An improvised scene from “Jane Austen Unscripted” featuring cast members (from left) Tracy Burns, Mollie Taxe, Edi Patterson, Lisa Fredrickson and Lauren Rose Lewis

An improvised scene from “Jane Austen Unscripted” featuring cast members (from left) Tracy Burns, Mollie Taxe, Edi Patterson, Lisa Fredrickson and Lauren Rose Lewis

By Michael Aushenker

They’ve done Dickens. They’ve done Chekov. They’ve even done Rod Serling with “The Twilight Zone Unscripted.”
But when it comes to tributes by Impro Theatre, no writer can top a certain English novelist.
“Jane Austen Unscripted” returns Friday to the Broad Stage, the place where the annual December happening began in 2009.
“Because it’s improvised, every night is different,” said Impro Theatre Artistic Director Dan O’Connor, also one of the cast’s eight performers, of the troupe’s most popular show. O’Connor and co-director Paul Rogan have run Impro for seven years.
The Impro Theatre does not quote passages from its source works, so in order to successfully pull off an unscripted show, the author’s voice and body of work can not merely be brilliant; it must be distinctive.
“It’s like jazz, where we learn the scales and type of tone and then we get on stage and do something absolutely she doesn’t write,” O’Connor said. “We ask [the audience] for a trivial topic of conversation. We take the suggestion and we go. At the intermission, we stand backstage and remind everyone who we are.”
Impro achieves this by digesting all things related to their subject once they undertake a topic.
Despite Rogan having “the only authentic accent,” O’Connor said, members of the troupe “really have Jane Austen in our bones.”
Riffing on Austen “is an homage rather than a parody,” he said. “And it’s really playful. It’s very fun to use language the way she used language. [Back then,] your social networking was conversation.”
Compared to ‘Shakespeare Unscripted,’ which is in development for 2014, pulling off Austen will be a walk in the park.
“Improvising iambic pentameter — “that’s terrifying!” he said.
“Jane Austen Unscripted’ runs at 8 p.m. Friday, at 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday and at 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday at The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. $25. Call (310) 434-3200 or visit improtheatre.com.
Michael(at)argonautnews.com

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