Hamazons have been bringing the funny since 1999
They have been making it up as they go along for two decades.
The Hamazons, an all-female improv comedy troupe, will celebrate that milestone with “The 20th Anniversary Show” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at Ashland High School’s Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Avenue.
Today’s iteration of the Hamazons includes Cil Stengel, one of the founding members, along with Eve Smyth and Kyndra Laughery, veterans of 16 and 13 years, respectively.
Stengel got her start as a scripted actor and performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Laughery has a passion for the theater and honed her comedy chops at improv classes. Smyth was a theater studies student at university and did improv in San Francisco.
They’ll be joined on stage for the anniversary show by Hamazons alumni Bobbi Kidder, Carolyn Myers, Judy Dolmatch, Deborah Elliott, and Sierra Faith. Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Darcy Danielson will provide the musical accompaniment.
“We’ll all be wearing Ham Glam funny formal wear,” Laughery said, “and we invite the audience to dress the same.”
Ham Glam formal is formal wear taken a step or five too far with accessories, or a silly take on the idea of a formal outfit.
“We’re going to play some of our favorite games,” Stengel said, “like those on the ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ TV show.”
“Whose Line?” is an improvisational comedy series that aired on ABC from 1998 to 2007, hosted by Drew Carey. A revival of the show, hosted by Aisha Tyler, began airing on The CW in 2013.
The Hamazons will take suggestions from the audience and improvise a sketch on the spot, leading the audience on a journey of twists, turns, and tilts.
Anniversary show tickets are $21 in advance or $24 at the door and all seating is general admission. Tickets can be purchased at hamazons.com.
The Hamazons got their start 20 years ago when a group of women started getting together regularly at the home of Judy Dolmatch.
“We met in her basement and just messed around,” Stengel said. “Most of us had some kind of theater connection.”
They had so much fun entertaining themselves that they decided to try it out in front of an audience.
“We booked the yoga room at the Ashland Tennis and Fitness Center, set a ticket price of $5 and put the word out,” Stengel said. They expected about 15 people and were surprised when more than 100 showed up.
Laughery said she understands the incentive for the women to put themselves out there.
“In 1999, there was not a ton of roles for women,” she said. “So the group came together to create a space for themselves.”
The Hamazons perform regularly at the Bellevue Grange at 1050 Tolman Creek Road in Ashland, putting on a show about every two months. Their next gig there is “Improvised Shakespeare” at 8 p.m. Oct. 18-19 and
2 p.m. Oct. 20. Danielson will provide the musical accompaniment. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.
They also perform for conferences, house parties, corporate events, fundraisers, and other types of gatherings. You can submit inquiries about bookings and costs on their website.
The Hamazons have performed at some interesting venues. In the early years, they had a regular engagement at a Medford martini bar.
And there was the time they did a show at a house party in an L-shaped living room. At times actors and audience members couldn’t see each other.
“And there was a free-range parrot loose in the room!” Stengel said, laughing.
“Lately we’ve been reaching out to organizations and businesses in the Rogue Valley. Improvisation can help improve team building skills and teach trust.”
But Saturday night’s show is all about laughs. It will be the biggest venue the Hamazons have played and they expect a sold-out house.
Jim Flint is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.