Improv Boston Works Cambridge Tales Into "Stories From the Square"

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Inside the Workbar Cambridge Cafe, Improv Boston and the Central Square Business Association teamed up to host "Stories of the Square," one of the last few Summer in the City free events for the community this season. The basic tenets of improv share a huge overlap with the ethos of the coworking culture: collaboration, teamwork, relationships, initiation, active choices, listening. Embracing the strange and magical culture of Central Square through the medium of improv comedy- and in a coworking space, no less- was a smart recipe. The night’s axis spun on three stories from The Square, volunteered by audience members. “Anybody got a good story about Central Square?” they lobbed to the munching masses. Workbar member Shawn Hesse answered with his story about former Workbar Events Manager Abby Taylor rallying the community around beloved street performer “Keytar Bear.” She organized a home-run of an event at the Middle East lounge; in addition to raising enough money to pay the Keytar Bear’s medical expenses, the City of Cambridge declared that particular date in May to be “Keytar Day” thenceforth.

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With such amazing raw material, the pros from Boston Improv reenacted and elaborated upon various aspects of the story. Two other stories from the square involved a high school metal band playing to an empty room, and selfies with cops at the Central Square Dance Party, all lovingly and absurdly rendered through the lens of four cracker jack comedians and a musical director. Yes, there was spontaneous song, and it killed.

Between these interpretations of Cambridge tales, the audience was treated to few of Boston Improv’s games. “Pitch a Movie Idea” saw the troupe work the initials of audience members into movie titles. They took turns firing them out, and when a good one came up, they ran with it, performing its hypothetical trailer. “Take That Back” made the performers rewind what they’d just said or done, and “Powerpoint” bade volunteers and pros interact and freeze into tableaus of slideshows about Cambridge. If that sounds dull, then you are not imagining a tall, bearded man morphed into a “sparkle graph.” Who knew?

By the time everyone’s ribs hurt, it was almost over. Warmed up from her stint as an aspect of the slideshow, one woman was quick on the ball when Improv Boston asked if anyone had an idea for a Central Square slogan. She piped right up with, “It’s a place where magic happens.” It took about two seconds of huddling with the music director before they worked that gem into an encore for the ages, a moving rendition of “Central Square: A Place Where Magic Happens” that sent everyone grinning out into it.