Theater Beat: Tiny dynamite's transatlantic 'Perfect Blue'; 'Henry V' with a twist

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Philly Improv Theatre (PHIT) is forming new teams to stay fresh.

Seeing the future. This week, you theater-lovers have a terrific chance to see six future plays for free. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the PlayPenn New Play Development Conference has its first-round readings at the Proscenium Theatre at the Drake, 341 Hicks St. Support new theater. They're free, but you should register at playpenn.org/calendar. The schedule: 5 p.m. Tuesday: Galilee by Christine Evans; 8 p.m.: Hard Cell by Brent Askari. 5 p.m. Wednesday: Thirst by C.A. Johnson; 8 p.m.: penny candy by Jonathan Norton. 5 p.m. Thursday: With by Carter Louis; 8 p.m.: House of the Negro Insane by Terence Anthony. Second-round readings July 27-30. Information: 215-242-2813, playpenn.org.

The irony about improv. Spontaneous, funny, and crackling with brilliance, improv is almost always also the product of preparation, hard work, and team spirit. That's why it's so bittersweet when improv companies have to break up the gang and start afresh.

Last weekend, about 200 people - an amazing number - showed up to audition for the house teams at Philly Improv Theatre (PHIT) at 2030 Sansom St. This month and next, the current house teams, the core of PHIT's schedule, will conclude their Wednesday and Saturday runs. Some house teams have been together for years, logging more than 100 shows.

Kristen Schier, PHIT improv producer, says she and acting artistic director Mike Marbach "made a risky move in retiring the current teams. But every good thing must come to an end. My hardest job as a producer is to make that call."

Performers audition for directors who have a vision in mind for a team. These directors choose the casts, who then practice for months before performing together. The two new directors this time are longtime Philly presence Sheila Master and Tom Hannigan, he of Super Human Horse.

Schier says the current teams are "super-talented" and absolutely dedicated. "But it had been a long time, more than a year, since we had had any auditions at the theater," she says. They wanted to give grads from their training center a shot. "And also, improv is all about being fresh, in the moment, not knowing what the future is going to hold. If you stay in the same place, you don't really grow."

PHIT performers don't get paid, but PHIT does pay directors and foots the bill for performance space - hard to find here, as in most big cities.

"Almost everyone on the old teams are signing up to audition for the new teams," Schier says. "We're going to make something new together, and I can't wait."

Can't wait to see:

  • Guys and Dolls (Bucks County Playhouse, Friday-Aug. 12). The Frank Loesser sparkler based on the tales of Damon Runyon. Information: bcptheater.org.
  • Wreck of the Spanish Armada (Aerodrome, 251 Ranger Rd., Cape May Airport; Mondays-Thursdays until Labor Day; Fridays-Sundays through mid-October). Bill Sterritt's rollicksome love story/adventure. Information: 323-793-2153, aerodromenj@aol.com.

jt@phillynews.com 215-854-4406

@jtimpane