We sit down, the lights dim, when very suddenly a charming guy in a suit jacket steps out into the spotlight, and then he heads over towards the keyboard. As he sits down, he gives pause for about 10 seconds before his posture lifts up, he grabs the microphone, and jumps into a riffed delivery of a powerful line…
It’s Friday night ladies and gentleman! I hope you’re ready! Please welcome the cast of the 11 O’Clock Number!
An ensemble of 20-somethings (sometimes early 30’s) explode out of various areas of the stage and break into song right as the music amps up. If you haven’t been to one of their shows before, this can be a bit surprising, if you have, then it’s a comforting spectacle which precedes something which I can assure you, no one has ever seen before.
I write it this way because every show is literally unique!
If you haven’t been to the 11 O’Clock Number before, you are in luck, as the Grindstone Theatre production has just started it’s 4th season about a month ago. The show takes place every Friday, at 11 PM incidentally, at Edmonton’s very own Backstage Theatre (10330 84 Ave NW) between the early months of fall until the beginning of summer, almost without fail.
Admittedly, I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced this improvised musical more times than I can count at this point for the previous season. And a handful of times throughout seasons 1 and 2.
Why am I telling you about this event you ask, dear readers?
Because it’s pretty damn awesome and a wonderful way to experience live theatre in Edmonton and to kick off the weekend. The fact that the show is on at 11 at night has almost assured that a cult following would develop, because in my experience, theatre doesn’t usually happen that late. At least not here. In Edmonton. Canada’s “Festival City.” WTF.
But that doesn’t tell you much about the show itself!
The Number, the pet name commonly known to it’s cast and adherents, tells a different story every Friday night. Using a group of 5-7 performers, always accompanied on keyboard and usually by Erik Mortimer or a guest, and sometimes on drums by Curtis Den Otter, is a show for the audience and by the audience.
How the Artistic Director, Byron Trevor Martin, accomplishes this, is quite demonstrative of his own ability to adapt and help drive the story forward when he participates in the shows himself.
There are a number of formats that the cast employs to set up the show – from their directors cut (with a narrator making comments and who also directs the show from behind the scenes), to the musical mixer (short form improv, followed by a condensed long form second half), the classic format (creating a show from audience suggestions), life is a musical (an audience member tells their life story and it’s acted out), the costumed musical (the cast does a poll and comes up with a theme), or the wild card show (cards that can effect the story are given to audience members, who shout them out at will).
All of the themes are employed to effectively set up a show on the spot and by this same token it informs the performers so that they can tell a long form improvised play that features improvised songs throughout. Sometimes the songs are performed by one person, other times we’ll see a duet, and then we might see an epic performance which features all members of the cast, but whatever the inspiration, it’s always played to comedic effect.
These are funny stories.
Sometimes they are weird stories, but they are always funny stories.
I’ve even attended their classes and learned some improv skills myself. This theatre company has provided tremendous value for the local community in other ways too. They host an “Open Jam” on the last Tuesday of every month at the Holy Trinity Church (10037 – 84 Avenue) as well as co-hosting The Social Scene with Citadel Theatre every month.
Like I said, tremendous value to the local community, especially to theatre artists.
So what do you think? Are you interested in checking out The Late Night Show? Want to read more of these kinds of posts? Have some suggestions local events for timotheories to share? Hit me back!
Otherwise, I’m theoried out for the night and am gonna need a couple of days to recuperate. See you fine folks soon.