Brad Fischer

Brad first started watching TheatreSports in 1986 when he was already older than many of the people involved in Rapid Fire today (Brad is ancient). Brad is the longest-running member of Rapid Fire Theatre, being part of the company since its formation in 1988. He has served as one of the founding board members for the first few years, and has provided graphic design for the newly-formed company in those early days – including the design of the Rapid Fire Theatre logo itself. He began stage managing the weekly TheatreSports shows, then slid into the booth in 1990 and has been improvising lights and sound ever since.

Even though he’s not ready to retire from RFT just yet, he has been mentoring new and eager improv techs to replace him when his body finally dissolves into a cloud of dust. Besides his work with Rapid Fire, he is also the technical director and lighting/sound improvisor for the weekly live improvised soap opera Die-Nasty (since 1997), and the monthly Euro-style variety show Oh Susanna, hosted by the vivacious Susanna Patchouli, and its predecessor The Johnny and Poki Show. By day, Brad is a graphic designer and art director, currently operating his own company, Roaring Mouse Graphics.

FAVOURITES

TV Shows: There’s so much good TV available now. Recent faves: Better Call Saul (and Breaking Bad); Schitt’s Creek; The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Lady Dynamite

Movies: Close Encounters of the Third Kind; anything Pixar. My guilty pleasure is Joe vs. The Volcano. It’s a whimsical movie with so much detail and fantastic art direction, you can find something new in it every time you watch it; and I’ve watched it more times than I can count. It also has, for a comedy, quite a high body count when you stop to think about it afterwards.

Actors: Any actor that has a soul for comedy wins for me always. George Clooney is a good example.

Video Games: I’m from the era of Intellivision and Coleco handhelds. These days, Angry Birds

Books: We So Seldom Look on Love by Barbara Gowdy, and Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose, and most anything mystery or suspense.

Authors: Carrie Fisher, Stephen King, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood

Music:  Almost any orchestral soundtrack. Started with John Williams’ Jaws and then Star Wars, and then snowballed from there. I have so many soundtracks in my collection; some quite obscure. Michael Giacchino is a current favourite composer.

Websites: The Book of Faces, IMdb, Rotten Tomatoes, and the blogs of many friends

Food: Yes, please

Words to live by: From the improv teachings of Keith Johnstone, via Patti Stiles: “If you haven’t made at least three mistakes in a show, you haven’t done your job.”

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND IN THEATRE?

My theatre background began with my experiences with Theatresports, which I saw for the first time 30 years ago at Expo86. Later that year, I found the Edmonton group playing Sunday evenings, and started going regularly after that, and became friends with some of the performers and took some workshops. When it came time to form a real theatre company to keep Theatresports going, I was asked if I wanted to be part of that genesis. And here I am!

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO PERSUE A CAREER IN THEATRE AS A TECH?

I didn’t, actually. It just happened by osmosis. I started helping out the newly formed Rapid Fire Theatre, ranging from being an assistant stage manager, to being a judge, to serving on the Board, and also contributing graphic design for the season posters and such (including The Rapid Fire logo itself), I started thinking about the tech aspect of the shows, and “what would I do” in terms of lighting and sound cues if I ever was doing it. I got the chance at our 1989 Fringe tournament and having been solidly teching ever since. As well, I became part of other improv shows in town, including 20 years of Die-Nasty, the Live Improvised Soap Opera, for which I just finished teching the weekend-long 50-hour continuous improvised Soapathon; this being the 7th time I’ve teched all 50 Hours.

WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS A TECH?

Although you are there to support what happens on stage, you are just as much an improviser and have as much input as anyone else, including ENDING a scene. You have to embrace the risk! You are constantly thinking mere seconds forward; finding a lighting look that supports the location and emotion of a scene, be it the cool blues of a rainy night, or the fiery intensity of hell, and getting it ready before a scene starts, but also paying attention to changes in mood or location as the scene progresses. Adding appropriate (or inappropriate!) sound effects to add that extra dimension rounds out the experience. Every show teaches you something different you can do, and the more you watch shows, experience the different game styles, and get to know the personalities on stage, you get to know the rhythms of the show, and the rhythms of the performers. You learn to listen to and watch EVERYTHING, and also realize when it’s best NOT to do something.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH RAPID FIRE?

I think we covered that!

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO TECH AN IMPROV SHOW VERSUS A TRADITIONAL PLAY?

I don’t actually tech much traditional theatre. In fact, I have no formal training whatsoever. Everything I know I’ve learned by doing improv!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT TECHING SHORT FORM VS. LONG FORM IMPROV AND VICE VERSA?

They both have their strengths. Long form allows time to do some subtle yet powerful changes of mood with a slow change of lighting, and addition of atmospheric soundscapes, music and sound effects. You have more time to establish environments than you do with short form. Still, I enjoy the immediacy of short form.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT TECHING AN IMPROV SHOW?

Too many over the years!

One of my earliest favourite moments was a scene where the suggestion for “a historical event” was the “Falling of the Berlin Wall”. The lights came up on the team standing on stage in a line… they immediately fell forward onto the stage in unison and the lights came down. The scene was maybe 4 seconds long. It brought the house down.

Another highlight was flying down to LA in 2002 with the cast of Die-Nasty to tech a show used as an audition to a roomful of Fox TV executives for a possible TV show. That was a hoot.

WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF RFT?

I am a graphic designer currently operating my own company, Roaring Mouse Graphics. I also volunteer for other arts organizations such as Mile Zero Dance.

DESCRIBE WORKING FOR RAPID FIRE IN A SINGLE SENTENCE:

I always say to myself that I will keep doing this until it stops being fun… and here I am, 28 years later.