Outside of its home base in San Francisco, TFM enjoyed a lengthy, critically-acclaimed run in Los Angeles in 1997 and expanded its scope internationally, participating in a week-long theater festival in Tampere, Finland, performing two shows to capacity crowds at the city theater and conducting workshops in long-form improvisation with improvisors and actors from all over Scandinavia and northern Europe. to link to our review page, which includes an article from the Helsinki paper and a reviews from other well respected sources.)
In addition to its work in theaters, TFM is available for corporate and private parties and events. Past clients include Pacific Bell, the Association of Marriage & Family Therapists, and Treadwell & Rollo.
Diane Rachel (née Barry) started improvising in 1976 with a commedia del' arte troupe in Sterling Forest, NY. She has a BA in acting, and has performed in venues such as the Edmonton Fringe Festival, New York Theatresports Tournament, Seattle Bumbershoot Festival and HBO's Melrose Theatre in Los Angeles. Diane is an actor and a teacher of improvisation. She has been with the group that is now True Fiction Magazine for over seven years.
Regina Saisi is an improvisor and actor. She has been seen at the Magic Theatre in their productions of "The Promise," "Oscar and Bertha," "Watch Your Back" and "Sirens." She co-created and performed "Mysterious Ways," a one-woman show, at the Phoenix Theatre. Over the past few years, Regina has been teaching improvisation to inner city youth. She has directed and performed with True FIction Magazine since its inception.
Barbara Scott, a founding member of TFM, began improvising with street theatre in 1976, and has since performed (inside) with Screaming Memes Comedy, Femprov, Faultline, Comedy Underground, and Bay Area TheatreSports.. She toured the US with the Memes, and Europe with Pros From Dover. She's also an improv teacher with American Conservatory Theatre and Theatresports., a voiceover/ movie/commercial /trade show actor, can be seen wrangling a pit bull in Getting Even With Dad, and is on permanent video display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, bravely wearing a dive suit.
True Fiction Magazine includes special guest performers in each show.
Regular guests include Paul Killam, Rafe Chase, Tim Orr, John Kovacevich, and Amos Glick.
Regular Musicians include Joshua Raoul Brody and David Norfleet.
September 3, 1997 12:00AM PT
True Fiction Magazine
The ensemble: Diane Barry, Rafe Chase, Paul Killam, Stephen Kearin, Reed Kirk Rahlmann, Regina Saisi, Barbara Scott.
By Julio Martinez / Variety
The ensemble: Diane Barry, Rafe Chase, Paul Killam, Stephen Kearin, Reed Kirk Rahlmann, Regina Saisi, Barbara Scott.
The seven-member San Francisco-based improvisational theatre company, True Fiction Magazine, favors the longform of improv, utilizing an audience-suggested title as the starting-off point to create a series of interrelated scenes. Though they sometimes come up short in plot development, the troupe offers a cornucopia of engrossing, finely-detailed characterizations, aided immensely by the ever-present, intuitive keyboard effects of J. Raoul Brody.
It is an immensely satisfying theatrical experience to watch the members of this company play off each other, never settling for the easy laugh and quick blackout. In fact, their style is very reminiscent of the “Harold” technique of improvisation that was developed back in the ’60s by another Bay area troupe, The Experimental Wing of the Committee.
On a nearly bare stage, the ensemble utilizes, for instance, the audience-suggested title, “They Found It Lying In the Street,” as the launching pad for a series of dramatic riffs that take up the whole 40-minute first act.
A mysterious talisman containing some mystical gooey substance becomes an ongoing reference point as the plot moves through a series of transformations: a mystery novel, the deadly sexual games of a bored couple and a plumber (Regina Saisi, Reed Kirk Rahlmann and Rafe Chase), an Merchant Ivory-like look at the macabre relationship of two very proper British cousins (Barbara Scott and Stephen Kearin) and the outrageous adventures of Carl (Kearin), the world’s rudest theatre usher.
Each member of the troupe is a gifted actor with a seemingly endless repertoire of well-rounded characters. Even if an improvised scene reaches a dead end, it is still rewarding to watch as the cast tries to resolve an increasingly murky plot situation. Paul Killam becomes a wonderfully tweedy British country gentleman, sputtering pompously, and Kearin always knows when to bring his “barking dog” into a scene just when the animal is needed.
The second act starts on a low note as the ensemble completely bogs down with a lame slasher-film spoof. The work gets back on track with the re-appearance of the talisman to provide thematic stability, as many of the first act scenes are revisited and developed.
