JANESVILLE

When you've been rehearsing a script for a month and a half, performing on stage is less daunting.

Sure, there are things that go wrong: Lines can be flubbed, props can fall down ... the audience might seem uninspired. But, for the most part, you can anticipate what's coming, and you know what you're going to do when the light shines on you.

So, what if you don't know what's coming? What if you're there on stage, in front of God and everybody, and the crowd decides it wants you to pretend you're Abe Lincoln knitting a sweater during a snowstorm at a bus stop in Poughkeepsie?

Such is the world of improvisation. And if you've ever seen an episode of "Who's Line is it Anyway?" on television, you get the gist.

At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12, the Janesville Performing Arts Center will introduce its new improv performance troupe to the public. The show is initially being presented as part of Local Talent Month, but JPAC Executive Director Nathan Burkart hopes the troupe will continue performing at least a few times each year.

"Right now, we're just trying to get through this event, but the goal is to perform our times a year and then be able to get into businesses to do workshops and other fun things," he said.

Joining Burkart as members of the five-person troupe are Whitewater's Penny Ardelt and the Janesville trio of Melanie Morgan, Edie Baran and Yuri Rashkin.

"Since this is an inaugural group, we get to embrace the process, come up with what we want to do and how to do it," Burkart said. "It's not one of those things where you have to remember lines; you just show up with a good attitude.

"There have been times I've had a rough day and I go to this group and feel 10 times better when I'm done."

Baran, who has an extensive resume when it comes to performing on stage, sees the group as an opportunity to continue pushing boundaries.

"I think everybody should do things that put them out of their comfort zone," she said. "In a play, if an actor forgets a line, you know the play well enough that you can improvise and get people back on track. But in improv, the situation involves someone giving you a setting, you know who the characters are, but you have no idea what's going to come out of the other person's mouth."

According to Burkart, the first half of the Jan. 12 performance will feature improvisational games. The second half will involve an off-the-cuff musical in which audience members will be given a premise and then be allowed to select character names, an adjective to describe the character and a profession.

“The really great thing about this is that it’s something the area didn’t have yet, so it’s nice to bring it to Janesville,” he said.

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