- The Professors (Michael Ferstenfeld, Peter Rogers, & Karen Jane DeWitt) and their various companions Emily Breedlove, Katie Thornton, Ryan Austin, Lindsey Reeves, Quinn Buckner, Lacy Shawn and Colin Thomas Bates.
Let’s just get this out there right now – I love Dr. Who! Along with the usual Star Trek, Star Wars, and a host of other Sci-Fi & Fantasy books and film, my adolescent geek nutrition required a healthy serving of Tom Baker’s Doctor Who on PBS. Since then, through various other incarnations, I’ve kept up with the Doctor and his companions as they take on cybermen, Daleks, and a host of other baddies through space and time. In fact, this season (which just kicked off last week on BBC America) already had me screaming with joy when a confused Doctor, at the mercy of the Daleks, found out why the Daleks had called on him. Let me just say that, the set up is too good to give away. and will likely have you screaming as well when it is explained.
So my fellow Whovians, as you and I eagerly await the second episode tomorrow night, it is our good fortune to have director Justin Davis come down from Austin to Super Happy Funland as part of The Houston Fringe Festival. Davis’ and his ensemble of improv comedians took on the budget challenged world of the Time Lords in the matter-of-fact titled “The Professor: Improv Inspired by Doctor Who” for five weeks in Austin’s Salvage Vanguard Theater earlier this year. The shows featured three doctors.. err I mean… professors, new adventures each night, and crowds made up of both die hard fans and the uninitiated laughing their asses off. If you missed last night’s performance, tonight is your last chance to catch the silliness. We quickly hit up Davis to tell us a little bit about himself, the show, and its inspiration.
What is it about Doctor Who that drew you to build this around it?
Davis – The idea that the format is a limitless one. Yes, we have a core character to build the show around, but the concept of traveling in time and to any place in the universe opens us up to do multiple types of shows in an infinite amount of settings. Shows can range from wacky hijinks to frightening to mysterious to romantic to melancholy. In fact, we try to have a bit of all of that in our shows, much like Doctor Who itself.
I was reading an interview recently with Joel Hodgson of MST3K and he was saying that when taking on material like what they did on MST3K, you can’t just go into with the mindset of mocking it – that you have to have a genuine appreciation for what you are making fun of. Do you find that your approach do Dr. Who is similar?
Davis – Oh, absolutely. In no way do we want to be seen as mocking Doctor Who. We’re all fans of the show and even some of the spinoffs or other media the show has been in. Many of the cast had never seen an episode before joining the show, but they quickly became fanatics after a few rehearsals spent watching episodes for research. If we just set out to mock Doctor Who, the show wouldn’t work.
Dr. Who doesn’t have the following in the states that it has in the UK. Will those who have no idea what a sonic Screwdriver be able to appreciate the performance? Also, why do you think only a small number of the population is attracted to the adventures of a time traveling Dr and his companions?
Davis –Yeah, we make the show easily acceptable to everyone, whether they’re life-long fans of Doctor Who or had never heard of the show before. The overall concept is easy: an alien who looks like a man and his friend travel through time and space to go on adventures, often coming up against life or death situations that may or may not act as social/political metaphors. Characters and relationships are vastly important.
As for Doctor Who’s popularity, I think it’s simply a matter of it being an overseas show. However, recently, the show has exploded in popularity in the U.S. The stigma attached to science fiction shows being unapproachable has thankfully disappeared mostly in the last few years, so shows like Doctor Who have more of an audience to reach out to. It doesn’t hurt that the last couple of Doctors and companions are all ridiculously attractive, charming, and big social media users.
OK you know I’m gonna ask you this… Favorite Doctor and Companion?
Davis – Matt Smith, the current Doctor, is my favorite. As for companions, it’s a toss up between the current pair of Amy Pond and Rory Williams or Donna Noble.
Friday 07 September 2012
The Professor: Improv Inspired By Doctor Who
@ Super Happy Fun Land (3801 Polk)
8:30PM, All Ages
Tickets available at the door or you can buy tickets through Houston Fringe Festival