From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Count Gregore to bring local color to Improv Festival Oklahoma
Host troupe Red Dirt Improv has invited the Oklahoma City TV legend to be a guest performer during their Saturday night set at the third annual event.
As the host troupe for Improv Festival Oklahoma, Oklahoma City-based Red Dirt Improv wanted to add a bit of local color to their Saturday night set at this year’s event.
You don’t get much more colorful than Oklahoma City’s “master of horror,” TV legend Count Gregore.
“We are glad to be a part of the growing Count Gregore revival that is going on right now,” said Red Dirt Improv member Tyler Bryce in an email. “He is a natural storyteller, which makes him a great fit for the festival. He has helped inspire generations of Oklahomans to embrace their creative side.”
The third annual Improv Festival Oklahoma began Thursday and continues this weekend at City Arts Center, with nighttime performances Friday and Saturday from improvisational theater groups from Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and Illinois. In addition, IFO3 will include daytime workshops Friday-Sunday at the State Fair Park venue.
Count Gregore, also known as John Ferguson, will join Red Dirt Improv Saturday night as guest monologist. Prompted by audience suggestions, the Count will regale the crowd with stories that the festival’s host troupe will turn into uproarious scenes.
Making it Count
Count Gregore first appeared as a local horror host for “Shock Theatre” in 1958 on Oklahoma City’s WKY-TV. For more than 50 years, he has hosted shows such as “Creature Features,” “Horror Theatre,” “Sleepwalker’s Matinee,” “Thriller” and “Night-mare.” The documentary short “Count Gregore: A Spook-tacular Career” recently made its premiere at the Moore Reel International Film Festival, a biography on Ferguson is reportedly in the works, and he has become a popular guest at Oklahoma events in the past few years.
Red Dirt Improv members Dave Courtright, James Murray and Bryce met the Count on the set of the locally produced movie “Control Alt Destroy.” In the movie, Ferguson plays their employer, and between takes, the Oklahoma City icon entertained the cast and crew with anecdotes from his long and unusual career.
Since the troupe wanted to add a special dimension to their festival performance, they invited the Count to share more yarns that they could incorporate into their set. In addition, Count Gregore will be available after the show to sell and autograph memorabilia.
“I’m excited to do improv scenes based on Count Gregore’s stories, because he is a well-known Oklahoman with a rich history,” said Murray in an email. “We’ll be hearing his stories for the first time, which will really add a new source of humor to our scenes.”
Zach Ward, producer of DSI Comedy Theater in North Carolina and recently named managing director of Improv Boston, will be Friday night’s headliner as well as a guest improviser Saturday night with Red Dirt Improv. As part of the 7 p.m. Friday lineup, Ward will perform his daring “Road Trip” show.
“He takes a single, untrained audience volunteer and performs a half-hour set with them. That would be like a magician letting an untrained audience volunteer cut them in half with a chainsaw,” Bryce said.
Saturday night’s headliner, renowned Minneapolis-based improviser Jill Bernard, is among the returning favorites at Improv Festival Oklahoma. But Bernard, author of the “Small Cute Book of Improv,” is bringing her one-woman “Drum Machine” show to the festival for the first time. She uses a Zoom Rhythmtrak 123 to create backbeats to accompany the multiple characters and crazy adventures she invents.
“Jill is inspiring to watch because she overflows with this infectious positivity,” Bryce said. “The audience can’t help but get wrapped up in her adventures because they want to know more about Jill. Very few improvisers better represent the spirit of ‘yes, and …’ more completely.”
Third annual Improv Festival Oklahoma
When: 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Where: City Arts Center, State Fair Park, 3000 General Pershing Blvd.
Tickets: $60 for festival pass; $30 for all Friday shows; $30 for all Saturday shows. Tickets for individual sets are available and vary.
Workshops: Daytime Friday-Sunday.
Information: 701-8938 or www.festival.reddirtimprov.com.