Capital Fringe 2014 Preview: ‘DECADES’ by Peter J. Orvetti

4&9 Productions presents DECADES:  A neat-o, far out, psychedelic, totally tubular improv show by Peter J. Orvetti, cast member

Improv gives performers the freedom to take the audience to any place on earth and beyond, and for actors to take on any character, and multiple characters within the space of one show. It also creates the opportunity to turn the theater space into a time machine.

How would a typical workplace conversation be different in 1978 than it would have been in 1952? How might a family dinner in the tubular ‘80s differ from one during the Vietnam War?


In Decades, the fifth Capital Fringe Festival production from 4&9 Productions, audiences will be taken to four different times — the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. There will be references. There will be costumes. But as with any improv show, the heart will be in the relationships.

“Over the past four decades, fashion, technology, and vernacular have changed how we interact with one another, and it’s fun to play with that, but none of that really changes how we care about one another,” says cast member Katie Dunn. “Regardless of the stereotypes in any decade, my goal is to expose the relatable humanity in each character.”

To prepare for the show, the cast members – many of whom have performed together on stage and in short films for years — improvised scenes set in each decade to get used to the feel of each time. But even though scenes have taken place in Haight-Ashbury and just after the release of “Star Wars”, they have revolved around the people involved.

“I love playing with this cast because we’ve been able to interact authentically,” says Dunn. “As in life, rehearsals have ranged from lighthearted and silly to heavy and emotional.”

Sean Finn, the show’s sound designer and music director, says he has enjoyed the unique challenge.

“It’s exciting to try to prepare a universe of sounds to be able to react and play with the vocal actors,” he says. “The time travel framework of this show also presents a special challenge in that each decade requires a different palette of sounds and scoring.”

Of course, preparing for such a show required a bit of homework.

“I’ve watched a lot of old videos,” says cast member Derek Hills. “One of the best parts of this experience has been learning more about the culture and history linked to each decade.”

Since no one in the cast was alive in all four decades — and most for just one or two — cast members watched classic film and sitcom clips and experimented with the musical style of each period. Some rehearsals even included quiz show-like cram sessions about each era’s specifics.

Hills says Decades differs from traditional improv shows because the framework places the improvisation in “a specific reality that’s both funny and touching.  I’ve never done anything like it.”


GEARBOX -, 1021 7th Street NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20001
Green/Yellow Line Metro – 7th Street/Convention Center

Sat. July 12, 8:15 PM
Fri. July 18, 11:00 PM
Sun. July 20, 6:45 PM
Thu. July 24, 6:00 PM
Sun. July 27, 2:15 PM

Admission Tickets



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