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Courtesy Kenneth Kole

Kinkonauts rewrite Shakespeare through improv

By Rachel Woodward, January 10 2016 —

Are you someone that just can’t seem to get enough Shakespeare in your life? Are you ever sad that no one seems to apprecite iambic pentameter anymore? It might be a good idea to check out an improv show that, while not really written by the man himself, very well could have been.

Once a month for the past two years, Calgary improv troupe the Kinkonauts have performed Much Ado From Nothing, a 45-minute completely improvised Shakespeare play.

Kinkonauts artistic producer Owen Chan says that the Shakespeare performance is the most popular of the group’s shows partly because of the intimidating feat of improvising Shakespeare’s tricky prose and complex narratives.

As one of the group’s founders, Chan says the troupe works specifically in genre and long-form improv.

“The style we wanted to do didn’t exist yet in town, even though there was tons of other great improv happening,” he says. “We do a lot of genre shows and other shows that are longer form. We do a show inspired by a live musician, so they’ll play a song and we’ll do improv and we go back and forth through the night.”

Much Ado From Nothing takes place each month and features fully Shakespeare-inspired improv. Unlike conventional improv shows, audience participation is minimal.  The audience provides the title of the play and the actors draw their own conclusions as to whether the show should take on classic tragedy or comedy characteristics. They then integrate various tropes commonly found in Shakespeare’s narratives.

The group doesn’t move through this topic blindly. Stephen Kent, an artistic director with the Kinkonauts, trained at the Birmingham Conservatory and spent two seasons with the Stratford Festival of Canada.

Chan feels that it is important the performance honours Shakespeare instead of just using his conventions as a humorous aspect of the play.

“We try really hard not to just parody Shakespeare, we’re not trying to do a send up of a Shakespeare. We’re actually trying to improvise something that is believably Shakespeare, although shorter,” he says. “We have to remind ourselves to be true to the source material [and] allow ourselves to have a real love story on stage, allow ourselves to have a real tragedy on stage and that can be hard sometimes when you’re getting caught up in double-entendres and dick jokes.”

Much Ado From Nothing will take place this month on Jan. 14 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 online.

For more information, visit kinkonauts.com

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