by Chris Davis
The audience-interactive show works like this: First the audience picks a topic. Then the guest tells a true story related in some way to that topic. Then The Wiseguys—who have recently come aboard as co-bloggers at my other blog, Fly on the Wall — build an improvisational sketch inspired by scenes and images from the story.
It's a fun concept, and Gravois, who, creates tile mosaics when he's not acting, is known for is special attention to details.
Intermission Impossible: Acting, comedy, and storytelling are three different things I've seen you do, in some way, at some point in the past. Which of the disciplines is, for you, the most fun, and which the most frightening.
Michael Gravois: I don’t necessarily find the three thing mutually exclusive—acting IS storytelling; comedy IS acting. The best dramas, I think, can be very funny. Even tragedy should have some humorous elements to humanize the characters and the theme. But, responding to your mutually exclusive questioning, I find acting to be the most fun. I love exploring a life different from my own, trying to find the truth in a viewpoint that is vastly different than mine. The most frightening for me is storytelling. I freeze socially when the words have to be my own. I much prefer words that have been carefully chosen by a playwright, allowing me to appear far more intelligent and witty than I actually am.
Intermission Impossible: Have you ever done a Storytellers unplugged? Do you know what to expect? Even though you can't know the topic, are you already wracking your brain for stories?
Michael Gravois: I’ve never done a Storytellers Unplugged or anything like it. I have absolutely no idea what to expect. Jared Herring, a member of the comedy troupe, took my Intro to Theatre class at U of M this past spring. After a few weeks he asked if I would like to tell a story for his group to act out; he set two guidelines—it’s a late show (meaning no kids, so any topic is fair game) and it needs to be something that actually happened to me. I immediately thought of a moment in my life that I could never envision being acted out on stage. I have no idea how they’ll pull it off, so I’m excited by the theatrical possibilities.
Intermission Impossible: There's some crossover between Memphis' comedy and theater communities, but I'm always surprised there's not more. How do you see the relationship?
Michael Gravois: The performance arts are as varied as cable channels, with the Food Network, AMC, Comedy Central, and Nick at Nite—there’s something for everyone. But from a performer’s standpoint, scripted and unscripted pieces are very different—some actors are drawn to musicals, some to comedies, some to dramas, some to stand up. I know actors in town who predominantly do musicals (so I rarely work with them cause I can’t sing or dance; I love when there’s a non-singing part in a musical; call me!). Likewise, with improvisation, I’m not on stage with those performers because the idea terrifies me. I stick to what I’m best at—straight plays—so when the genres cross, I welcome working with performers who usually appear on a different cable channel.
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