Back by popular demand, a new Lansing-based improv comedy group is making an encore appearance this week in Old Town. The four members of Skildtrade are returning Thursday to Old Town Marquee, the venue where they performed for the first time as part of the Renegade Theatre Festival in August. Though they have performed together numerous times over the years, the members are making their relationship official and hope to begin a regular series of shows.
“We’re very excited,” said Rico Bruce Wade, creator of the group and a former member of the defunct Second City Detroit. “We’re trying to do things that are unique.”
After the success of August’s performance, Wade felt that group’s high-energy comedic style would be perfect for regular shows. He had been hoping to establish an improv group in Lansing for a while.
“Here we had people who were quick, smart, funny, with a unique point of view," Wade said.
The rest of the group comprises actor Bruce Bennett, actress and ventriloquist Kellie Stonebrook and actress Angie Dill. The quartet has been rehearsing weekly since the group was formed. The Thursday performance marks the group’s first show since deciding to make things official.
The members of Skildtrade have unique talents in their repertoire. Resident ventriloquist Stonebrook plans to use her puppets in the show.
“She’s a really good vocal mimic,” said Bennett, who has used his talents as a prop-maker to help construct Stonebrook’s dummies. “She can turn into a lot of people.”
The group also hopes to experiment with some "forward thinking" theatrical elements, Wade said. During the show, audiences are encouraged to send ideas to @skildtrade on Twitter, and the suggestions will be incorporated into the act. The group has even been known to give out relationship advice to lovelorn tweeters who ask for guidance.
“We take a lot of suggestions from the audience,” said Bennett. “It's pretty great.”
“It’s kind of unusual. In most theater experiences, you're asked to put your phones away,” said Wade.
The cast is also experimenting with other forms of technology, including video and music, with a goal of "immersing the viewer." Bennett, who enjoys making videos, may create some video shorts for the shows. The group hopes to surprise viewers with the results of its hard work.
In addition to its regular lineup, the group plans to bring in guest artists. This week’s performance will feature Jeff Fritz of ComedySportz Detroit and comedian Quentin Heggs, two of Wade's friends from the improv community.
“We wanted to add to the ensemble to add more voices to the show,” Wade said.
Skildtrade and its guests promise an evening of nimble and witty humor with a healthy helping of audience participation and multimedia entertainment.
“Improv is all about telling stories spontaneously,” Wade said. “It’s going to be great fun.”
Skildtrade Comedy Show
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 $10 Old Town Marquee 319 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing ricoshow.com/skildhome.htm