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Academy Theatre gets silly with improv jams

Improv groups from around metro Atlanta performed in the Stockbridge Improv Festival. (Staff Photos: Johnny Jackson)

Improv groups from around metro Atlanta performed in the Stockbridge Improv Festival. (Staff Photos: Johnny Jackson)

STOCKBRIDGE — Improvisation is marked with punctuation — from the exclamation of full-throated laughter to the questions that arise from trekking into the unknown.

The period is the rarest of those punctuations in improv because players refuse to say no in acting out scenes.

That is according to Robert Drake, who said actors quickly learn to answer “yes, and…” when performing.

Drake is the production manager for the Atlanta-based improv troupe, Laughing Matters. He is also artistic director for Academy Theatre, which recently found its new home inside the Stockbridge Community Arts Center.

The city of Stockbridge, the Stockbridge Downtown Development Authority and Academy Theatre recently entered into a public-private partnership to provide fine arts events to residents inside the soon-to-be renovated downtown space at 146 Burke St.

Academy Theatre hosted casual crowds all weekend, Dec. 13-15, during the Stockbridge Improv Festival. The event, which featured five area improv groups, was the academy’s fourth production at the center since the partnership began in October.

“It’s something wonderful right away,” said Drake. “You say it, we play it.”

Drake’s group, Laughing Matters, played Friday and Saturday.

KISS is a young improv group from Kennesaw State University. A handful of its members hosted a workshop about building strong characters Friday and performed a show Saturday.

Dad’s Garage out of Atlanta gave a Walking Improv Show Saturday. Its members, acting as fanciful tour guides, toured an audience around parts of downtown Stockbridge. They also conducted a workshop about building strong relationships.

Collective 51 is an all-female troupe out of Decatur. The group opened Saturday’s late night jams.

Jonesboro native Dustin Stevens of Decatur debuted his one-man show, Dustin’s Private Eye Show Friday.

The Mount Zion High graduate is also the executive director of the Hapeville-based TigerPeach Improv troupe, which performed at the festive and gave a workshop on the art of long-form improv.

Paige Steadman, a playwright and performer from Marietta, conducted a workshop as well.

Drake also hosted a technical improvisation workshop about the production and technical aspects of putting on an improv showcase.

“The skills we use, people can use in their every day life,” said Drake. “Every scene is something that has never been seen before and will never be seen again.”

Organizers may return with an improv festival in 2014. But until then there are several productions on tap at the community arts center, including a Hansel and Gretel Opera Saturday. Showtime is 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/517518.

To learn about other classes and upcoming events offered through Academy Theatre, visit www.academytheatre.org.