Improv Pros To Offer Free Performance

February 6, 2014, 1:56 PM HST · Updated February 7, 2:39 PM
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By Vanessa Wolf

Mark Beltzman. Courtesy image

Mark Beltzman. Courtesy image

Mark Beltzman and Michael Burton met early last year while performing at The PIT (Peoples Improv Theater) in New York City and decided to bring their combined talents to Maui.

“Who are Beltzman and Burton?” you may be asking.

Well, Beltzman, a veteran actor, writer and director was a founding member of Improv Olympic in Chicago and has worked and directed at the famed Second City in Chicago. Beltzman also had roles in the films Billy Madison, The Wedding Singer and Employee of the Month, as well as such TV shows as Seinfeld, Rosanne, Norm, Curb Your Enthusiasm, According to Jim, Cold Case, House and Pretty Little Liars.

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Not too shabby.

Meanwhile, in addition to The PIT, Burton has studied and performed at New York’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade and Magnet theaters. He was also a regular performer on The Scene, an evening of improvised one act plays at The PIT.

This Saturday, Feb. 8 the duo’s newly founded Maui Improv venue will perform at 8 p.m. at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.

Michael Burton (who we're starting to suspect is a teen). Courtesy image

Michael Burton (who we’re starting to suspect is a child prodigy). Courtesy image

The show opens with a short sketch facilitated by Burton and featuring a few of Maui Improv’s local players, followed by a 45 minute one-act improvised play (created on the spot by audience input) by Beltzman and Burton.

We spoke to the duo to find out how all this came about and what Maui might expect of the newly arrived improv talents.

Maui Now: You have writing, directing, teaching, improv and even film and TV experience all over the country, what brought you to Maui?

Mark Beltzman: My wife and I live in LA and have a timeshare on Kauai. I have been teaching improv over there on and off for about 15 years.

When Michael told me he was moving to Maui in the fall, I said, “I will be In Hawaii in November and would love to come teach a workshop”… so I did!

We had a huge turnout. Michael took the reigns and kept the momentum going and thus was the beginning of Maui Improv: a venue where people of all ages and skill levels (most having no prior experience whatsoever) could come and play.

MN: What’s your favorite part about running these workshops and performing on the island?

Beltzman: I get to share my wealth of knowledge, experience, creative ideas, and meet new people while creating a new and exciting community of improvisers all over Hawaii.

Performing is my life. Whether it’s movies, TV, commercials, theater, musicals, playing tuba, or improvising, it is what I love to do. What makes it even better is doing it in Maui, and we wouldn’t be able to without the support of Scott Newman and ProArts Theater run by Jonathan Lehman.

Michael Burton: Watching people from Maui improvise. Of the 100 or so folks we have been able to work with, most had never improvised before, and almost no one had heard of long form improv. Just a few months into it, and we have people telling us that it’s hard to fall asleep after class because they are thinking about their scenes. When we improvise we’re fully alive and accessing a playful part of ourselves that we usually don’t use in everyday life, and watching people discover and explore. That is pretty awesome.

MN: Do you have a “big dream” where Maui’s concerned? In other words, where would you like to see yourselves and/or what would you like to see come of your efforts in five years?

Beltzman: Our goal is to grow and nurture the improve art form in this community to help create seasoned veterans who will perform, teach, thrive right here on Maui.

We want everyone to evolve and be enlightened by something that is a creative force of nature.

More than that, we’d love to be the conduit that attracts the best improvisers and teachers in the world and allows them to augment their vacation by sharing their talent. In a perfect world, in five years we will be the most requested destination for those who want to come here and share their wealth of knowledge and experience just like I did.

There is no admission fee to Saturday night’s show, although a full house is expected and attendees are encouraged to come early to secure a seat.

Complimentary ‘bubbly beverages’ will be offered, and your donations to support live theater on Maui are greatly appreciated.

If you’re interested in more than being part of the audience, Maui Improv offers regular Sunday “drop in” workshops at the ProArts Playhouse (Azeka plaza, makai side next to Taco Bell) from 6-8:45 p.m. Class cost is $15 and further information can be found online.

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