If you are one of the 20 million-plus people who have delved into the imaginary world of the best-known, highest selling, role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), then Improv at the Majestic’s new production, No Class, on Sunday, Nov. 6 and Sunday, Nov. 13 is sure to intrigue. For those who have never used polyhedral dice to resolve random events in an imaginary game, then you’re in for an extraordinary new experience.
Michael Winder, the brainchild behind the marriage of improv and D&D—and who will also be on stage in various roles—said the idea was sparked after watching the D&D episode of Community.
“Originally it was going to be an actual pen-and-paper role-playing game played on one side of the stage, and then the live theatrical version played on the other,” explained Winder. But once the idea was unleashed on the rest of the Majestic’s improv group the idea evolved into the show they have now, which is going to be “100 percent more awesome,” promised Winder.
The show they have now is essentially a full-length improvised play, inspired by and using much of the mechanics of a pen-and-paper role-playing game such as D&D. While Winder went as far as to say that there’s a loose plot that has all the trappings of your typical fantasy adventure, with heroic fighters, mages, goblins, dragons, and a main quest to save the world, he added, “I can’t say any more, because there’s no script! We don’t know 90 percent of what might happen in this adventure.”
Patrick McDonald will be the show’s MC/DM. “While it is safe to call me the MC of the production,” said McDonald, “my role goes beyond that a bit, given that I am the ‘Dungeon Master’ of our story. As the Dungeon Master I create the situations and characters with which our heroes [played by members of Improv at the Majestic’s troupe] will be faced. While the actors are telling the overall story through their unscripted actions, I create the world in which they play.”
McDonald has extensive experience with role-playing games like D&D, so his position as DM seemed like the perfect fit for the team. He said he is excited about the unpredictability of the show and can’t wait to see how things play out, adding, “If you think seeing a single, disconnected scene get created from nothing during one of our Smackdowns is exciting and impressive, wait until you see an entire two-part epic story emerge from the demented brains of our performers.”
One of those “demented brains” will be Kyle Van Son, who plays a “main party member.” Van Son explained that there are two categories of performers in the show, and the main party will never change character. “My character is a half-orc wizard named Grognar,” said Van Son. “He’s a delight.”
According to Van Son, everyone in the show belongs to at least one of the local improvisational groups springing up around Corvallis and Albany. Most are from the group that puts on the regular Improv Smackdown shows.
“A few of us in the group have done long-form improv before,” explained Winder, “but not on this scale, and not with this sort of consistent theme where we follow a group of adventurers through an epic quest. We normally do short-form improv games like in our Smackdown shows at the Majestic, which involves a ton of quick wit in scenes that generally last three to four minutes long. Now we’re trying to do something in the four to five hour range, and it’s exciting and scary and a ton of fun.”
McDonald said that anyone coming to see the show should be looking forward to “having an absolute blast. The show isn’t just for nerds.” He added, “Don’t think you’re not going to ‘get it’ if you’ve never played D&D or another similar game. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a Lord of the Rings book, or an episode of Game of Thrones, or even other non-themed improv shows, No Class has something for you. Be sure to attend both nights so you can experience the whole adventure!”
By Annika Darling