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Behind the Curtain at Keyano Theatre - Improv: Off the Cuff Entertainment

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“I love improv because we are the masters of our fate.” — Colin Mochrie, long time improviser and comedian.

This is exactly what happens to Dave Boutilier, co-founder of ThunderStruck Improv, every time his spontaneous theatre group practices and performs.

Early September the local ThunderStruck Improv group kicked off the Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre season with a weekend of hilarious short form improv games, similar to the well-known show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? starring Canadians, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles. I was lucky enough to get a moment of Dave’s time between work, ThunderStruck, and A Few Good Men rehearsals to chat about his new improv group and the differences between improv and traditional theatre.

Tell me about ThunderStruck Improv.

It was conceptualized back in November 2013, by myself, co-founder Zach Barrett, and Keyano Theatre Stage Manager Steph Link. All three of us are involved in the local community theatre scene and agreed that Fort McMurray has enough want and desire to make something work.  By the end of that conversation, ThunderStruck was born.

We hold our free community drop in sessions Thursdays at the Keyano Arts Centre from 7-10pm. Anyone is welcome and there is absolutely no obligation to perform.

What is the difference in preparing for improv vs. traditional theatre?

In traditional staged theatre, a lot of work goes into telling the story a specific way to the audience time and time again.  Each actor knows their lines, where to stand, how to act, and how to move.  This is all synced with lights, sound, music, and other technical elements to bring together a unique experience.  Improv is… different.  We train our minds and bodies to create the above elements from scratch, with little to no prep time, while sticking to the specific rules of that game.

How is the performance different?

Each improv performance is unique, because we rely on the audience to provide us with ideas on how to begin. Since each audience is different, even the same game is never played the same way twice.  Also, there are games we play where we actively have members of the audience on stage with us; that is not usually the case with traditional theatre.  Imagine, being in the middle of Romeo and Juliet and stopping to bring an audience member on stage to play a role.

What do you prefer: improv or traditional theatre?

Now, that’s a loaded question.  What do you prefer: ice cream or chocolate cake? Both are amazing, but it depends on what you’re in the mood for. Personally, I enjoy being on stage; as an actor, host, improv’er, or third tree on the left.  Theatre is communal art, and I enjoy participating any way I can. 


To help you decide if you prefer improv, see the Stage 2 presentation of Off Book: The Improvised Musical, November 12 at the Keyano Recital Theatre, or check out ThunderStruck Improv on Facebook ( and Twitter (@TSImprov). If it’s traditional theatre you are looking for, visit or download the new Keyano College Events App for upcoming plays, concerts and films. 


- Photography by Keyano College Photographer