On Stage


Edu-tainment makes the grade

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A quick look at the hefty list of props needed to pull off Kimberly Ross and Krissa Woiwod’s “Sketchopedia” reveals just a hint of what to expect when the duo opens its two-week run of the show Thurs., March 6 at the iDiOM Theater.

Among the more curious components to be found among the long itemization of onstage wants and needs: aerobics accessories, American flags, Achilles’ battle armor, alps, an aboriginal child, Attila’s mustache, art supplies and a giant, sparkly rendition of the first letter of the alphabet.

If you noticed that this particular grouping of props includes those items starting with the letter “A,” you’re halfway to understanding the clever concept behind “Sketchopedia.”

The press release I recently received about the show had informed me the performance would focus on things that started with the popular vowel, and also pointed out that audiences could expect to be part of a “journey through history, pop culture and the animal kingdom, with singing and dancing.” Words and phrases such as “edu-tainment,” “encyclopeditious” and “academonstrative arts” were also used, and had me thinking that “Sketchopedia” wasn’t taking itself too seriously.

At a recent rehearsal for the comedic juggernaut, I discovered my initial diagnosis was correct on some fronts, but woefully inadequate in other ways. While it was already clear the creative collaborators were planning on taking a few liberties with the English language, they also managed to produce a show that is both hilarious and just a wee bit subversive.

Billing themselves as Professional Science-ish Edutainment Actors, or “prosctaintors,” the duo soon enters into a theatrical foray that takes audiences on a weirdly wonderful whirlwind trip through history (see Attila, Athena, Achilles), art (in which two painters battle for supremacy using only words that begin with the dominant letter), geography (Australia!), animal partnerships (getting a look at the cardboard and duct-tape masks are worth the price of admission alone), and much, much more.

Despite seeing the run-through without the benefit of a finished set, fancy lights or musical accompaniment, I still came away from my “Sketchopedia” viewing with a big grin on my face—and a strong desire to see the show with all the bells and whistles intact.

When I sat down with Woiwod after the run-through for a few minutes, I asked her what audience members for “Sketchopedia” should know before purchasing their tickets.

“I like to think that it’s very approachable theater,” Woiwod says. “One of our goals was to get people in the seats and get them excited about live theater. ‘Sketchopedia’ doesn’t ask too much of you, but at the same time, it’s not like it’s a dumbed-down play. It’s theater for people who don’t necessarily like theater—and their friends who don’t think they like theater.”

I agreed with Woiwod’s assessment, but would also like to let audiences know that pulling off this kind of sketch comedy isn’t an easy feat.

As the first one to see what Woiwod and Ross have been up to behind the scenes, I was also privy to the enormous pile of props that still have to be perfected before opening night, and also the vast amount of energy it takes for two people to pull off an “edu-tainment” escapade such as this one.

In short, “Sketchopedia” makes the grade. If they’re lucky come opening night, audiences—another word that starts with the highlighted letter—will reward them with an “A.”

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