TWHS’ Peters leads new community Improv group

Eleanor Brandimarte, Writer

“So you’re Donald Trump, but he is progressively regressing in age!” This isn’t a politically themed Mad Libs sentence, but one of the possible scenarios acted out by performers doing improv. This has been the pun-filled world of Matthew Peters ever since he first did Comedy Sports in high school, and especially with the TWHS Improv Troupe he helped to form.

Now, after years of putting on student improv shows, Matthew Peters is finally branching out into adult improv. Through the new Black Cat Theater Academy, he will serve as the Director of Improv, teaching improv classes and leading a debut adult-only improv troupe.

Black Cat Theater and Academy formed out of a common need for adult-focused theater in The Woodlands. For years, companies like Class Act and Christian Youth Theater have dominated the community theater circuit with shows like Annie, Matilda, and Oliver!-all of which feature a young child with parent issues at the forefront. There simply aren’t many opportunities for the theater-kids-turned-parents of The Woodlands, but Black Cat Theater aims to fill this role (pun very much intended).

“I think The Woodlands has some great children’s and young adult theater, but one of the things I see missing here in The Woodlands is just that creative outlet in a theatrical space, or performing space, for adults,” Peters said.

Black Cat aims to fill this absence with classes, musicals, and plays that are inclusive of all ages. The company plans to start with improv classes and its adult troupe, then later auditioning and putting on shows.

With most of his improv teaching experience coming from his eight years- and $165,000 raised for charity- with TWHS’ own Funky Bunch, teaching adults will be a new endeavor for Mr. Peters. There are nuances that come with teaching and performing with adults that differ from working with students.

“Adults are quicker to pick up on things,” Peters said. “So I think we can really dive into a little bit more long form, and be able to kind of play with that,”

Not only that, the content of the shows will be more grown up, which means the occasional s-word won’t be as big of a deal. People curse; it’s a natural reaction and is often a part of everyday communication. Having a bit more freedom of speech on the stage will add another layer of realism that you just can’t get on at an improv show on school property. Along with this, the characters and situational acting that adults bring to the stage is much different from that of a high school student.

“I think a lot of improv and some of the better performers I’ve ever seen just comes with life experience,” Peters said. “Adults, if they have kids, you know, we could play into those funny moments that all of us parents have, that maybe students don’t have. They don’t have that life experience, so I think that’s going to be the biggest difference.”

I think Miss (Stacy) Jones, she’s starting this company, I think she’s starting it for the right reasons.”

— Matthew Peters

Peters wants the Black Cat Troupe to replicate a professional troupe, like the ones seen at Second City and the Upright Citizens Brigade in Chicago. These professional troupes often lead classes in businesses, which is a goal that Peters hopes to accomplish with a local troupe.

“Improv is all about communication,” Peters said. “It’s all about communicating. It’s all about listening to what people are trying to tell you, and in a business setting, I mean, that’s what you’re doing a lot of the time. You know, finding a way to be confident in your presentation skills is something that improv can help you with.”

Another aspect of professional troupes that Peters hopes to replicate is having multiple types of shows and performers.

“We’ll have our shows that are family friendly, you know, the 8 o’clock show is a family friendly show,” Peters said. “And the late night, it’s more geared toward adults. Your 10 o’clock show is more racy, you’re not as constricted to staying family friendly.”

For those interested in improving their improv skills, the Black Cat Theater Company will be offering classes for middle and high school students. Any actor who has done improv knows it’s very much a team sport, and you can’t really practice alone. This new company will give students the opportunity to learn about and practice the art of being funny.

At the end of the day, Peters’ goal is to help young actors grow in their craft. Stacy Jones, he feels, shares this drive and passion to educate.

Peters said. “She’s super passionate about teaching kids and she’s super passionate about theater and performing and improv.”
“As a director, as a teacher, you always hear ‘That teacher affected my life, because they saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.’ And so it’s all about seeing something in a student, and maybe they don’t see it, but as a teacher, it’s taking that and pushing them and challenging them. The greatest thing about being a teacher is just that breakthrough. When the kid has that Aha moment that you’ve seen for years,” Peters said.