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Ophelia’s Jump Productions Western improv show called “The Good, the Blank and the Blankety” ran from Upland from May 17 to May 19.
Caitlin Lopez, associate artistic and improv director, at Ophelia’s Jump, sought a crew that would perform long form improv to provide a challenge to them.
“As much as I love short form, I love long form and I love doing narrative long form,” Lopez said. “It’s a fun challenge, it’s interesting and you get to act without a safety net.”
The team began performing Harry Potter improv shows for a year then decided to branch out to other genres and shorten the team name to “Blankety Blank.”
The actors have years of experience with improv and often started their careers in high school to expand their acting skills.
For actor Jenelle Kester, she branched out into improv to challenge herself and become more versatile in acting.
“Growing up, I’ve always done scripted theater and I love it, but the idea of being my own playwright and coming up with my own lines was terrifying,” Kester said. “Improv has been an amazing thing for me over the course of the years, breaking out of my shell and making big choices in scenes; now I do it a lot the people I get to perform with are some of my best friends.”
This time, the acting crew strapped on their cowboy boots and hats for a satirical improv take on the Western genre.
Since improv shows are unscripted and unplanned before performances, the only known fact regarding the show was its Western theme. It began as a traditional sisterly bond story between Petunia and Ruth, which are played by Lopez and Kester, the co-owners of the House of Hospitality, until one of their friends Tabitha suddenly died at their business and sought to investigate.
The two bumped into Sheriff Wilson and convinced him to investigate alongside former detective turned lawyer Gabriel Desaunt. Meanwhile, brothers Andy, Isaiah and Ruckus robbed every place they reached and sought after Petunia’s business after hearing an advertisement about their charity event. After Ruckus, played by Lopez, and Isaiah died in a battle, Andy escaped and accidentally turned himself into a prisoner, where he shared his life story with Wilson and Desaunt.
Actor Alex Foster enjoys how improv is unpredictable, which led up to Andy’s jail scene and character development.
“It was such a quirky, interesting character to have show up in this genre,” Foster said. “I think we try to play a lot of these hard characters with these specific morals and that’s not somebody I expect someone to see in a Western, so it was delighting to watch that.”
Wilson received a spur as a clue that could lead to the murderer, in which Andy revealed that his uncle Phoenix River, played by Foster, often used them either to collect or utilize as a weapon, so he approached River’s house to investigate. River later reveals that his aggression towards women began shortly after Petunia broke up with him.
Desaunt convinced Petunia to go speak with River as she is dying and constantly coughing up blood. After he shot and killed Wilson, Petunia shoots her ex-lover and kills herself, leaving Gabriel behind to run the town.
Patron Toby Guebert watched the play to learn about improv outside of his own lessons and to support the production company.
“I am a Shakespeare actor who takes improv classes here and always support Ophelia’s Jump,” Guebert said. “I enjoy seeing the creativity of the actors coming up with lines at the very last second.”
The Blankety Blank team is scheduled to perform a new improv play based on noir films that runs from Aug. 16 to Aug. 18.
Nicolette Rojo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.