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Third Date troupe stretches improv show from one word

<p>Courtesy of Jonathan Drake / Special to The Chronicle</p>

Courtesy of Jonathan Drake / Special to The Chronicle

This Friday, the Third Date Improv Troupe brings a different kind of comedy to the Common Ground Theatre.

Third Date Improv, formed in 2013, looks to provide a sincerely realistic form of comedy for its audiences. All four members of the group are experienced improv artists. Producer and director of the company Daniel Sipp met other members Nancy Pekar and J Chachula while working in the Transactors Improv Company in Chapel Hill. Fourth member Jenny Spencer was a student of Sipp’s for years before Third Date was formed. The troupe originally meant to have a constantly-rotating cast, but the four main members worked so well with each other that they all became permanent members.

While all of the members of Third Date are highly experienced, Spencer, the junior member of the troupe, has the unique opportunity to learn from her fellow members who have been performing for much longer than she has.

“A lot of the things that I’m going through now in my improv career, they’ve already been through because they’ve just been doing it for so long," Spencer said. "It’s really great to work with people who have that much experience and knowledge about it and really help guide the direction that we want to go in."

Spencer herself has been involved in improv for over ten years, beginning her career in high school.

Third Date’s style of improvisation differs from many other improv companies, using long-form improvisation to create pieces typically more serious than what one would normally find at an improv show. In contrast to short-form improvisation, which relies on short quips to provoke laughter from the audience, long-form-improvisation involves taking one suggestion from the audience and creating an hour-long show around that suggestion. While long-form has been around for almost thirty years, it is more well known in Chicago, and has only recently begun to spread to other places like Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Tx.

Third Date distinguishes itself from other long-form improvisation companies in that its pieces tend to be more sincere and realistic. All of the scenes that the company puts on are set in the real world and are more akin to something put on in a theatrical production rather than an improv show.

“We like to think that the scenes that you’re seeing are really important to the characters involved,” Sipp said.

The show usually contains a series of scenes that can be funny or serious, depending on what is taking place in them. As a result, Third Date’s performances tend to be heavier than traditional improv shows, but more light-hearted than a typical theater show.

“The thing that makes Third Date different is that it feels really real, whatever it is. It feels very sincere,” Spencer said.

A usual Third Date show starts off with the performers asking the audience a question, which could be asking the audience about something they’ve been thinking about, or something that they’ve had a conversation with a friend about. These suggestions can range from the topic of marriage to getting a new pet. Using the suggestion, the company then creates a series of scenes, which can involve all four members of the troupe, or merely just two people. Shows usually contain three four-person “group scenes”, which take place right at the beginning, in the middle and at the conclusion of the show. While not all of the scenes deal directly with the audience suggestion, these three “group scenes” are always based on the original suggestion.

The members of Third Date had their work set out for them when creating their own unique style of long-form improvisation—no other improv troupe in the Triangle area tries to create the mixture of seriousness and comedy that Third Date strives for.

“It’s been very interesting to try to figure out how to develop this style,” Sipp said. “We’ve been in the process of developing a style that we can’t watch anybody else around here do.”

The show takes place at Common Ground Theatre this Friday at 8 p.m. 

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