Starting with Danielle Scott, facing the camera, and moving counter-clockwise: José Batalla, Rita Banús, Mona Lisa Arias, Varoon P. Anand, María Theoktisto, Mathew Addis, Amit Nathani
Improv 8 1/2 at the Ancon Theater
photos and review by Eric Jackson
The first thing that you should know about the Theatre Guild of Ancon is that it's an English-language community theater institution that has been operating since 1950. It follows that it's an amateur outfit, but one from which a number of notable professionals have emerged. The English-language theater scene here is just too small to support full-time professionals, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have a number of people who have what it takes to be successful pros.
Generally the Guild does about four or five shows every year, some of them popular canons that will bring in the paying audiences, a few of them more "artsy" productions whose main purpose is to give our local thespians a chance to be challenged and develop their skills.
Over the past year or two, a new generation has been attracted to the Guild --- and here I don't talk about age so much as seniority with the guild, even if chronologically the newer crowd is also younger. The two groups have their competitive aspect as well as their cooperative side. The older crowd just doesn't have enough people to do much without some of the new people. But there is a generational difference in taste, a specific following in the community and a sense of rivalry that comes with the new people. And this reviewer, at the risk of some hard feelings, will add that the new crowd, on the whole, is simply more talented than their elders.
Improv 8 1/2 was the new group, with some first-time faces for the Guild, under the direction of Danielle Scott, a formally educated and professionally experienced Briton who landed on these shores last year. They were sharpening their skills here, doing a range of improvisational games, mostly spontaneously on suggestions from the audience. These intellectual exercises ensured that three nights of shows were each entirely different, that the crowds would be limited mainly to a certain hard core of theater goers (the late publicity didn't help on that score either), and that the actors' skills would be tested and sharpened.
It was a treat. We have seen Amit Nathani and Varoon Anand before and know them to be the bright stars of the younger generation, and we've also seen Rita Banús, who's relatively new to acting, and María Theoktisto on the Ancon Theater stage before. And now the new crowd has brought in reinforcements, all of them good, some of them outstanding. On the night this reviewer attended, Mona Lisa Arias, José Batalla and Matthew Addis were all extra-special new treats.
Director Danielle Scott
Backstage beforehand, left to right, María Theoktisto, Mathew Addis, Amit Nathani, José Batalla
Varoon Anand, who acted and produced
Left to right, Amit Nathani, Mathew Addis, Varoon Anand -- the flying lady is Mona Lisa Arias
Rita Banús, this time in her third acting performance
Mona Lisa Arias and Fred Maduro
British Ambassador Richard Austen MBE and veteran Theatre Guild of Ancon box
office volunteer Elizabeth Borer, who also heads the charitable British Aid Society
Volunteer bartender Colombino Headley and and long-time Guild member Brenda Hummer
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2008 by Eric Jackson
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