Film on the fly

An unconventional new Seattle troupe takes improv to a new level

Vanessa McGrady

An audience member suggests a title ― let's say, "Processed Cheese" ― and bam! Two actors have hit the streets, cameraperson in tow, improvising and filming a scene. Two more actors will take snippets of a story from another audience member and literally run with it. A third pair solicits a prop ― whatever's handy ― and incorporates it into their scene. They too will head outside and begin making a story. Within five minutes, a runner has returned with a tape of the scene by the first actors, music begins, and another adrenaline-fueled episode of the Seattle Neutrino Project begins.

In 2003, artistic director Justin Sund handpicked 20 of Seattle's best improvisers and filmmakers to join Neutrino, a pioneering form of filmmaking on the fly for live audiences. He focused on finding people who are not only talented but also "inherently fun to look at." He calls the show an "organizational tempest" because of the multitude of things that can go wrong with live theater and technical wizardry. But that element of winging it is part of the fun: The audience becomes invested in the stories coming to a satisfying closure.

"There are unmined gems that'll come out of people's mouths," says ensemble member Órla McGovern. "People aren't sure what they're going to get, which is a huge joy."

INFO: The Seattle Neutrino Project will perform Mar 4-5 at Ryan Stiles' Upfront Theatre ($10; 1208 Bay St., Bellingham, WA; 360/733-8855). Visit www.seattleneutrino.com for a schedule.