overture” battle of the bands competition in the foreground, while trying to read 10,000 Twitter updates out loud at the same time. OK, now try to drive without hitting anything. After 10 minutes, the problem wasn’t “not hitting something with the car,” the problem was not WANTING to hit something with the car.
We made it in one piece, sanity notwithstanding, and I disgorged my young wards into the host school, Rocky Run Middle School. I paid my ticket and took my seat, finding a friend (the mom of one of the HTR’s friends) and commiserating with her. The show started shortly, and we watched. There were two games – first, your team is given 2 minutes and a nightmare thing to be scared of, and you take it from there. Second, your team is given a “In a… With a… While…” scenario, and you have 2 minutes to create a plausible reason for someone on your team to yell “I can’t believe I’m in a thing, with a thing, while thingying,” inside 2 minutes, whereupon your skit is over.
There were two MCs, presumably past masters of this craft and currently high school students. They had been doing this kind of thing for a while. I won’t say that they were both very much into theater, but one of them was Kurt Hummel. I’m not kidding.
One of the first teams up was afraid of exit signs – all the prompts were pretty random, which I suppose is the point – and they had fun with it. One kid lead off with being obviously afraid of exit signs, and the rest teamed up to taunt the first one in a dream sequence. One of them walked out, stopped dead center of the stage, and pointed out a-la an airline attendant all of the marked exits in the room. He then had the chance to do what so many of us only dream of – he looked at the kid who was afraid of the exit signs, looked out at the audience, and yelled, “Fire! Fire!”
I turned to my parent friend and said, “Did that kid just get away with yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater? That is so cool!”
By the time the “In a… With a… While…” part of the show started, deep vein thrombosis was setting in and I was really thinking about yelling Fire myself, just for a chance to get up for 30 seconds. Some of the “In a… With a… While…” skits were good, some were odd but good, and some were just odd. One of the first teams up managed to roll through 2 minutes without getting to the line, running out of time and knocking them out of contention.
The audience, getting restive at this point, all perked up with one of the skits near the end of this round, when a team was given the prompts of “In a Shoe, With ABC gum, While Poking the Homeless.”
Poking the homeless? WTF, over?
The kids, to their very real credit, did the best they could, and in 2 minutes made several references to “now you know it’s not right to poke those less fortunate,” et cetera. Still, more than half the audience was very clearly muttering, “WAT?”
I can’t believe I’m in a public school theater, with adults in supervisory capacities, while listening to this. Someone in Rocky Run Middle School experienced a very real lapse in good judgement Friday night. The kids competing obviously knew it, and did what they could to compensate, but still – not funny.
The first part of the show wrapped up and neither of the teams we were there for had advanced, so we collectively decided to relieve the pressure on our legs and brains, forestall the impending thrombosis, and make like drums. We beat it out of there, discussing things that are funny sometimes and things that just usually aren’t. All the teams did well, even the ones who did poorly, and I’m even looking forward to the next one. I hope they have real chairs.