‘There’s nothing like live laughter’: The Pinecone Uprising performs at Musiikki Café

Improv Troupe discusses performance after COVID-19

Pinecone Uprising performed on Oct. 21.
Photo: 
The Pinecone Uprising Improv Troupe performed at Musiikki Café in Kingston on Oct. 21. Though live improv and theatre has become increasingly difficult with COVID-19 guidelines, the five-member troupe was able to put on a show with added social distancing measures.
 
In an interview with The Journal, members Amy Wilding, Lenny Epstein, and Gavin North discussed the origins of their troupe, the power of live performance, and what makes improv so exciting. 
 
Wilding, Epstein, and North have all been involved in the improv world for years and have recently collaborated in creating their new performance group. 
 
“We’re all from various improv troupes,” Wilding said. “Lenny and Gavin came to an improv workshop I was hosting and we instantly became friends and had quite a connection, partly because we have a similar improv background.”
 
Epstein agreed with this statement, describing his prior experience. “Gavin and I are part of an improve troupe in Prince Edward County, and we’ve been performing with them for about seven years,” he said. 
 
“It’s such a small place where we are and we just wanted to play with different people. When we saw Amy was doing an improve workshop in Kingston, we just came down and hit it off.”
 
Unfortunately, the pandemic hit just as the three performers joined forces. 
 
“COVID hit and put the breaks on what we were doing, but we continued to create whatever we could including producing online shows,” Wilding said. 
 
The troupe did manage to perform at Musiikki Café twice at the end of August and were quite successful in terms of audience engagement and actual performance, according to the troupe.
 
Various theatre companies and improv groups have adapted to the pandemic by shifting their performances to either a Zoom or social media live stream setting. Epstein described the difficulty of moving performances online, suggesting that it diminishes the power of the art form. 
 
“I think there is something wrong with Zoom theatre,” said Epstein. “It’s just not the same. Live theatre is magic, and improvised theatre is magic in the moment—we really kind of connect on a bunch of levels where we have tons of fun.”
 
Wilding elaborated on the connection between the members of the troupe. 
 
“In improv, there’s a click,” they said. “And I hear that click whenever the five of us are on stage together. The biggest skill is making whoever you’re on stage with look amazing, but with that click you can almost sense what the other person is going to do.”
 
Performing during a pandemic comes with its challenges, especially when it comes to maintaining social distancing guidelines. The Pinecone Uprising confronted these challenges by directly addressing them through comedy. 
 
To ensure a distance was kept between audience and performers, someone had the role of alerting the performers if they moved too close to the audience–and this was integrated into the show as a gag. 
 
Because of these restrictions, the troupe performs wearing masks and microphones. “We’re not used to working with microphones like a stand-up comic does, but we have to use them clearly to be heard,” Wilding said. 
 
The troupe expressed their excitement for performing live improv, especially because of its ability to connect people through laughter.
 
“People were really missing that live connection,” Wilding said. “There’s nothing like live laughter, and that’s something I’ll never take for granted again.”
 
With files from Nathan Gallagher.

Corrections

This article has been udpated with The Pinecone Uprising's correct name. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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