Local actors marry tabletop gaming with improv comedy in new summer show 

  • Dustin Glatz with assets from Shutterstock

It's finally cool to be a nerd, and thank goodness for that. Content creators have been rolling out plenty of new fantasy worlds for us to enjoy in recent years, especially in the realm of tabletop gaming. YouTube channels and podcasts like Adventure Zone, Critical Role and countless others, have brought tabletop RPGs (role-playing games) into the homes of people who may not typically have an interest in the activity, with comedic adventures set in the familiar genre of high fantasy. These ongoing stories — "campaigns," to use the jargon — follow groups of players as they encounter dungeons, dragons, orcs, elves and whatever else the Game Master happens to throw in their path.

Building on this trend, some local improv comedians have decided to take the concept of the tabletop gaming podcast a couple steps further. One, they'll be playing their game in front of a live audience. And two, they'll invoke the time-honored improv tradition of audience participation, allowing for some interaction that may change the flow of the story.

One of the players, Christopher Jordahl of local improv troupe Stick Horses in Pants, says: "There's so many things in comedy that their premise sounds really awesome and then it turns out to be not funny at all. And I've been telling people that this is exactly the opposite. It's a confusing thing to wrap your head around, but it's going to be a lot of fun."

Pathfinder, the Dungeons & Dragons-esque game system they'll be using, has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, but some of the players will be coming in with a very limited knowledge of it — and a limited knowledge of just what they're getting themselves into.

Jordahl, as one of the players, knows nothing about the story at this point, which was written by veteran tabletop gamer Trever Shirin. It's all part of the game, to discover the adventure as they go. Jordahl and his fellow players (including some members from SHiP and other local actors and comedians) will have nothing but a few training sessions under their belts before taking the stage and taking up their dice.

The story will start Friday night and continue into Saturday, so audiences are encouraged to come both evenings to see the thrilling conclusion. Plus, Jordahl says they plan to host two more such events this summer, one in July and one in August.

While seasoned tabletop gamers might benefit somewhat from familiarity with the system, Jordahl promises that Role-ing in the Deep isn't just for nerds. "Please, cool people," he entreats with a laugh, "please come. We're going to make it accessible for anybody. If they've been playing tabletop games forever, or if they're brand new."

7 p.m., June 16-17, Funky Little Theater Company, 2109 Templeton Gap Road, $10/one night, $15/both nights, funkylittletheater.org.


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