The storefront of the two-month-old Village Theatre looks out across Decatur Street toward the railroad tracks and the train yard that have for so long set the backdrop for the Lenny’s Bar shows upstairs. Since Lenny’s moved into the dilapidated shopping center at the Boulevard intersection, it’s been up to the arts alone to bring any color into the immediate surroundings, and in October, a new venue arrived to help light up the evenings. Friends Blair Holden and Mike King co-founded the new improv theatre along with a large group of other actors, the majority of which performed with them at Atlanta’s Whole World Improv Theatre, and with their reduced ticket prices and the welcoming atmosphere they’ve created, they hope to spread improv comedy to their new neighborhood.
I met Holden at the theatre space in the middle of the afternoon, and even on a cold winter day, the empty place felt warm and inviting, its exposed spray insulation dripping unmoving from the rafters and a life-sized Chewbacca cutout practically waving from the corner behind the bar. The stage fronts an area filled with comfy couches and folding chairs, and local artwork graces the walls. That afternoon it was silent inside, but the very room oozes welcome and laughter, like so many spray-insulated pipes or the paint running down the theatre’s logo.
We sat down, and perched on the front of the stage, before I could even ask a real question, Holden began telling the Village Theatre’s story:
Holden: I’m in commercial real estate. I have kind of a yin and yang personality, and that’s my day job. A lot of the guys around here, probably about half of us have serious day jobs. We have a doctor, a lawyer, we’ve got actors, fitness instructors. My girlfriend actually works for the Sunday Paper. [Co-owner Matt King] is the Hawks’ in-game host.
We all came from Whole World theatre. A lot of us wanted to kind of do something different. I really respect what Dad’s Garage does; every year they have probably ten different improv shows, and it’s not just your standard “give me a suggestion”; it’s creative and kind of cutting-edge. And that’s what we set out to do here at Village Theatre, was just have a place where we could play and do new and creative things. We wanted to be very involved in the community. I live in East Atlanta, and go to Grant Park and Cabbagetown all the time, and it was getting to the point at the old place where ticket prices were too expensive. A place like this, albeit a lot smaller and some would say in a shadier area-- I actually kind of like it-- our tickets are all $10 for every show that we do here.
So there are about 15 of us right now that are actors here at the theater. We perform a straight-up, standard improv show on Friday nights. We created our own show that’s going to run for the rest of this year called “Improv Asshole!” which is kind of based on the card game “Asshole.” Someone’s the asshole; we don’t go so far as to have a president and a vice president and that sort of thing, but we’ve incorporated the rules-- like I don’t know if you remember, but there’s the nose rule, the thumb rule, any time you swear you have to take a drink, that sort of thing. We do an improv show, and we allow the audience to tell us who they hated the most.
Paste: So it’s an actual drinking game?