The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
Hogwash lets audience tell the story
By AVERY MATRO, Features Writer
Published: March 7, 2007
Anyone who has been around kids will tell you that a comedy performance that can hold a 5-year-old's attention for a complete hour is a real accomplishment.
Hogwash Improv is an improvisational comedy routine targeted toward kids ages 3-12 and does just that. Although filled with silly songs, kooky costumes, and crazy characters, the mission statement of Hogwash conveys their focus on the substantial benefits of entertainment:
"Hogwash encourages creative problem-solving and early arts-appreciation by empowering an inter-generational audience to take an active role in arts-integrated character and story development."
Running at the Historical University Theater from March 3 to May 19, the hour-long show thrives on the imagination of its young audience.
The narrator, a Steve from Blue's Clues type of character complete with notebook and giant pencil, interacts with the children to glean suggestions for the actors onstage. The children earn the honor of suggesting material through putting their finger on their nose, making duck beaks, or simply raising their hand.
The improvised storyline is then complemented with props created on the side by a graphic artist and music supplied by a jazz/funk band called The Hamstrings.
On Saturday, when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, the answer of "a scuba diver" set the actors up for a story about scuba divers. It also set the narrator up for a detailed description of why this little boy wanted to be a scuba diver and what videos he had seen about scuba divers and why octopuses were cool.
Two scuba divers, dubbed "the good scuba divers," were then named and dressed according to audience input. "Kaknock" was dressed in a bright shirt and "I forgot" was dressed in a bridal veil and skirt.
Naturally, the next element of a story is a goal for the protagonist scuba divers, so the audience was posed with the question of what good scuba divers might be looking for in the ocean? Why, a magic rock of course.
To complete the story, another pair of scuba divers was introduced: a pair of "bad scuba divers." Amid narrator-encouraged booing, the narrator asked, "What would bad scuba divers have that would help them find the rock before the good scuba divers?" A rather technology-savvy child answered from the back, "A rock detector!"
"Kaknock" and "I forgot" then set about their quest to find the magic rock and the "bad scuba divers" -- who received no names, only booing -- set about their quest to find it first.
With amusing dialogue, catchy improved songs (although awkward at times), and continued audience input, the story progressed until "Kaknock" found himself with the magic rock and he had one more wish to make (because the children decided that the magic rock granted wishes).
"What should be his last wish?" the narrator asked the audience. "He should wish for the bad scuba divers to become good," answered the selected child. And so the story of "Kaknock" and "I forgot," two good scuba divers in the search of the magic rock, was brought to a close by bad scuba divers becoming good.
That was the first half an hour.
The second half an hour was devoted to another story, this one involving a pet cat (named Bridge to Terabithia) and a pet guinea pig (named Sure) and their search for the cat's straw hat.
This is a unique approach to children entertainment. Hogwash was an official selection of comedy festivals in Chicago, Toronto, and Seattle and since its debut in Chicago in 2004 has traveled across Seattle, North Carolina, Minnesota, Maryland, and Toronto, Canada.
It is no "Who's Line is It Anyway?" but then again, they aren't trying to be. This is a show, though enjoyable for all ages, that is obviously directed at an elementary audience. Lines were delivered with a greater emphasis on intonation, rather than pace, and while witty, remained at an age-appropriate level the entire show.
So if you're looking to do something fun with the children you baby-sit, if you are a parent yourself, or maybe adventurously young at heart, head over to the Historic University Theater at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children.