Point of No Return Improv Troupe Seeks Laugh Makers
Bart Sullivan, 06-05-2019

Ruben Ryan and Al Mothersbaugh discuss tomatoes in a scene during their May 25th performance.
Ellen Stair
Despite the high temperatures and lack of air conditioning in the Newell Theater at the Quirk Cultural Center, the Falls-based Point of No Return Improv troupe (PNR) got a heavy turnout for their May 25th performance. The night’s four participating members—Richard Harrison, Ruben Ryan, Emily Durway, and Al Mothersbaugh—kept the audience in nonstop laughter through audience participation, multiple skits, and music.

Improv comedy performances generally begin with actors requesting call-outs from the audience,and incorporating the shouted words or topics into a preplanned scene idea or improv game. PNR relied on these in such scenes as a game of Jeopardy! with Georgie Porgy and the goddess Aphrodite, a bizarre misunderstanding over tomatoes and drugs, and a musical review of the duo “Ferret Runs,” a duo that never quite succeeded in music or love.

“We guarantee that new audience members will see something they've never seen before... every show is 100% improvised,” PNR co-artistic director Tracy Cubbal explains. “The best analogy I can come up with is that it's like a magic show. You walk in not knowing what to expect, and yet the magician still manages to surprise you.”

For each performance, the group pulls from a master list of about 50 types of scenes and games, some adopted from outside PNR and others created specifically for their shows. Each of the scenes performed throughout the night are part theater, part comedy, and all fun. The various scenes and games are a way to engage with the audience (such as the beyond-average turnout on the night of this show), consistently producing responses and never letting the show drag.

“Our shows provide entertainment for members of the Cuyahoga Falls community and surrounding areas,” Cubbal explains. “We try to keep our content to a ‘PG-13’ level so that people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy them together without the risk of feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable.”

For the current season, PNR has 12 performing members, but is seeking new cast members for the troupe. On June 12, the group will audition additional team members, possibly finding the next hit actor audiences will love. While there is no prior acting or improv experience required to audition, there is no set number they wish to accept either. “We are looking for people who have an intuitive understanding of what it means to be part of a team: showing up consistently, putting the needs of the group ahead of one's own ego, and being willing to try new things even when one is uncertain about whether they'll succeed. A good improviser-to-be to be is willing to make strong choices but also ‘go with the flow,’” Cubbal said.

Beyond cast changes, the inclusion of more “long-form” material as well as more short-form games have made the troupe different over the years. These changes often happen as cast members come and go because every new person joining PNR often brings something new with them to the group, allowing it to evolve with different generations of actors.

For those interested in joining for the group, auditions will take place June 12 at 6:30pm in the Newell Theatre, the same location where shows are performed inside the Quirk Cultural Center. Cubbal compares joining an improv troupe that has been around this long to marrying into a large family: “At first you feel like an outsider since everybody else has history, but once you've been there a while, they become your family too.”

PNR auditions will take place June 12 at 6:30pm in the Newell Theatre, where the troupe regularly performs two Saturdays a month, on the third floor theater of Quirk Cultural Center, 1201 Grant Avenue, with occasional changes to their schedule. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $5. Upcoming shows are scheduled for June 8, June 22, and July 6. More information about the troupe can be found at pnrimprov.org.

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