Another highlight is the work of Diane Barry, who contorts herself into a grotesque statue ignored by the cast. No matter, whenever the attention shifts back to her scene, Barry goes right back into the statue. The effect is hilarious.
Special mention must be made of the vocal improvising of Scott with the able support of keyboardist Brody. The pair are able to come up with very melodic theme or title songs at the drop of a line.
True Fiction Magazine
(Hudson Theatre: 99 seats; $ 18 top)
Production: The Hudson Group presents a play in two acts improvised by the ensemble. Music direction/keyboard, J. Raoul Brody. Lighting design, Lisa Larice; lighting improviser, Amy Weinberg. Opened and reviewed Aug. 28; runs until Oct. 14. Running time: 90 minutes.
Creative: Lighting design, Lisa Larice; lighting improviser, Amy Weinberg. Opened and reviewed Aug. 28; runs until Oct. 14. Running time: 90 minutes.
Cast: The ensemble: Diane Barry, Rafe Chase, Paul Killam, Stephen Kearin, Reed Kirk Rahlmann, Regina Saisi, Barbara Scott.
An aside: I attended the University of California - Berkeley in the early 1990's. I think that my friends and I probably saw just about all the True Fiction Magazine performances that were given. Each member of the troupe was a gifted actor. They seemed to have an repertoire of well-rounded characters at their finger tips. The guests that appeared in the skits were also outstanding. As college kids we thought we were so sophisticated and cool. Of course we became immersed in the pulp stories of the 30's and 40's as we soaked up each preformance. No almost twenty-five years later I am excited to have bought the original domain of the True Fiction Magazine and take it live once again. I wonder what happened to all those incredibly talented folks. I never would have anticipated the twists and turns of where I ended up, all these years later. Here I sit doing an online search for a comfortable round dog bed for my daughter's unusual dog, a New Guinea Singing Dog. A what I said when she told me about it. Once it was a wild breed in Papua New Guinea, but the breed is domesticated and has a reputation as an excellent companion for its intelligence and physical ability. The name,New Guinea singing Dog, is from the animal's unique vocalization. I found a great e commerce site that has "designer" fabric covered dog beds. The dog bed actually looks like a large floor pillow which I like. I've chosen a fabric that will coordinated with her livingroom decor. I still can't get over the brred of the dog. I wonder what type of skit, True Fiction Magazine would have done with a New Guinea Singing Dog as its reference point!
Pulp Playhouse Turns Stuff of Bad Novels to Improvisational Comedy
January 20, 1991|T. H. McCULLOH
A squeaking door, a crash of thunder, gunshots, characters larger than life and tales of daring and fright--these were the stock in trade of the pulp magazines that proliferated during the 1930s, '40s and '50s. San Francisco's improvisational Pulp Playhouse is in town to help the adventurous return to those thrilling days of yesteryear and the cult world of pulp fiction.
The group plays to packed houses in the Bay Area, improvising the purple prose of that bygone form, to the delight of repeat audience members who frequently arrive at the theater in costumes appropriate to the genre of the evening, much like the fans of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"In San Francisco, the lobby was always full of people dressed up like us ," says O-Lan Jones, a founding member of Pulp Playhouse, who now makes Los Angeles home. "It was scary. They were aficionados ."
In a conversation with actress Jones (look for her as the religious fanatic in "Edward Scissorhands") and Reed Kirk Rahlmann (author of humorous articles and also an actor), the cult image of Pulp Playhouse is strong. The group even seems a cult unto itself.
Its members--director Brian Lohmann, Diane Barry, Rafe Chase, Jones, Rahlmann, Paul Killam, Regina Saisi and Barbara Scott--are nothing if not dedicated to the special form of their shows. Rahlmann and Jones are also quite vocal in their tribute to musical director J. Raoul Brody, lighting designer Chris (Sparky) French and the amazing vocal effects by Steve Kearin. They also improvise.
Kearin, they both insist, can make almost any sound that the high-powered stories require, even "doors, keys in locks," Rahlmann says. "He can actually make metal sounds with his mouth. A walking sound-effects room is what he is."
The group was founded almost three years ago by Lohmann, who came up with the production's hook--storytellers a la D.C. Comics' "Tales From the Crypt," who guide the improvisers through their pulp parodies in genres that include, in their current evenings, horror, crime, romance and adventure.
The company does have favorites. Rahlmann says, "We like doing horror a lot. Horror's big fun. You can play with it. It's so easy since we don't use any real props. You can make anything happen."
