For four years, Savannah's improv comedy crown has been collectively worn by the troupe known as the Odd Lot (and yes, it's a big crown). With a few exceptions, the bedraggled gaggle of goofballs and social misfits can be found every Monday night of the year at Muse Arts Warehouse, where they act, cavort, spit, spurt and verbally spar, all without a script.
“All of our performers have that pre-disposition that allows them to do it well,” says co-founder Justin Kent. “It’s a special mindset.”
In recent weeks, the Odd Lot menu has expanded to include a Saturday interactive performance at Savannah Coffee Roasters (Iced at the Coffee Shop: A Murder Mystery), and in June they’ll launch an improv series for children, plus a dinner theater show (fully scripted, but jammed with the sort of wall-to-wall wackiness the Odd Lot has built its urban legend upon).
That’s right, Kent and fellow founders Christopher Soucy and Lynita Spivey are growing the business.
They’re still not making any money at it—although that would be nice—but comedy is their passion, and they’ve gotten pretty good at it. Anyway, these days there are 14 people in the company, and that sort of creativity requires multiple outlets.
Five new members were added after a recent round of open auditions. “It’s a great way to mix it up,” Kent explains. “We get to a point where we really gel together—if I get on a stage with Chris, or with Lynita, I know how their minds work. And I can kind of guess how it’s going. You throw some new members into the mix, and it amps things up.”
Soucy, who directs the Odd Lot’s web series My Roommate from Hell, says this is all part of a Bigger Picture. “We’d like to get into larger series on the web, and film and TV production, all that kind of stuff,” he explains.
“Conceptually, we just have a lot of really talented people who aren’t having the same outlets they could have in other places. We can offer an actor a good chance to perform, a camera person a chance to shoot something good, an editor a chance to edit ... Zachary Burke, who’s our editor, is super-sharp. But he doesn’t have a whole lot of work as an editor. So we’re able to facilitate people’s passions.”
For three years, Odd Lot members have performed weekly as part of the interactive murder mystery Dead in the Water, with the River Street Riverboat Co.
Improvisational comedy, according to Soucy, isn’t as easy as it looks. “There are plenty of brilliant actors who cannot do improv,” he says. “It’s out of their wheelhouse; they’re very uncomfortable. Performing in front of people is nerve-wracking as it is. A large portion of the population can’t even fathom getting up in front of other people.
“And then to say well, you can’t even have the safety net of someone else’s words, or any structure, it’s really tightrope walking without a net.”
Kent and Soucy will be the first two Odd Lotters to perform in The Story Trunk, Saturday and Sunday afternoons (two shows each day) at Savannah Coffee Roasters, beginning June 7. For each show, children in the audience will play an active role in the storytelling—the titular trunk will be opened to reveal masks, puppets, props and costumes, which the pair pf performers will use to tell a brand-new tale every time.
Soucy, who spent 20 years as a professional puppeteer, says the Story Trunk will take a cue from Italy’s famous masked commedia dell’arte. “Hopefully it will give families in Savannah something to do,” he says. “Every single show will be different. Even if a child wants the same story, it’s going to be different.”
June 10 will mark the debut of The Ghostly Guests, planned as the first in a series of dinner theater shows written specifically for each restaurant or pub (this one’s at Circa 1790).
Iced at the Coffee Shop, which began May 10, takes place Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. With a script by Kent and Soucy, this one also features an interactive plot (“Solve a murder! Win a prize!”)
“Three actors play seven characters,” Kent laughs. “That’s a big part of the fun of the show—we make it harder and harder for them to change costumes.”
As the world of Odd Lot Productions expands into new media and untried territories, the group’s founders never forget why they started doing this stuff in the first place.
“When you come to a show, you can see that we’re just loving this, and we’re having a great time,” Kent says. “If I go for a couple weeks without it, I’m missing it hard, because I love doing it. And I think everybody feels that way.”