, Salem, MA


January 3, 2013

The art of improv

Local group featuring Erik Rodenhiser performs at Marblehead Little Theatre

MARBLEHEAD — Accidentally on Purpose, the improv group based at Marblehead Little Theatre, was originally designed to fill the theater when it “goes dark” between shows.

“When it’s dark, it’s a great time to do comedy or music,” said Bruce Whear, president of the theater and producer of Accidentally.

But the group, which was formed last year and is appearing again this Saturday night, has found enough success to make it a mainstay production.

“Now it’s really our base performance, every other month,” said Whear, who is also a member of the company. “We’ve been growing the audience, and we’ve had multiple sellouts.”

The group has typically done two performances each night, at 7 and 9, but the nature of those shows has changed over time.

“Originally, there was a family show at 7 and an adult show at 9,” Whear said. “But my troupe found it a little difficult not to do adult material.”

Whear doesn’t try to make his actors do strictly wholesome routines, but he has committed them to two shows that will benefit the community.

“We’ve got a fundraiser for Lifebridge and for the Boys & Girls Club of Salem in the first quarter of 2013,” he said.

One thing that hasn’t changed over time is the lineup of Accidentally on Purpose, which features seven male and two female performers.

It takes rehearsal to make improvisation work, just as much as scripted performances, and the troupe’s continuity has given them good chemistry.

“It’s like any other team,” Whear said. “You learn about other people, see the strengths of other comedians. Some guys and gals have strengths for storytelling, and the director puts them in games that complement their skill sets.”

The members come from all walks of life — there’s a pediatrician, a writer and a dental hygienist among them — and different degrees of dramatic experience. Whear, for instance, who works as an electrical contractor, has been acting since he attended Marblehead High School and has appeared with Marblehead Little Theatre since 1972.

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