Improv comedy troupe cultivates local actors' creativity


Members of the Roving Imp improv comedy troupe Joel Rook, left, and Chris Hurt perform a skit during a show at Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union Aug. 24, 2013.


Roving Imps leader John Robison, left, and Chris Hurt perform a skit during a show at Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union on Aug. 24, 2013.

Upcoming improv classes

Roving Imp

The next Roving Imp improv training workshop will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 21 at Alderson Auditorium.

Classes are $10. For more information and to register contact John Robison at 785-335-0305 or

Theatre Lawrence

Theatre Lawrence improv class will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 4 at Theatre Lawrence, 6440 Bauer Farm Drive.

The class costs $30. For more information, call Theatre Lawrence at 785-843-7469.

Roving Imp performances

The Roving Imp improv comedy troupe will perform next at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Big 12 room of the Kansas Union. Admission is "pay what you like."

Marty Honig had always thrived on stage, but she hated memorizing lines.

So when she found local improvisational comedy troupe the Roving Imps, she was hooked. With improv, she no longer worries about forgetting what to say; the comedic acting style made popular by the television show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” is completely unscripted.

Instead of a playwright’s lines or director’s guidance, improv actors perform scenes based on audience suggestions. Honig says she finds the lack of scripted words liberating.

“I feel more comfortable when I can create verses interpret.” Honig says. “In improv, I create my own theater and tell my own stories.”

Now, Honig and other Roving Imp members can be found performing outlandish skits regularly each Saturday at 8 p.m. on stages across Lawrence. Roving Imp owner and founder John Robison says the each show ranges from basic to extraordinary.

“Sets can be anything from a very standard one-act play to all-out performance art,” Robison said. “It can get really surreal.”

For example, in the “Whose Line”-inspired game “Doo-wop,” an actor asks the audience for a suggestion of an object, which troupe members then sing about to the tune of an oldies song. In another game, “Coma,” actors portray outlandish scenes of the fevered dreams of a coma victim.

While the idea of performing on the spot may sound intimidating, Robison says the off-the-cuff nature of improv releases actors from the confines of another’s artistic vision.

“It’s much faster to get into a show, connect with a character and create emotions immediately,” Robison said. “You don’t have to spend six weeks of a rehearsal period to try to create that depth artificially.”

Robison started the troupe in 2007 after training across the country with renowned improv companies like “The Second City” in Chicago. Originally located in Bonner Springs, Robison says he moved Roving Imp to Lawrence last year to take advantage of the town’s colorful nature.

“Lawrence has a better vibe appropriate for improv,” Robison says. “It’s just a giant hub of creativity.”

But the move to Lawrence was not without sacrifice. Robison says the decision to move his comedy troupe farther from the Kansas City metro hurt the Roving Imp's progress.

“I lost a lot of my performers when I came to Lawrence, because most came from Kansas City,” Robison says. “I also lost about 100 percent of my audience when I made the move.”

For the past year, Robison has been rebuilding his audiences and training new actors to join their team, offering monthly improv workers for $10 to help actors develop their improvisational abilities.

One of his most recent students, Heather Hare, had performed in improv troupes in high school and college. After graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in May and missing her creative outlet, she sought Robison’s classes.

Hare says she enjoys the zaniness of improv comedy because it provides a chance to escape reality.

“It gives you the opportunity to be whoever you want to be, as opposed to being confined by a script,” Hare says. “It can be scary because it’s all unscripted and I never know what’s happening until it comes out of my mouth. You just have to give it your all.”

But Robison says you don’t have to be a practiced comedian or trained performer to succeed at improv, all you have to do is be yourself.

“Everybody has the ability to be funny,” Robison says. “Most people laugh the hardest naturally when they are themselves around their friends. We do that, too; we just do it on stage.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.