Dad's Garage Ensemble
Fri. @ 7 p.m., American Theater
"Whatever we do, we always try to tell a memorable story – whether it's a game, or getting up and doing an open scene," says Matt Horgan, one of the primary performers in Atlanta's Dad's Garage Theater. "That always colors the way we approach stuff. We try things in a ton of different formats at Dad's ... we're always trying new stuff."
Founded in Atlanta in 1995, the Dad's Garage Theatre group began as a tight pack of volunteers and gradually evolved into a mid-size theatre led by a sizeable artistic and administrative staff. Now in their 11th year, they maintain a two-theatre facility in Inman Park in downtown Atlanta and regularly perform original works and reinterpretations of plays and skits.
"As far as theatres go, we don't know of any other place in Atlanta that does a full season of improv," says Horgan. "A lot of the improvisers are in the main stage shows and involved in the writing as well."
Recent Dad's productions include Cannibal: The Musical (based on the movie by South Park's Trey Parker), O Happy Day (a play by Monty Python's late Graham Chapman), and Carrie White the Musical (an "unauthorized parody" adapted by the Dad's Garage Ensemble). Such efforts have apparently gone over terrifically with local critics and fans.
"The Dad's audience is a source of local pride and national renown," says the theater's artistic director Kate Warner. "They're hip, youthful, and progressive. We'll continue to be Atlanta's funniest, most outrageous, and most deviant theatre."
Horgan started off doing theatre in middle school and high school in Columbia, S.C. and continued in performing arts in college in Rome, Ga. and then back in Columbia. "In college at U.S.C., I got involved in the We're Not Your Mother Players while I was doing theatre," he says. "This was in 1995 and '96 – about the same time The Have Nots! were getting started. That's when I got into doing improv. I'd always been drawn to comedy and found that it was what I had wanted to do the entire time! It's not like stand-up, where you're up there by yourself; you have however many other people on stage with you. It's like a team sport, with friends who will back you up."
Horgan relocated to Atlanta in 1999, discovered the action at Dad's Garage, and almost immediately signed on as one of the regular performers. While Dad's has a regular improv ensemble of about 15 performers, the ensemble lineup for the Comedy Festival features four: Horgan, Amber Nash, Lucky Yates, and Rene Dellefont.
"First and foremost, Dad's is a narrative short-form group," Horgan says. "In Charleston, the four of us will get up and do some short-form narrative improv. We'll throw some games in there, tell some stories, and get the crowd involved ... we're big on getting folks to get up there with us to help us out. We're really looking forward to getting back there." –T. Ballard Lesemann