Something funny is going on in downtown Fort Mill. And it’s going to be here a while.
An improv group formerly based in Charlotte will continue to bring the laughs on stage at the Fort Mill Community Playhouse this year.
Paul Marks of Over the Counter Improv said the group performed at the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, but teamed up with the FMCP after that venue closed. In 2017, Marks’ group performed seven shows in Fort Mill, and have signed a contract for 15 shows this year.
“Every show was a sellout” last year at the 66-seat theater in the former Town Hall building at 220 Main St., Marks said. “It’s Chicago-style improv – it’s fun and different.”
Kicking off the 2018 season will be the group’s three-person team called Three’s a Crowd which consists of Marks, the “really funny” Tim Counts and Mel Ratliff, “who adds that bow that makes ‘Three’s a Crowd’ successful.”
They’ll be performing “Heart-A-TAC” at the downtown Playhouse Feb. 3, four 15-20-minute humorous plays, totally improvised on the spot based on an audience suggestion. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.
Marks has spent the last several years mixing business and right-brained thinking and innovation and making it a career. He’s taken classes at Second City and Improv Olympics in Chicago from instructors that have included finalists for “Saturday Night Live.” He’s also spent several years researching and studying corporate culture, team building and presentation skills to see if there was a relationship between his improv philosophy and the business world.
Confident of this relationship, Marks opened the Over The Counter Improv business division, Beta Test Improv, to teach the benefits of improvisation and right brain thinking to corporate employees.
Marks said his unique style of laughter, leadership and creativity has led companies such Fort Mill and Charlotte-area based businesses like Daimler Trucks, Wells Fargo, Ingersoll Rand, Duke Energy, Bank of America, Red Ventures and many others to use his training workshops. He has also led workshops at Fort Mill schools, including Doby’s Bridge Elementary School.
“It’s so cool what happens – humor changes everything for people,” Marks said. “It lowers the barriers and makes you a better leader.”
Improv is life for Marks, who also owns an SAT prep school, and makes sure the tutors who work for the school can do a little improv as well. (He may even challenge someone he’s never met before, say, a newspaper writer, to an improv game over the phone involving Bojangles and sweet tea, using country accents).
Martha Ferguson, president elect of the Fort Mill Community Playhouse board, said the organization’s relationship with OTC Improv is beneficial and she’s looking forward to seeing it continue into 2018.
“As Paul and his group mainly serve the Charlotte area, a lot of his audience members are making their first trip to Fort Mill,” Ferguson said. “Some return to see shows we produce so it’s a win-win for us. OTC Improv is a big hit with their shows at our theater. They regularly fill the house, not only with the audience but with laughs. It is a fun evening when they are there.”
BY JENNY ARNOLD
Special to the Fort Mill Times