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Published on: April 01, 2007

A really 'pig' show
Positive, silly improv for kids at 'Hogwash'

This review was originally published in April, 2007 

do you get when you throw together quick-thinking actors, a live band,
an audience packed with shouting kids and a guy off to the side making
props on the fly? You get an afternoon of entertainment that's
original, funny and fast-moving enough even for preschoolers.

Hogwash -- An Improvised Tall Tale
, which began its second run on
March 3, 2007 [Editor's note: and its third run on Sept. 22, 2007] at the Historic University Theater in Seattle, is a
kid-friendly introduction to the art of improvisational theater.
Children invent the characters, choose goofy names, pick out costumes
and make wild plot suggestions, while the narrator encourages the
audience to sing, shout, boo and do whatever else seems right at the

Kids get the hang of this type of silly fun right away, and so do the grownups sitting next to them.

The show is made up of two 30-minute segments, each featuring makeshift
props and costumes, and (often off-key) songs sung by the cast. The
band, called the Hamstrings, improvises music on keyboard, guitar and
drums; all other details are up for grabs. The shabby-funky theater is
a good setting for the show, which feels as enthusiastic and pleasingly
rough around the edges as something put together by counselors at
summer camp.

On opening day, the first segment followed the exploits of a pair of
good scuba divers, named Canock and I Forgot, in their search for a
magic rock. As the skit began, the prop guy (Nick Edwards) created
goggles and scuba gear out of cardboard and ran them up on stage to the
actors. The sneaky Captain and his mate, Smitty, stole a rock detector
to find the magic rock for themselves. The audience waved its arms and
booed as the Captain and Smitty searched for the rock, which a child in
the audience was keeping "very safe."

Meanwhile, Canock and I Forgot visited a "magical mermaid bird person"
who promised to help them find the rock, which can grant wishes. There
was a lot of running up and down the aisles to shouted hints about the
rock's location. The narrator asked the audience what their wishes
would be, and a boy called out that he'd wish for the bad guys to
become good guys. Adults in the audience laughed loudly when Smitty
(Stephanie Thompson), during "his" transformation to a good guy, took
off "his" hat and gasped, "I'm actually a girl!" The Captain (Scott
Baxter) pulled off his long black wig, ran his hand over the short hair
underneath and shot back, "And I actually have a really preppy haircut!"

The cast gamely handled the plot's hairpin turns, often making jokes
for the adults while crafting a positive message for the kids. Actors
accepted kids' directions with respect and a sense of humor. As the
narrator, Jon Axel was enthusiastic and energetic, with a self-assured
wit. He did a nice job of moving the show along without making kids
feel rushed when he called on them.

You won't find anything like Hogwash anywhere else in the Seattle
area. Young children will discover that there's more to theater than
passive observation, and because the show changes weekly, you can come
back more than once and see something new each time.


Hogwash plays Saturdays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 17, 2007

Tickets for adults are $10, children $8 (ages 3 and older)

Historic University Theater
5510 University Way N.E., Seattle

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