On February 27th EPIC Players presented its first “Underground” performance—the result of a five-week narrative class focused on preparing cast members’ personal stories for the stage.  The class served as a prerequisite to excelling in the arts of emceeing, public speaking and active listening, while helping each student build fast-paced critical thinking skills when performing in front of a live audience.

EPIC Underground was hosted by Jessica Saul and featured Talia Eapen at the Footlight in Queens www.thefootlightbar.nyc  For audience members who live in Manhattan, traveling via Uber was a long but manageable transit to a show well worth the trip. (For my husband traveling from midtown on two trains, getting hopelessly lost, nearly mugged, and falling on the sidewalk, the journey was almost unmanageable (but he arrived safely in the end). The Footlight offered EPIC and everyone else a warm welcome and lots of ice for my husband. We also enjoyed inexpensive but excellent drinks, and for the children among us, copious crayons.  One of our friends won a free shot for drawing a dog receiving enlightenment.  A good time was had by all before and after, so a big thank-you to the Footlight.

Listening to various cast members tell funny and deeply personal stories of growth about past experiences was alternately entertaining and moving.  There was a wonderful gibberish routine, and improv that invited audience participation. Scenes depicted included: bowling, a brother/sister relationship, customers at Disney Land, and hilarious Long Island accents. We also listened to a wide range of anecdotes from actors: a 6th grader who peed in his pants during an audition, a second grader (Samantha) who despised her teacher, spending most of her time in the principal’s office, inventing imaginary friends while yearning for real friendships with her classmates. One actress told us the story of why she hated children; another actor explained why he liked living in Westport better than New York.

The Underground show was a wonderful opportunity for EPIC actors to show off their growing skills and for the audience to get to know the actors as people (while still acting!)  It is no small feat to summon the courage and develop the capacity for authentic communication. EPIC actors performed honestly, from the heart AND demonstrated a sense of humor from which people with AND without disabilities will benefit. In fact, I’m thinking about taking an improv class myself….



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