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Roanoke-based theater group launches first season with improv fundraiser

Roanoke's Bear Theatre will perform 'Fill in the Blanks' night Saturday at Community High School.
Bear Theatre
Roanoke's Bear Theatre will perform 'Fill in the Blanks' night Saturday at Community High School.

For its inaugural season, a community theatre group in Roanoke is mixing improv with a little audience participation this weekend.

Before audiences see its production of Crimes of the Heart next month, the Bear Theatre hopes to raise a little money first. Vice President Stevie Holcomb says “Fill in the Blanks Theatre” presents a challenge, because some of their actors are leery of doing improv.

Saturday’s fundraiser will consist of six or seven 10-minute plays, but parts of the script will be suggested by the audience just before they’re acted out.

"The audience is going to fill in words - based on an adjective, or a noun, or a funny word, or an explanation, things like that," Holcomb said. "We just wanted to do something fun, that was interactive. Also, you can have a fundraiser all you want, and just talk. Nobody wants to come to those, So we're actors, We're using our strengths."

Holcomb said the names of actors will be on slips of paper, and drawn from a hat. A separate hat will be set aside for audience members that would like to perform with the actors.

The new company (also known as Exit, Pursued by a Bear) gets is name from Shakespeare's stage direction in The Winter's Tale.

Holcomb said in the years since the pandemic, people are looking to see more live theater, and non-professional actors are seeking more opportunities.

The Bear Theatre’s first four productions, as well as Saturday’s fundraiser, will be at Roanoke’s Community High School downtown. But this new company hopes to have its own space one day soon.

Jeff Bossert is Radio IQ's Morning Edition host.