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The Hamazons bring laughs to the holiday season

Improvisational comedy cuddles up to classic holiday films when The Hamazons, aka The Warrior Princesses of Comedy in Ashland, present "It's a Hamazon Holiday" at The Playwright Public House.

The show is a completely improvised full-length story presented with a wink and a nod to the style of late '40s and early '50s seasonal films, such as "It’s a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street" and "A Christmas Carol."

"It's not so much comedy based on those films, but based on that pre-technology holiday feel," says Hamazon Eve Smyth. "It's a feeling from a style and era that is less commercial and holds the magic of the season.

"Our shows always lean towards comedy," she says. "There's nothing we can do about that. It makes us happy to bring laughter to our audiences. It's such a healthy, happy thing to do for people."

The Hamazons' holiday improv shows are set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12-13, at The Playwright, 258 A St., Ashland. Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased at the door or reserved by calling 541-488-9128.

The original Hamazons was founded in 1999 and included seven women who performed short-form improv — much like that of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" veterans Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady and others. Today's Hamazons is a trio of performers — Smyth, Cil Stengel and Kyndra Laughery — that present short- and long-form improv.

The Hamazons' long-form improv brings unscripted tales based on suggestions from the audience that can last 90 minutes to two hours with one intermission.

"We talk about the genre so that the audience has a frame of reference," Smyth says. "Then we'll start the story. We'll do one scene, then cut to a sequence of scenes. It's like throwing a bunch of narrative ideas in the air, and it's our job to catch them all before the end of the show. We just let it unfold, ride the story and see what happens. It's always something unexpected."

Each show is one-of-a-kind. What audiences see on Friday night will differ from the performance on Saturday night. 

Musical accompaniment will be performed by pianist Darcy Danielson, a music director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"Darcy basically improvises a musical score for each show," Smyth says. "She'll surprise us with some kind of musical effect at every show. Whatever sound she makes — ominous, light or bright — we go wherever it takes us. Kendra experienced a surprise bird attack once when Darcy brought in a bird whistle."

The Hamazons study conventions of certain genres, such as westerns, film noir and holiday classics. With regular performances set for every other month at The Playwright, the trio is excited about bringing new genres to their shows. Some ideas they've been kicking around include comic takes on Jane Austen, science fiction and Tennessee Williams.

"We have some beliefs about improv that include staying good-natured, making your partners look good, saying yes and building on audiences' suggestions. We don't like to do humor at anyone's expense ... including our own. We have a lot of fun, and we share that," Smyth says.

See www.hamazons.com for more.

Left to right: Cil Stengel, Kyndra Laughery and Eve Smyth are The Hamazons. Photo courtesy of Robert Frost