When described by 34-year-old troupe founder, director and participant Stephen Wilder, Hit and Run's musical improv act sounds just a little insane.
"We come to the audience," Wilder explains, "and we say, 'Can you give us the title of an imaginary musical that has never been performed on this stage, or any other?' And we'll use that as the seed for the rest of the [eight- to 10-song] show."
Also: "We don't discuss any of the songs before the show. Our accompanist will start a song, and we'll listen for what he's giving us. Sometimes we'll start songs — like, we'll just start singing — and then he has to find us."
This ongoing comic challenge was born in 2006 in Los Angeles, where Wilder was living and doing standard improv at the time.
"I discovered musical improv when I saw a group perform in Hollywood," he says. "And I had no idea that improvised musicals even existed at that point, and I was just completely floored when I saw it."
Wilder started his own group, using techniques he'd learned under musical improv guru and Second City musical director Michael Pollock, and performed with them until leaving for Denver at the beginning of '09. He then put together the seven-member Hit and Run — Colorado's only regularly performing musical improv troupe — in April of that year. It's been performance history ever since, with acceptance into improv festivals in Los Angeles, North Carolina and, of course, Colorado.
"I'm looking forward to coming down [to Colorado Springs] and, first of all, performing for you guys, and second of all, just spreading the good name and seeing what you've got down there," Wilder says.
On the whole, the second annual Colorado Improv Festival at the Manitou Art Theatre will feature 11 comedy troupes. The RiP and Stick Horses in Pants will represent the Springs, while others will visit from as far away as Long Beach, Chicago (the improv capital, Wilder says) and New York City.
What does Wilder hope folks take from the festival?
"This might sound pretentious, but I want them to have a transcendent experience.
"To me, improv is the closest thing to magic, because you're just seeing something created where there was nothing before."