"Play" is an operative word for Jones and Rahlmann. "It's supreme fun--grown-ups playing the way you always wished your friends could play" when you were a kid, says Jones with the infectious laugh that's a hallmark of her conversation. "But it's such smart playing. People really enjoy the spirit of play. You don't see much of that in the world, play that isn't just goofing off, that has intelligence behind it."
"Everybody buys into it, too," Rahlmann says. "You say, 'I'm the king.' And everybody says, 'Hail, king.' And you're the king for the life of the story." When they are deep in the Western genre, he says, "here are grown-ups running around the stage shooting imaginary guns at each other and dying."
Jones' laugh cuts through the conversation again. "It's very sophisticated," she says. Then, seriously, she says the group's audiences "know they have to partake in it. This is representational, and they have to help make up what's going on. In movies, people tend to think they're seeing reality because there are locations that are real, and the people are being real."
In fact, the group's play is quite serious work. On stage, Jones admits, "We almost go into an altered state, with the speed at which you're thinking and moving. Sometimes it feels as though the dialogue has a huge gap in it while someone is thinking. Then we play back the video, and there's no pause at all. You're so in touch with the other people. Your perception of time is so different; the way you're listening brings you up to a different speed. Suddenly someone will look at another actor and say, 'And then she said the thing that changed his life. . . ."
"It's fun to throw curves like that," Rahlmann says. "Our audiences love to see us getting each other in trouble.
"Improv has always been thought of as an exercise for actors," he says. "With us, it's an end in itself. And it's different every night, and it really is at the moment. It's taking one aspect of live theater, the immediacy and just amplifying it. It happens once. We like to keep the tightrope up high and know that it's really happening right there."
"You don't get that," Jones says, "unless you're paying strict attention to what's going on."
Each of Pulp Playhouse's evenings is devoted to one genre of pulp fiction and includes eight stories developed out of that genre. The group has experimented with longer forms, but Rahlmann says: "There's an immediacy about telling a story in 10 minutes that's really appealing to an audience. It keeps the interest at a peak, and you get to see eight stories in one evening. It also allows for an exploration of the variations of the genre."
The Pulp Players also have their least favorite genre. Jones puckers her face in mock horror. "Espionage is a nightmare. The only thing we get from the audience is the title. There are all these red herrings and false leads, and if you're trying to connect all these leads, you go crazy ! We know each other enough to find our way out of these labyrinths, but it's so iffy it's scary. You're determined to bring all those clues together."
"And we've got 20 loose ends!" Rahlmann adds.
"And nobody's leaving until we fix it!"
Jones laughs. She knows they always fix it.
True Fiction Magazine on the Radio
True Fiction Magazine performs regularly on Sedge Thomson's internationally syndicated radio program West Coast Live. Taking suggestions from the audience, TFM improvises a story complete with sound effects and music.
Select a title:
Why Go West
John, The Boy With One Kidney
True Fiction Magazine, originally inspired by the over-blown passions of the 30s and 40s pulp novels, takes improvised theatre to new heights each year. Pushing the realm of storytelling, TFM takes the audience on a wild ride into unknown territory that titilates the senses and blows the mind.
"Inspired invention!" -San Francisco Chronicle
"Surreal inventive plots!" -Los Angeles Times
"An immensely satisfying theatrical experience!" -Daily Variety
Friday, March 16, 2007, 8 p.m. - The Bayfront Theater, San Francisco - BATS Improv Long-Form Festival -Tickets/Info
April 1-7, 2007 - Belgium's 5th International Improvisation Theatre Festival -
Friday, August 28 2006, 8 p.m. - The Bayfront Theater, San Francisco
BATS Improv's Annual Summer Improv Festival
Friday & Saturday, September 8-9 2006, 8 p.m. - The Bayfront Theater, San Francisco
True Fiction Magazine, originally inspired by the over-blown passions of the 30s and 40s pulp novels, takes improvised theatre to new heights each year.
Pushing the realm of storytelling, TFM takes the audience on a wild ride into unknown territory that titilates the senses and blows the mind.
Cast: Diane Rachel, Barbara Scott, Regina Saisi, Paul Killam, Rafe Chase, and Tim Orr.
Friday & Saturday, October 27-28 2006, 8 p.m. - The Bayfront Theater, San Francisco - Annual Halloween Shows - Tickets/Info Coming Soon
Sunday, December 31 2006 - Legion of Honor, San Francisco - Annual New Year's Eve Show - Tickets/Info Coming Soon