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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: March 4, 2019

Improv troupe Yes & Co. takes real-life stories and runs with them

Written by: Bob Keyes

Adrien Boudreau, Mike Mayo, Charlie Adler.
Photo by Jason Bosch, courtesy of Yes & Co.

There is no shortage of improv in Maine. At any given time, a dozen or so companies host shows around the state, and the Improv ME Festival comes to Brewer each fall.

The newest troupe in Portland is Yes & Co., and it operates differently from most of the rest. To get each performance going, founder and director Samuel Luke Kuykendall invites someone from the community to tell his or her story in four segments. After each segment, the improvisers take over, embellishing and building on the story bit by bit.

Yes & Co. began performing in January with monthly shows at the Fresnel Theater at 17 Free St., Portland. The next one is 9 p.m. Saturday with Jason Ryan, founder and director of the Open Bench Project, providing the story. On April 13, the monologist is Erin Curren, an educator and performer and Pecha Kucha Portland host.

In May, Yes & Co. will move its shows south to Biddeford to the Maine Repertory Theater’s new 57-seat performance space at Pepperell Mill.

“There are so many interesting people doing creative things in the area,” Kuykendall said. “We’re all aware of people we admire, (whom) we don’t often to get to hear talk how they got to where they are. We want to know more about the people around us. By having a monologist share their story, we have so much information to work with.”

The catch is, the improvisers don’t act out the subject’s story. They take the story and build on it, improvising and embellishing. That means the subjects who share their stories also have to be ready to let go of them – and not take it personally if those stories go in a direction they didn’t anticipate.

That’s the nature of improvisation, Kuykendall said.

The Yes & Co. troupe evolves a little with every performance, Kuykendall said. “We added a musician to our second show. We are going to add slides to Erin Curren’s show in April. I’m currently communicating with a few local visual artists. The idea is to have a painter just off stage that creates an original piece of art as we improvise our show,” he said. “I want to explore how much we can squeeze out of an hour and four stories.”

Performers include Tara McDonough, Jen Whitley, Erin McCall, Adrien Boudreau, Charlie Adler and Mike Mayo. Michael Beling provides the music.

Tickets cost $10 at the door. Each guest chooses a charity, and Yes & Co. donates proceeds to that charity.

Yes & Co. Improvisation

WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Fesnel Theater, 17 Free St., Portland
TICKETS & INFO: $8 advance, $10 door; thefresneltheater.org

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