Attention Deficit Players kick off monthly performances at The City Loft Saturday
by Marie Nesmith
Feb 04, 2011 | 3117 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the Attention Deficit Players rehearse for a Saturday night performance at The City Loft in Cartersville, from left, Meghann Humphreys, Erin Brown and Joel Coady. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Members of the Attention Deficit Players rehearse for a Saturday night performance at The City Loft in Cartersville, from left, Meghann Humphreys, Erin Brown and Joel Coady. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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As a founding member of the Attention Deficit Players, Alan J. Sanders finds that flexing one's improvisational skills can lead to the wonderful sound of laughter.

Formed about four months ago, the improv comedy troupe is preparing to kick off its regular public offering, performing on the first Saturday of each month at The City Loft, 110 S. Museum Drive in Cartersville. On Saturday, the doors open for the Comedy Improv Night at 6:30 p.m., with the two-hour show starting at 7:30 p.m.

"I love the fact that we can do an entire evening's performance without having to spend weeks in rehearsal building a set," said Sanders, who helped form the troupe with his wife, Susan Delmonico, and Meghann Humphreys, Tony Bowers, Mike and Teresa Harris, Shane Phebus and Erin Brown. "It's very free. There's a lot of freedom involved with being able to just say, 'Well, let's get together and put on an improv night.' There's no set. There's no rehearsals. It's just very easy.

"The second thing [I enjoy about it] is probably equal [to the first]. I love to make audiences laugh, especially [with] the kind of economies we've been in the last couple of years. People are stressed and to make people laugh -- it just feels great to know that you're making people feel good at least for a short period of time."

Looking back at their past performances, one of Sanders' favorite skits is called the return desk, which allows the audience to be in on the joke.

"[The audience knows] what's happening but one of the people in the skit doesn't," said Sanders, a Cartersville resident and past president of the local theater group The Pumphouse Players, which call The Legion Theater home. "The whole idea is two people are working a return desk -- a customer return desk like at Walmart or Target, it doesn't matter where -- and someone is having to return something. The gag is the person you picked to be the customer returning something has to leave the room.

"Everyone in the audience gets to then shout out ideas on what's being returned. Once the emcee picks it, that person comes back in [and] has no idea what they're returning, but they have to try to figure it out based on the interaction with the two people who are working the return desk. So the audience knows. The two clerks know. But, the person who's playing the game, they're trying to figure it out as they go along. It's a lot of fun. I love games like that where the audience is in on the gag."

Referring to the type of improvisation as "short form," Mike Harris said the troupe usually performs brief skits, using audience suggestions as a guideline.

"My wife, Teresa, is the emcee and hostess. She will set up the scene and then take suggestions from the audience on the particulars, like a location or an occupation or subject matter after the scene is set up," Harris said. "Then the actors have to go up and work with what they were just given, without any knowledge beforehand of what the scene might be. So one of them might be a slideshow with two actors having to pantomime out the actions while a third one describes the slide.

"Another popular one is party quirks, where one actor is put on stage as the host of a party. The other actors enter with quirks that the host doesn't know what they are and the host has to ascertain from questions and body language what the quirk of each one of the people is. ... A lot of our type of improv is very, very similar to the old Drew Carey show, 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' A lot of people saw that show and are very familiar with it. And when we reference that, at least it's a touch point that people can go, 'Oh, OK I know what that is.' So the setup is provided by the host, but the particulars are provided by suggestions from the audience and the actors have to act them out."

Even though the Attention Deficit Players is its own entity, the troupe is a splinter group of The Pumphouse Players. The troupe was formed after the thespians' improvisational talents emerged when participating in fundraising offerings at The Legion Theatre.

"The group itself was formed about three or four months ago. ... We were trying to do some fundraisers for The Pumphouse Players," Harris said. "My wife and I were running an audience participation improv night every couple of months at The Legion Theatre, and we were having real good success with it. Some of The Pumphouse Players' actors and actresses really proved to be very, very good improv actors, too, and they would show up every time we had the fundraiser night.

"They became our core performers. We still circulated among the audience members for the fundraiser and drew up various people, but there was simply a group that was always there and did a fantastic job. Then we were discussing this with Bob Smith over at The [City] Cellar and he thought it might be a good idea to try it out in his music loft, the upstairs area over The [City] Cellar. ... We tried it out and instead of strictly audience participation, we used our core of Pumphouse Players' actors as a troupe. We did it once or twice, just as a lark. Then Bob approached me as far as being a regular [act] there."

For more information about the Attention Deficit Players, visit its Facebook page or contact Harris at 770-331-1505. For Saturday's Comedy Improv Night, there is a $5 cover charge. Due to the possibility of adult language and themes, no one younger than 17 is going to be admitted without a parent.