Rising Phoenix Theater on a mission to bring improvised theater to Milwaukie

Rising Phoenix Theater founder Susan Scovil is on a mission: to bring improvised theater to Milwaukie.

"Portland has quite a few improv groups right now, but Milwaukie has none. I wanted to bring improv to Milwaukie to give people here more opportunities to laugh and have a good time in their own backyard," she said.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Phoenix Theater's new improv troupe is pictured above doing what they do best: looking animated and having fun. Their first production 'Mission: Improvible' opens on Oct. 13. Scovil has formed an improv troupe and will direct the group's inaugural show "Mission: Improvible," at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, at the Chapel Theater, 4107 S.E. Harrison St., Milwaukie. All proceeds from this show will go to Friends of the Columbia Gorge for gorge restoration.

Two more performances will take place Oct. 20 and 27.

"Improv, sometimes also called Theater Sports is unscripted and spontaneous performance sometimes using suggestions from the audience as starting points," Scovil said.

Actors do not have scripts and do not memorize lines; the action changes from night to night.

Because of the way improv is set up, the rehearsal process is different from that used in a regular play.

"In rehearsals, I introduce a new game and then we play it. Some games are more complicated than others, and it takes a while to get the 'rhythm' or 'timing' of the game, so we play it numerous times," Scovil said.

"The topics and the characters change, but we learn the flow of the improv. In the various games, players experiment with different characters and different voices, attitudes.

"They also develop trust and the feeling of ensemble or 'esprit de corps,' the chemistry needed in a group to make the show sing," Scovil said.

Audiences will enjoy "the spontaneity of improv and the enjoyment of watching performers put themselves out there; taking chances and creating on the spot."

She added, "There's also audience participation in an improv show. Audience members give suggestions and see their suggestions come to life. And there's also the laughs; sometimes gut busting, out-loud guffawing and sidesplitting yucks. Who doesn't like that?"

Chapel Theater emerges

The group is performing for the first time in the Chapel Theater, which Scovil described as a building in transition.

"It's big and open, has good sound and has the potential to be a very versatile theater," she said.

"Right now, it's a little rough around the edges, but we're happy to be there from the beginning. It will be exciting to see it grow into a theater with lots of arts activities."

Chapel Theater is on the site of a former church on Southeast Harrison Street. New owners Corinn deWaard, Illya Torres-Garner and JR Holland are renovating the space, and once construction is complete, the site will be available to rent for plays, dance performances and other community events.

Background in theater

Scovil started working in the North Clackamas School District in 1984 and at Clackamas High School in 1989; she is now retired.

"I started directing and teaching drama [at CHS] in 1993. Improvisation was always part of my drama classes, but later I developed an improv show called "Comedy Cafe: Wake Up and Smell the Improv!"

Students performed that show regularly for a number of years using the ticket sales to develop the black box theater at CHS.

"We also did numerous performances over the years with particular charities in mind; whatever came our way as a need in the community," Scovil said.

"Mission: Improvible" is "Rising Phoenix Theater's baby improv troupe, and if you come to a show, you'll get to experience the excitement and the happiness of watching a baby take its first steps," she said.

"And maybe you'll get to see the baby fall back on its butt. But, hey, butts are funny. So, either way, there's laughs to be had."

Laugh out loud

What: Rising Phoenix Theater presents "Mission: Improvible"

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13, 20 and 27. All proceeds from the Oct. 13 show will be donated to the Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

Where: Chapel Theater, 4107 S.E. Harrison St., Milwaukie

Cost: Tickets are $7 at the door

Details: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Members of the group include: Suzanne Chimenti, Timothy Perrigoue, Kristina Murashov, Lizzie Keith, Tristan Knope-Jenkins, Alex Blendl, Ted Landauer, Whitman Craig, Carita Louise and Heather Preusse. Directed by Susan Scovil.

More: Telltale will host a curated storytelling and open mic event at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Chapel Theater. Visit to sign up to perform or for more information.

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