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The Around the Bend Players bring big time comedy to Toledo

The Toledo Blade
January 8, 7999





If you've ever seen Saturday Night Live on television or gone to The Second City in Chicago, Toronto or Detroit, you may have some idea what Toledo's own Around the Bend Players are all about. The nine-member troupe, performing every Friday night at Ansara's Board Room, 223 N. Huron, specializes in improvisation. In other words, no one knows what they're going to say next -- including themselves!

These comedians are real pros, and word is starting to get around town about the quality of their show. They began at the Board Room in October in a room that seats 70, and drew a steadily growing audience, completely selling out the last three weeks before the holiday break. Tonight is their first show back, followed by a show every Friday night. Depending on demand, a Saturday show could be added in the future.

So how did downtown Toledo get its very own improv troupe? It's a story that reads like a TV script -- and it almost was. Troupe director Tom Hofbauer said he and his writing partner, Mark Zink, had developed a pilot for a television show, but weren't able to sell it. They had assembled and worked closely with such a talented cast that rather than disband, they developed the idea of an improv troupe.

"It's been going real well," Hofbauer said. "We've had a very positive reaction from people who come to see the show, the audience has grown steadily. And we couldn't be happier at the Board Room. Camail Ansara is great to work with."

Hofbauer said The Around the Bend Players are adding to the growing resurgence of downtown Toledo, bring 70 people downtown every Friday that probably wouldn't otherwise come there. And people must like what they see, because repeat business is good, too. "We do have a lot of people come back. Because the majority of the show is improvisational, they always see something new," he said.

The audience has been a mix of young and old, even some entire families. "Sometimes high school kids come with their parents. The comments we hear is that they think it's a clean show," Hofbauer said. "We do some double entendre, but basically it's pretty clean. I think that's tougher comedy to do. It's easy to descend into swearing, but it takes more work to do a clean show and make it funny."

The troupe videotapes each show to review their performance and sometime find funny improvisational bits to develop into sketches, and also reviews comment cards filled out by the audience. "One recent card said they felt like they were in a bigger city," Hofbauer said. "We're looking forward to continuing to provide that caliber of entertainment right here in Toledo.