Where There’s Never Is A Script

Improvisational comedy is alive in Honolulu with two groups, and one of them, Loose Screws, has been invited to the Mainland’s biggest improv festival

The members of Loose Screws — (from left) R. Kevin
Doyle, Monica KC Coldwell, Meredith Desha, Garrick
Paikai and Robb Bonnell — were chosen to headline
the Chicago Improv Festival with Screwbuki, their
improvisational Kabuki piece

A sword, an umbrella and a fan can be anything in a story about the lives of ordinary people. You just have to use your imagination.

The fan can be a painting brush, the umbrella a wagon wheel and the sword, well, that’s just perfect for fighting.

In this tale, someone might die and be brought back to life, they could fight ghosts and demons or turn from human being to floundering fish.

It’s all possible in the world of theatre improvisation where an actor can be anything he or she wants at any given moment.

Those who do improv affectionately call it “theatre without a net.” There are no scripts and no director — except for the audience, who determines how the production will start out. The actors invent the dialogue and action as they perform.

The show is always unpredictable. Its most familiar version is Drew Carey’s show Whose Line Is It Anyway? But the beginnings of improv date back at least half a century.

Hawaii has two improv groups of its own as well. Loose Screws is Honolulu’s longest-running improv group, formed in 1993 out of a student-run improv workshop at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

Friendly competition between members of On the Spot
and Loose Screws pushes each to do bigger and better improv

The second group, On the Spot (OTS), was started in 2000, also born out of an improv workshop — this one at Leeward Community College.

With the Honolulu improv scene being as limited as it is, a couple of the improvisationists of Loose Screws belong to On the Spot as well.

Loose Screws has seen between 40 to 50 members pass through the group over the past decade, and only two of the founding members still remain.

But they have continued to grow theatrically and were recently chosen to headline the king of all improv festivals, the Chicago Improv Festival (CIF) at the end of the month with their unique “Screwbuki” (improvised kabuki) show. It’s quite an honor. CIF is celebrating 50 years of improvisational theatre this year. Loose Screws recently learned that they will also be awarded the first-ever Compass Players’ Innovation Award for innovation in improvisation.

“The Chicago Improv Festival felt that our Screwbuki performance was the most innovative thing that was submitted this year, so that’s very exciting for us,” says the show’s director and Loose Screws cofounder R. Kevin Doyle.

“We really wanted to do something that would be unique to the skill set that we have out here in Hawaii, and many of us have studied kabuki. I don’t think there’s another group in the country that has the background and resources to do an improvised kabuki.”

Eight members of the Loose Screws’ 11-member team will be traveling to Chicago to perform their long form Screwbuki show on April 30.

Far from there being any rivalry between the improv groups, OTS leader Garrick Paikai — who still teaches his improv workshop at LCC and has been a member of Loose Screws since 2001— organized a fundraiser recently showcasing the two groups that helped raise money to send the Loose Screws to Chicago.

“I figured we’d bring in more money with all of us together and we’d introduce more people to improv,” he says. “We all motivate each other to try new and different things.”

“I think the two groups are very supportive of each other because it’s such a small scene,” adds Doyle. “We can’t afford to be competitive because it doesn’t benefit either group.”

A Loose Screws member since 1996, Robb Bonnell notes that people give him mixed reactions when they find out he does improv.

“I’m surprised when people recognize me or the name ‘Loose Screws,’” he says. “Then there are just as many people who have no idea we even exist.”

Bonnell says since the group has been around for more than a decade, they have a small but loyal following.

“I think sometimes improv can be dismissed or overlooked because it makes people laugh,” he says. “But I think it is one of the more immediate and accessible forms of theatre, because you’re responding to the audience directly as opposed to working from a script or from direction where you have some place the story needs to head.”

Bonnell originally got into theatre to get over his intense stage fright. Sick of feeling self-conscious in front of an audience or large group, he forced himself to conquer his fears and now manipulates his kabuki facial gestures with ease.

In full kabuki makeup and paper wigs, the Loose Screws in Screwbuki are an unusual spectacle. It is a two-act show, between 30 to 45 minutes in length, that’s produced based on a couple of single suggestions from the audience.

When the cast gets up on stage, all they really know is the kind of character they’re


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