Rising Phoenix Theater founder Susan Scovil to host show 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 1

When she founded Rising Phoenix Theater, Susan Scovil chose that name for the improvisation group because it reflected the feeling of a new beginning.

"There is an element of fear, doing something new. But I feel capable of doing it, and the community needs more options for theater," she said.

Now almost a year later, the group will stage "Spontaneous Combustion" at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 1, at the Milwaukie Center, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive.

At $7 a ticket, it's "cheap fun and a lot of laughter," Scovil said.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Members of Rising Phoenix Theater include, front row left to right, Lizzie Keith, Kendra Munroe and Ted Landauer. Back row, Suzanne Chimenti, Tristan Knopf-Jenkins, Whitman Craig and Susan Scovil. Not pictured: Alex Blendl.Improv

Although this is the first community theater company Scovil has founded, she has plenty of directing experience as the drama teacher at Clackamas High School for 17 years; she retired in 2011.

Scovil said she wanted to bring something new to the theater scene in Milwaukie and came up with the idea of forming an improv theater group. defines improv as "the art or act of improvising, or of composing, uttering, executing, or arranging anything without previous preparation." 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.

"There's a spontaneity to it, even in the rehearsals, and it's fun to see the amount of funny things they come up with," she said.

The core group of seven people in the group range in age from 24 to 70 and represent all walks of life, Scovil said.

"They do entertain me a lot; I haven't laughed this much since I retired."


Part of the challenge of an improv group is figuring out how to keep the audience interested while coming up with new ideas to incorporate into the show.

Some members have musical talents, and Scovil is hoping to make use of those. She also is working to create more audience participation. In past shows, she has asked audience members to submit lines for the actors to say, with mixed success.

Part of the joy of watching the group perform is "seeing people put themselves out. They could bomb royally, but that doesn't keep them from going at light speed," she said.

As for the future of the group, Scovil said she would love to stage some children's plays down the road and is hoping to add some outdoor performances to the repertoire.

For those who miss the June 1 show, "Spontaneous Combustion" will light up the stage from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, during the Gladstone Community Festival in Max Patterson Park.

Start a fire

What: Rising Phoenix Theater presents "Spontaneous Combustion," an improv show

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 1

Where: The Milwaukie Center, 5440 S.E, Kellogg Creek Drive

Tickets: $7 at the door

More: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call 503-475-7594, or visit

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