Love to laugh? Does anyone not? Kismet Improv, which recently celebrated their first anniversary, is a live-comedy theater in Pawtucket owned by a husband and wife team. Artistic Director Luke Bruneaux has been providing improvisational comic relief since 2008, first in Chicago then later Boston. Executive Director Taylor Bruneaux started in Boston in 2012. Together they have created unique shows offering 90 minutes of improvised comedy. I spoke with Luke to learn more about this fun twist on the comedy scene.
Alison O’Donnell (Motif): What exactly is improv comedy?
Luke Brneaux: It’s a spontaneous comedy show, basically a funny play literally made up on the spot, with experienced performers engaging the audience’s participation. Unlike with TV, an improv audience is there to laugh out loud. The scenes are dynamic, the characters are interesting. It doesn’t really have a parallel. We have a very professional take on improv where our teams train hard to entertain the audience in a way they haven’t seen before. It’s pretty sophisticated, physical. Very fun for the audience to watch.
AO: How does it work?
LB: Unlike standup comedy, improv is opposite muscles, where you’re training yourself to be spontaneous in such a way that that’s what the audience is responding to. You’re calling out the reality of the scene in such a way that the audience is enraptured with the live action in front of them. It’s truth in a very Seinfeld kind of way, connecting with the people you’re on stage with, almost like comedy as a sport. That’s an analogy that helps you understand it – like basketball players playing all together.
AO: KISMETFEST marks the beginning of year two for the theater. What can we expect?
LB: It will really embody our change in programming … every performer, including guest performers, will be on stage at some point that weekend. Improv Jones, the longest-running improv team in RI, will be part of KISMETFEST. That’s a showcase of real improv veterans; and out-of-town acts as well. Our Kismet Players bring their signature wacky, creative and weird personalities to the stage.
There’s also a kids’ show, where they get to play with other kids in the show. Especially after the pandemic, these kids get to interact with each other, be the star on stage. We find, as the show goes on, these kids who were a little reserved really get into it. It’s very guided to celebrate the kids. The director, Jess Halpin, is experienced, especially with kids with disabilities. Jess has been performing for 10 years. Ayla Ahlquist, director of Operations, has been with Kismet Improv since the beginning, managing the theater’s daily operations including the school. A new director of Education, Kate Hopkins, will start in September. She’s one of the most well-known players on the improv stage.
AO: What if someone wants to try their hand at improv?
LB: Most people can learn. Some people are naturals. I know how hard it is to learn, and I want to have a theater where people could learn. You have to get on stage over and over again. What we’re really working on is creating a performer base to grow the improv community. It’s very rewarding. Many people find it adds to their lives.
AO: How do your classes work?
They run in four-week intervals. The whole program takes probably a year. The classes are extremely important, and we have a great set of teachers – veterans from Boston that are very welcoming, creating a warm environment, especially if you’re scared to do it. BIPOC folks are free using the code COMMUNITY. We also offer scholarships – you may request any level – especially to low-income individuals.
AO: Where can folks see a show?
LB: KISMETFEST runs September 9 – 11 for a full weekend of shows, workshops and parties. There’s also Kismet and Friends on Saturday, September 17, 7:30-9:30pm as part of this year’s Pawtucket Arts Festival. There were waves of time people weren’t coming out due to the pandemic. If you haven’t seen a show in a while, come on out and see the show! We have beer, wine, soda and a snack bar available.
Kismet Improv is located at 1005 Main St., Suite 2205 in Pawtucket. They are kindly offering a $5 discount on all tickets if you use the code “Motif.” For more information, visit www.kismetimprov.com/ or call 401-205-2552. You may also visit their Instagram page, kismetimprovri.com
Note: some answers were lightly edited for length or clarity.