Backstage with Evalyn Hansen: Since 1999 The Hamazons, Rogue Valley's Warrior Princesses of Comedy, have been empowering audiences with laughter through improvisational theater.
Since 1999, The Hamazons, the Rogue Valley's Warrior Princesses of Comedy, have been empowering audiences with laughter through improvisational theater. I met with three of the four comedians, Carolyn Myers, Eve Smyth, and Cil Stengel, in a cozy cottage in Ashland.
EH: Are The Hamazons political?
CM: We're politically responsive. We respond to the zeitgeist of the times, what the audience is interested in and what we're reading about. We don't develop stuff around issues. We never say, "We want to do something about trade relations with China or zombie banks." We don't do that.
EH: Zombie banks?
CM: That got nominated as one of the words of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary. They're banks that are already dead, but they just keep going. The word of the year was unfriend. On Facebook, you can friend and you can unfriend. That's a sad word.
Compared to stand-up comedy, we are responsively political in that we have a creed. Part of that creed is that we don't denigrate anybody. We don't do any satire that critiques or insults or degrades. That's not part of what we do. We have created this very positive space that a lot of groups don't have. Our shows are about bringing community together.
EH: How long is your creed?
CS: About 52 pages.
CM: Fine print.
CS: The short version is, "Humor at no one's expense." We avoid profanity, graphic sexuality and violence. We don't put anybody down, including ourselves as performers.
ES: We call it "The Hamazone."
EH: Do you dress up in costumes?
CM: We have many different guises, but most of the time we are in glam-wear, fancy feathered and bejeweled, with fish-netted things. And we have tribal wear, animal prints and bone jewelry. We have a tribal identity.
ES: We are Warrior Princesses. In October we did a "Westward Ho-Ho," which was an all-improvisation show in Western genre.
CS: For the Western show I wore chaps, which I covered with blue-and-black tiger stripes. It made those two worlds come together.
CS: In February we're going to do a show for the city of Central Point, "The Central Point Beautification Project."
CM: We're part of the bloom.
EH: Are there rules for improvisation?
CM: There are guidelines.
ES: Such as say "yes," make your partner look good and listen. You also make a promise to the audience that you should fulfill. The thing about improvisation is that it's all unknown.
CS: Rather than coming in with your own agenda, you have to be open to what transpires.
ES: We also talk about "offer and accept," which is about saying "yes." It's this constant process of making an offer, accepting the one that comes back to you, and letting go of any ideas that you were holding onto. It's about being really present in the moment.
CM: While our themes aren't political, our methodology is very sane and exciting and alive; it's a way of learning to live and relate with others that is of benefit. I feel that is political. If everybody was doing that all of the time, it would make things a lot better in relationships, both personal and in the larger perspective.
Tune into Jefferson Public Radio to hear The Hamazons on "West Coast Live" on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 1 p.m. Watch for The Hamazons at the Crater Performance Center at Crater High School on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. TBA in March: "Green Eggs and Ham-azons," a family-friendly, improvised show with a nod to Dr. Seuss. Call 776-0643, or visit www.hamazons.com for more information.
Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a bachelor's degree in dramatic arts from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree from San Francisco State University. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre, and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.