Live Nude Improv

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Live Nude Improv (also referred to as the Live Summer Show) was a mainstage show at the Hideout Theatre.


Live Nude Improv acted under the conceit that the Hideout was about to put on a play, that all the attendees -- cast and audience alike -- had been cast in this play, and that they had all arrived at the final rehearsal for that play. In actuality, there was no play, and the attendees were collectively making everything up as they went along.

(To avoid confusion, in the rest of this article, "cast" will refer to the actual cast of Live Nude Improv, not the "pretend cast" of the pretend-play they were putting together on any given night.)

The show had a strict "no photography" policy (only one improv photographer, usually Steve Rogers, was permitted to photograph anything), and an equally strict "no creeping" policy.

Show Structure

Prior to the show, the cast would mingle with the audience outside the box office, and interact with the audience as if they were fellow actors. The cast would pretend to recognize all the attendees from other productions, and talk to them excitedly about this play they were about to do. (This practice was gradually phased out over the run of the show.) Meanwhile, the audience would be encouraged to write made-up play titles on slips of paper, which would go into a hat.

Then cast and audience alike would move to the upstairs theater, which had been reconfigured into a "theater in the round" arrangement, with bleachers arranged on all sides, and very few chairs to sit in. Instead, pillows and cushions were strewn about on the bleachers. The cast would seat themselves randomly around the room, alongside the audience. Ideally, the audience would have no idea who was part of the cast and who was part of the audience.

Then, the director for the evening (Andy Crouch) would enter and re-establish the basic conceit of the show: that they were all there for the final last rehearsal of a scripted show that the Hideout was putting up the following week. (At this point, Andy would usually wink at the audience and whisper that it wasn't a real show.) Then, he'd announce that he needed to warm up all the actors. At this point, cast members (or, technically, anyone who wanted to, but in practice it was always only ever cast members) would lead the crowd in improv warm-ups like a rock-paper-scissors tournament.

After ten or fifteen minutes of that, the director would brandish the "script" -- clearly a sheaf of blank pages -- solemnly announcing that they had their copy of the play. The director would then hand of the pages to a member of the cast, who would then act as the show's "script supervisor" for the evening.

In actuality, the script supervisor's job was twofold. First, he or she would write notes -- character names, themes, plot points -- about the show as it developed. Second, in the last third of the show, he or she would "read the scene directions", which allowed him or her to initiate a scene with descriptions, lists of characters present, and/or scene-painting.

Then, the director would pick a random slip of paper out of the hat, and read off the title for the play they were doing -- sometimes emending that title on the fly if the suggestion was especially stupid or dirty. This would lead straight into a "discussion of what we like about the play" -- in actuality, this would be a free-associative discussion that would generate the most basic ideas about the play, such as its genre, its setting, and its main characters.

After a certain amount of discussion, the next stretch of the show would consist of "theater exercises" designed to "explore elements of the play". In actuality, these would be improv games designed to generate material. Often they would explore characters. Sometimes the whole crowd would provide a soundscape of a particular setting. At this point, the cast would encourage audience involvement to whatever extent the audience was comfortable with.

Finally, before the last stretch of the show, the director would announce we would "put the show on its feet", running some of the scenes of its third act. So this would be where Live Nude Improv would segue from games and exercises into scenework, drawing from all the material generated since the beginning of the show. These scenes would usually involve nudity. Anyone could get naked, though usually only the cast would go that far. Typically, the show would conclude with the concluding scene of the play.

The director would finish the show, announcing to the audience that they'd had a great, productive rehearsal, and the show would open next week (with one last wink and nod that no, it really wouldn't).


Andy Crouch's inspiration for Live Nude Improv came partly from a re-mounting of Dionysus in '69 by the Rude Mechanicals. He was inspired to make something equally transgressive and raw in the world of improv.

Prior to the show's proper run, Live Nude Improv had a "preview show" in The 42-Hour Improv Marathon. The show was basically an hour of montage, in which participants found excuses in the scene to have players take off articles of clothing. Once an article of clothing was off, it stayed off until the end of the show. Peter Rogers was the first of the cast to get completely naked onstage for the production, with Jordan T. Maxwell following soon after.

The mainstage show ran through July and August in 2011, selling out often weeks in advance, and breaking all prior Hideout records for early sales.

After the end of its run, Live Nude Improv discussed doing subsequent runs, but only ever did a few festival appearances, such as the 2012 Philadelphia Improv Festival.

The Fake Plays of Live Nude Improv

  • 7/9/11: title unknown: a slice-of-life drama featuring a rich and poor couple.
  • 7/16/11: "Whatever You Like": a riff on Shakespearean comedy in which a young couple vacations on a tropical island, and quickly becomes ensared in a case of mistaken identity involving ancient island rituals.
  • 7/23/11: unknown
  • 7/30/11: unknown
  • 8/6/11: unknown
  • 8/13/11: unknown
  • 8/20/11: "The Caterpillar Constable": a noirish detective story in which all the characters were insects.
  • 8/27/11: "Days of Our Lives"



Videography was expressly forbidden at Live Nude Improv, so there are no extant videos of the show.


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