In the tradition of hit show “Whose Line is it Anyway,” the Santa Barbara Zoo’s IMPROVology will shed light on the scientific work of wildlife conservationists while entertaining the public with ninety minutes of comedy based around their field. Held at the Lobero Theatre on February 20 and hosted by Dan O’Connor, producing artistic director of the Impro Theatre in Los Angeles, IMPROVology will have six professional improvisers from the venue performing against each other in teams of three as Mr. O’Connor throws them prompts to act out based on how animal experts Dr. Katy Delaney and Joe Burnett answer his interview questions. According to Santa Barbara Zoo CEO, IMPROVology was devised as a way to educate the public on wildlife conservation efforts in a way that isn’t boring or preachy. Recalling past years’ events, zoo CEO Rich Block commented that those who attend always leave with greater knowledge than when they went in.
“I’ve never spoken to anyone who comes out of there saying that they haven’t learned something new,” he said.
This is certainly true of Mr. O’Connor, who stated that he learns a great deal about whatever animals are the focus of a particular year’s show, be it African painted dogs or primates.
“It’s one of the shows I always look forward to and I always learn something,” Mr. O’Connor said.
The animals that will be the theme of this year’s show are the California condor and the red-legged frog. These are respectively the speciality of Mr. Burnett, senior wildlife biologist of the Ventana Wildlife Society, and Dr. Delaney, a wildlife ecologist at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. As this event is taking place just after Valentine’s Day, much of the comedy show will be based on the creatures’ mating and reproduction.
Mr. Block commented, “The breeding and the mating of California condors is fascinating. It’s a soap opera.”
This assigning of genres to the facts that Dr. Delaney and Mr. Burnett state in their interviews is exactly what Mr. O’Connor will do. Mr. O’Connor told the News-Press that his questions for the wildlife experts will not only regard the animals that they are knowledgeable about, but also questions about themselves as individuals. For instance, he may ask the scientists what made them want to go into their line of work, then take their answer and tell the improvising teams to act it out as a broadway musical, film noir, Jane Austen story, or whatever form of fiction seems to best fit. As the prompts are given depending on what the two experts say, Mr. O’Connor said it makes for a great, unpredictable show.
“It gives the evening a really terrific sense of spontaneity because we’re going down different roads,” he said.
The featured scientists aren’t repeated from year to year, so Dr. Delaney said she didn’t know what to expect from the show. She commented on the prospect of a biologist taking part in a comedy show, “A lot of us aren’t known to be entertaining.” Luckily for her, she’ll just have to talk about what she knows, frogs and how they keep making more of themselves.
“I guess frog sex is one of my specialties,” she said.
Tickets for IMPROVology range between $30 and $70 and can be purchased online at www.lobero.org. The show will begin at 8 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre, located at 33 E Canon Perdido St.