Dispatch from C2E2

The ensemble of Improvised Jane Austen.

C2E2 at first glance looks more like a theatrical event than a comic convention. The cosplay! The larger than life art! The group photographs of poses from TV shows, movies, and comic books! But look past the surface, and you will see a deeper vein of theatricality surging through the crowds of dedicated fans. There is a committed theatrical bent to C2E2’s events, and it started for me on the Friday of the convention at the Cards Against Humanity Theater space, in the McCormick Place convention center.

This year, a full slate of comedy improv and stand-up was showcased at the CAH Comedy Theater as a way of connecting nerdery with live performance. As a lover of comics and also a lover of performance, the coming together of two forms of passion was perfect for me. At 12:15 pm, I wandered into the Improvised Jane Austen performance in room S402. I have seen these ladies perform on a Tuesday evening at iO, and their wit and intelligence radiated even in the much larger space at McCormick. Taking cues on nouns and adjectives from the audience, the crew built a love story about an old maid at the age of 21 and her over-the-hill suitor at 35. Her brother is afraid of everything around them, including the nearby woods, and their parents are tragically delayed from her coming out party due to their horse have a slipped shoe in Bath. In addition to crafting a daffy plot that can be followed by even non-Austen fans, the troupe did a wonderful job roaming through the audience to amp up the energy, and their wit and goofiness shone through in their physical choices as well as their word play. If you get the chance to see them on any given Tuesday, you will be delighted.

The ensemble of Storytown Improv.

Later that afternoon, I took in the sights and sounds of Storytown Improv, which performed at Family HQ on the open convention floor. These improv performers and their pianist make musicals and full plots up based on suggestions from their audience of children and families. It is a remarkable thing to watch songs be created on the spot, especially in an open room where it would be easy to get distracted by all the cosplay and competing  surrounding you. The Storytown performers asked for suggestions of place, and the children in the audience chose to set their adventure on a cold mountain. Immediately, the actors brought the world they imagined to life, shivering as they sung about the cold, and wafting a white jacket to create blankets of snow. Our hero trudged through the mountain on a quest to be friends with a villainous corporate overlord by the name of Cold, and the crew helped children lead dance battles that resulted in an end to corporate greed and the beginning of beautiful friendship. It was exhilarating to watch, and the kids in the audience had a blast. I would highly recommend checking out Storytown Improv on any given Saturday at Stage 773.
Theatre By Numbers is run by nerds and hopefully read by nerds.

If you happen to find yourself wondering what might be in it for you as a theatre fan at C2E2, just know there is so much more available than cosplay.