LEWISTON — When Dan Marois steps on the stage at the Franco Center tonight, he will be taking a familiar leap into the unknown. He has no idea what he may be doing, or saying, for the next couple of hours. 

And that, he says, is what makes improv comedy so delicious — for the actors and the audience.

There is a rush in standing in front of an audience and essentially ‘flying without a net’ and creating comedy without the confines of a script,” Marois explains. . . . “It’s pure fun. You are creating something out of nothing and exploring the realm of possibilities. And on top of that, there are no wrong answers.”

Marois and his Mainely Improv – Comedy on the Spot will perform at the Franco Center from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 25. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased by calling 207-689-2000, at the box office from noon to 4 p.m., and at the door.

While there is no net in improv comedy, there is, for Marois, reassurance of knowing he’s performing with a group of talented, experienced people. Marois founded Mystery for Hire, a mystery dinner theater troupe, more than 20 years ago, and Mainely Improv 15 years ago. 

“There is a comfort level among us — knowing how we all react to things and knowing where some of us are stronger in one area than another. Some are quicker with one-liners, others are more thoughtful in what we perform. Even though we have no idea what will happen at a performance, we do rehearse,” he says. And during those rehearsal times, verbal exchanges with puns and innuendos develop that may be used on stage.

So, there’s no script, but there is great teamwork and a lot of experience. “I have performed in college, community and professional theater, but my life has been consumed by mystery dinner theater and improvisation. I have produced 715 mystery shows and I have appeared in 710 of them,” Marois recalls.

While improv is full of unknowns, not everything is a mystery. “We know the structure of the improv games that we will do and the order we will do them.” 

The real wild card is the audience.

Marois offers this suggestion:

“The more spontaneous (the audience is) with their suggestions, the more spontaneous we can become,” Marois offers. Audience members aren’t plucked out of the crowd and put on the spot (so you don’t have to sink down in your seat to avoid being called on). “We ask for volunteers from the audience and they volunteer on their own. We usually get the more extroverted people that way,” Marois explains.

And sometimes, says the veteran performer, “there are times when we crack ourselves up with laughter, and it is great when that happens. Because we truly don’t know what will happen, we experience the comedy in the same moment that the audience does.”


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