Breaking Bob

By Bob Olmstead

By Bob Olmstead

“Hi, my name is Bob and Im a recovering executive” followed by the obligatory “Hi, Bob- it works when you DON’T work it.” No, not a typo and no, not a recovery meeting. My first year in improv at The Hideout felt like that every single time I showed up to class. I was so riddled with defense mechanisms that getting an honest moment out of me was like trying to hug an enraged Bantha! Almost four years later to the month, I return to The Hideout Theater with a dramatic improvised play that I produce, direct and narrate; a show- ironically, about emotional transparency. Could someone please cue “Circle of Life” from the booth? Thanks!

My first exposure to improvised narrative was at my first PGraph show, Roy sitting with the audience yelling out emotionally charged dialog to a rather intense (this will be a shocker) Kareem, who Im sure was flying through the air or something like that. They bantered back and forth and yet in their comedy, heartfelt moments of purity just organically appeared. Wow, you can do that? I then spent an entire weekend studying narrative improv with PGraph, changing my view of improv forever.

The inspiration for Breaking Beckett came from a mash up of having been traumatized as a child by Samuel Beckett’s one act play, simply titled “Play” (I was way too young to see that show, like ten) and an improv show wherein a young man honestly shared the societal shame he had faced all his life for being gay. I felt improvising some of Beckett’s work could make for a powerful format to explore what people were REALLY feeling and thinking. I pitched the concept to Marc Majcher, Jayme Ramsey and Ryan Hill- who immediately got excited and signed on. Almost nine months later, three successful shows under our belt at The Institution Theater, who has been fantastic, Asaf Ronen offering great tech insights, Tom Booker’s calm reassurance, I’m returning home to The Hideout, where it all began- an emotional benchmark for me.

When in early development, Kareem Badr helped me work through some of the staging and narrational challenges, counsel that continues to serve me to this day. Kaci Beeler developed the fundamental look of the eye make-up which Marc and the cast then advanced. Kaci also suggested creating programs for the show, being it is not formally announced, fantastic advice. As well, most Breaking Beckett rehearsals happened above Royal Blue, which The Hideout helped facilitate. Like I said, it feels very good to bring this show back home to The Hideout Theater.

At the core of Breaking Beckett are four of his one-act plays that I used as the inspiration for creating the improvised play. But at the heart of Breaking Beckett you will find the emotionally courageous actors Marc Majcher, Jayme Ramsey and Ryan Hill along with the haunting improvisational music of Content Love Knowles. Add to that Mark Shoemaker’s cue-to-cue tech, which is probably where Ive been the most demanding, thats what makes Breaking Beckett so very special.

These artisans of improv are tireless, brave performers that have given me and this show so much more then I could ever express. Their support has been absolute and their constant feedback has played a huge role in the show’s success. I love that we dare to explore the topics others avoid, all through an improvised Beckett inspired absurdist lens. And once you see Act Three, you’ll see firsthand just how much I ask of the performers and of myself. Its been a extraordinarily satisfying ride on so many levels.

Breaking Beckett and The Hideout Theater, it will feel good to be back home.

Breaking Beckett is being performed in the Improvised Play Festival on Thursday, April 10th, at 9pm. 

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