The first week of our city exploration began in Greenwich Village. Through our extensive walk through the village we (gained 20,000 steps) and traveled through cobblestone walkways and passed brownstones and bright NYU flags and libraries. The first art we encountered was a gallery located on Bleaker street. One particularly striking piece of art was a modern art portrait in the window, which reminded me of a Frida Kahlo (shown below). The subject was characterized by her dark eyebrows, eyes, and lip color contrasted to the saturated peach and orange painted skin. The painting almost seems not finished and fragmented but the portrait still carries its own vivacity and beauty.
After our delicious dinner (read more about that in the food section). We walked over to 3rd street to the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) for an improv show. So, a little bit about the Upright Citizens Brigade before I get into the show we saw. UCB began in Chicago. After its success there, they relocated to New York City, where they started not only performing but offered classes for those who wanted to be trained in improvisation. With growing popularity, the improv troop was able to open up their own theatre in New York in 1999. What is so incredible about the space is all the stars who got their start at UCB, including Amy Poehler, Donald Glover, and Kate McKinnon.
Now that we understand the space, a little explanation about Improvisation (for those who do not know). Improvisation is a 100% spontaneous performance without any script of preparation. It encourages creative behavior and makes the performers think and act on their feet. So there is no way of knowing where a show will go. Beyond being an art form, improvisation can be applied to many different fields, as it is just solving a problem on the spot without instructions or help.
The show our group saw was a comedic improv show called. Take It Personal: The Hip Hop Improv Show started by and hosted by Cipha Sounds (Luis Diaz). Although Improvisation is spontaneous there is always a framework for how the show will work. In this show, Cipha Sounds invites Hip-Hop personalities to come tell real life stores, and then watch the experience improvisers perform a comedic set based off the stories. Accompanied by a DJ this show truly is the mix of comedy and Hip-Hop. The experienced improvisers come from the tribe YES all trained through UCB. The Hip-Hop personality we saw was a rapper and actor who appeared on shows like House and Are we there Yet. He shared a story about his first concert he saw when he was 12 and him and his friends tried to hit on girls way older them, and were not so successful. After he told his story the improv players played a long form tap in tap out style game. One person would start a scene with 2 other players and then the one player not in the game would "tap in" and start a completely new scene.
What I thought was done well...
The improv players ability to switch from one scene to the next, adopting a completely new character as the show went on. It was also evident that the improv tribe was completely comfortable with each other and was able to pull from each others strengths on stage. Although asking questions, which I've learned is a big no-no in improv, they were always setting up each other for success or just a good laugh. I also loved how even though each "tap-in" started a new scene they were always pulling from not only the story but from lines said earlier in the improv show, using an improv technique called "call back." Casey Jost one of the tribe members was a stand out comedian and player within the group.
What I thought took away from the show...
The hip-hop personality they had for the show was hard to understand and story did not really make any sense. His story dragged on and on which took away from the professional improv portion (which I came to see). It was clearly his first take at improv but it really was not a great start to the show. I also did not love the crude jokes (especially from the hip-hop personality) used to get a cheap laugh from the audience. I know it was a 10:30 show and the title was called "take it personal" so I knew I might get a little offended but the parts that were less crude and more organic were my favorite by far. PSA: Rape/overtly racist and sexist jokes are not funny (the audience definitely agreed with me).
The show was hilarious and all but I definitely enjoyed the improv performance over the Hip-hop aspect. I'm excited to go back and see another show at UCB but I wouldn't necessarily go back to this specific show. The improv group was really impressive and kept me engaged and laughing non-stop the entire performance.
Check out UCB East: https://east.ucbtheatre.com/
After our late night and busy day I was definitely ready to go home, but overall I got to see an in depth look about the visual and performance art that can be found in Greenwich village.