Chances are you've been to the Gum Wall in Pike Place Market. But have you ever been behind the Gum Wall?
Past those sticky layers sits the birthplace of Seattle's improv scene, Unexpected Productions, inside the Market Theater. Unexpected Productions is the oldest premier improv company in the Northwest: The 34-year-old company has been operating out of the theater for 23 years, and it's given rise to a generation of talented comics, including Brendan Fraser, who took improv classes here, and Joel McHale, who was a cast member in the long-running Theatersports show in the 90s.
"We do 10 shows a week, Wednesday through Sunday, and in that we really try to explore all the components of improv and spontaneous storytelling," says Kent Whipple, the company's Marketing and Development Director.
Among the consistent shows are the Wednesday night Duo Comedy Showcase, where promising new talent performs and Thursday nights' long-form group, which includes a series of scenes, games, and monologues based on one theme, from an audience suggestion. "Instead of quick little improv jokes, they work on exploring the art form and pushing the edges of it," says Whipple. "It's almost like fringe theater at times."
On Fridays and Saturdays, there are three shows each; some are interactive, with audience participation to direct the course of the evening. This includes Seattle's longest running theatrical experience, "Theatersports," a competition between two teams of comics.
"It blows me away that these guys can come up with a story off the top of their heads and tell a cohesive narrative. And it's all based on audience suggestion, so it makes it fun for the audience because every show is theirs," says Whipple. "It's never been seen before, and it will never happen again. And that's every performance that we do."