Zack Armstrong already is known to a generation of Tucson kids for his play in Wonderfools and Emergency Circus, and a host of smarter-than-they-need-to-be birthday clown appearances. It turns out he was also an improv pro all along, having trained with Chicago’s storied iO Theatre as well as with clowning genius Avner Eccentric, star of the ‘80s adventure hit movie, Jewel of the Nile.
FOMP (Friends of Make Pretends), features Armstrong with a team of kid-friendly improvisers, combining all his favorite things – clowning, improv and the unfettered laughter of children—into an original theater experience for families. The show is at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 13, and every second Saturday of the month, at Tucson Improv Movement, 329 E. 7th St. Admission is $5, or $20 for families of five or more, at the door or at tucsonimprov.com
“It's important that parents enjoy it every bit as much as kids do,” Armstrong says. “Kids learn through play and helping. I think showing parents that grown folks can play also is useful.”
Armstrong describes the show as, “interactive and collaborative storytelling”—acting out stories, creating conducted stories, acting out scenes. “We might act out fairy tales. We might act out a whole fairy tale in 60 seconds. We'll invent a story from scratch based on the audience suggestions. We invite kids onto the stage so they can participate with us.
“It's just a fun environment where kids can have a theatre experience, but still be kids. They don't have to sit in their seat. They can walk around. They can come up to the front of the stage. As long as they aren't interfering with the game, they can be themselves.” He also notes that being part of the theatre experience exposes kids to theatre in a way that could make them lifelong fans.
As for his own enthusiasm for FOMP, Armstrong, who is also a fifth-grade English teacher, says, “I kind of feel like I never grew up. I like to be silly. I like to do silly voices and make up silly stories, and my sense of humor seems to jibe with kids’. They make me laugh, and I just really love the energy that I get from them.”
Next in Armstrong’s vision is a plan to engage refugee children and kids on the autism spectrum in improv games where they can learn to better interpret and express communication that doesn’t require language.