Off the Cuff Improv returns to stage after lifting of restrictions

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald Off the Cuff Improve troupe members Ryan Hughes (left) and Colleen Clark (right) perform at Jam Street on July 27.

July 27 marked a return to normal for the four members of Off the Cuff Improve.

The interactive comedy troupe returned to the stage with a regular audience for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Saskatchewan on July 11.

The Family Improv Show, at the Jam Street Shared Arts Space felt great for the troupe, according to Adreanna Boucher of Off the Cuff. She said the group had a couple of shows during the pandemic, with a limited number of attendees, all of which wore masks. Boucher described it as challenging situation, and said they’re glad to return to regular crowds.

“This time was awesome,” she said. “We had 26 people in the audience, and we also had our workshop kids that we have been teaching all July. It felt good for us to be on stage, and also to see those girls get up and show off … what they had learned over the month. To see them able to interact with their peers, it was just really lovely.”

The show featured the improv class students from a course in July along with Boucher, Ryan Hughes, Kim Morrall and Colleen Clark. Before the performance by the improv class students they performed a quick show of their own.

They did not gather as a group while restrictions were in place during the pandemic, since they have a rotation of 10 actors in the troupe.

“It’s basically ‘hey we are doing a show on this date. Who is available?’” Boucher said. “We would have a rehearsal once a month or so, and anyone was welcome to come, but we weren’t doing that, to limit contact with each other, and it would only be the people in the show and we have to wear masks.”

The July 27 show was an exciting one for troupe members who hadn’t had a chance to get on stage. Boucher said it was the first time in a longtime group members Ryan Hughes and Kim Morall had performed, while Colleen Clark only performed rarely.

“Colleen and I have done a couple of shows but those two (Ryan and Kim) haven’t, so it felt really good to have that team back together,” Boucher said.

To help deal with the restriction, Boucher said the troupe cut down on the number of cast members taking part in a performance. Dropping from four performers to three restricted the show, she explained, but getting vaccinated gave them more confidence to start returning to normal.

“You are limited more in what you can do,” she explained. “A lot of our sketches and games rely on touching each other and being all up in each other’s face, and we couldn’t do that. Almost all of us are totally vaccinated and so we felt a lot more comfortable. We also touched base with each other, and if anyone is sick nobody comes.”

“It felt good to work with a full contingent of actors,” she added. “It opened up our options a lot more and we didn’t have to be afraid of being in each other’s space. It was really nice.”

Off the Cuff plans to take the month of August off, with a goal of restarting monthly shows in September. Boucher said they plan to perform on the first Wednesday of every month thereafter. Many members of the troupe are in the Broadway North production of Clue, which runs from August 20-28 at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. They also plan to keep teaching childrens’ workshops, which Boucher said have been very popular, for one Saturday a month.

“We are always available for bookings, now that events are starting to open up more. We just got an email asking if we would come to a hillbilly wedding but unfortunately most of the actors are in Clue, so the date she had needed wasn’t available, I was like ‘ah man,’” Boucher said.

Boucher is also now the operator of Jam Street itself, after taking over from Lucie James in 2020. Boucher said that the first year was a challenge because of COVID-19, but James was very accommodating, which helped them get through the year.

“She understood that nothing can really happen, so rent wise she was really kind to me,” Boucher explained. “She’s just, I think, happy to see the space getting used in a way that supports the art community because she was all about that.”

For more information on Off the Cuff you can visit their Facebook page or website. Boucher said masks are not mandatory, but they are recommended for performances in smaller spaces.

“Come out and enjoy live theatre,” she said.

“If you are having any kind of function where you want something kind of fun, especially if it’s outdoors, we are super accommodating.”