My pal Jason Reed and I have a joke between us when we perform together. He always asks to see a script and I always say "Scripts are for amateurs. Strictly for suckers. I never use them!" We laugh and then go perform. Of course there is a script. It is in our heads. There is at the very least a beat sheet or loose outline to follow. A track to run on. A list of gags and jokes and magic tricks we intend to squeeze or shoehorn into the performance - but an actual script? Wow. What a luxury that would be! LOL. True improv is dangerous. It is flying without a net. My shows do have a net. The murder mystery has an outline, and three act sructure, the trial has a case to try and and the magic is actually very carefully planned. So what I do isn't pure improv - it is improvisational. It is conversational - the audience is part of the show and I can't script that. Admittedly after decades of performances for thousands of people I do have tried and true responses to a lot of what the audience might say. It's kind of like those "Choose your own adventure" books that you may have read as a child. You say this and I am prepared with a reply that moves my story forward... although every now and then an audience member will throw me a curve ball! That's how we grow as performers.
"Dinner Court" sounds like the fast food dining area in a mall. That was a challenge in bringing my new audience participation, improvisational show to the stage. I was performing a lot of interactive murder mystery dinner shows and private parties and my clients were calling me back again and again. BUT sometimes they felt that the murder mystery had been done...(Pun intended)... to death. I needed something new. When it came to interactive theater there was the murder mystery show, the Italian Wedding shows, The Pirates Adventure, Midevial Times, and Renaissance faire. I wanted to try something different. I had heard of these live mock trials in lawschool classrooms as well as for fun - usually as part of wild west shows and such (there is nothing new under the sun after all) - but I figured I could make my own show, a stand out show, lampooning the justice system. I was right... and the not knowing how the case will go or what the jury will decide? Irresistable!
I was probably watching Judge Judy or the People's Court when it occured to me that a trial could capture the imagination of my live audiences. People love watching trials on TV and the movies. "A Few Good Men" , "Law and Order" was a huge hit. Every sitcom I ever watched in my life had at least one episode in court. Felix Unger bringing Oscar Madison to court in the Odd Couple, Neman putting Kramer on the stand in Seinfeld... and the series finale too when the whole cast was on trial...and of course who could forget "Night Court?" This was a good idea to be certain.
In real life, people try to get out of jury duty. BUT I figured the reason behind that was a lack of comfort! Those jury chairs are so uncomfortable. Plus..no potato chips and beer! In my courtroom we would have comfy chairs, fine food and lots of libation. That solves that problem. The idea was taking shape.
The first case was basically a sequel to one of my murder mystery scripts. We put the accused killer on trial. We did this down at the naval base in San Diego in 2007. We had a nice review:
"I just left the Dinner Court show no less than 15 minutes ago and must say that, that was the BEST live show I've ever witnessed! I am in the armed forces (but have two siblings who attend Cinema Arts Tech in Van Nuys, CA) and was shocked to find out this was the company's first performance. Well seasoned actors and actress (HI Dangmar!!! ;) and overall a top notch performance. Keep it up guys and I recommend this show to both young and old adults alike."- PSSA Ophelien, Kerry, UNITED STATES NAVY
Over time the show adapated and changed and became more focused on audience members and improvised cases. I have taken the show to the Tehachapi Wine and Cattle Company, the 94th Aero Squadron in Van Nuys, some great country clubs, lots of private parties and most recently to the Palmdale Playhouse in 2021. For that show I changed the name to "Courtroom Circus" since we weren't having a dinner. I like it. It fits. It is a laugh riot! Everyone knows how to play along with this. The procedural element of the courtroom gives the players a perfect track to run on so it is easy to get involved in the event. I'm happy to bring this great event to your next celebration!