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Who’s ready for musical improv?

By Margie M. Palmer

The San Diego improv scene has grown quite a bit in the past several years and now a year-old musical improv group Beserkus is taking the local scene by storm.

Among the group’s six players are North Park residents Justin Robers and Missy Gurga along with South Park resident Dean Sage.

The trio acknowledges that while the members are as diverse in their professional backgrounds as they are in age, the chemistry between them as performers is undeniable.

(Logo provided by Beserkus)

“We had [it] from the start,” Gurga said. “It’s so rare to meet people that you feel like you’ve known forever, and that’s how I felt from the first time we were all together. We knew when we were done with classes that we would stay together.”

Robers, who is also the guitar accompanist of the group, said those who are unfamiliar with musical improv can think of it as resembling the scenes in a comedic musical.

“There may be silly characters in weird situations and at some point, they will break out in song,” he said. “But the whole thing is improvised; we get the audience to suggest a title for our show and they we make up the dialogue, music and lyrics on the spot.”

Their sets typically include anywhere from six to nine scenes, Gurga said, noting that if audience members are especially lucky, they may get to experience a rap battle.

Beserkus may only have been together a short time, but Sage said he feels things are going better than expected. The group continues get more and more attention, he said, which has been combined with positive feedback and attention from audience members and the improv community alike.

“It’s not always usual for a new group,” Sage said. “In the past year, we’ve grown individually and collectively. Our skills have improved and our chemistry, which has always been great, has solidified more. We’ve found our rhythm with each other when we perform together; it’s almost like a mind-meld of what we’re doing and the direction in which the scene might go.”

Gurga agrees.

“We take a lot of pride in our shows. We’re playful, fun and always try to make each other laugh, hoping the audience will follow suit,” she said. “We hit the stage hard and do our best to support our teammates’ choices and just play together.”

Those interested in checking out an upcoming show are in luck. Beserkus is the reigning champion of the Cage Match series at Finest City Improv, located at 4250 Louisiana St. in North Park, and they will be defending their title on July 14 at 10:30 p.m. They will make a return visit on Aug. 3 at 8:20 p.m. at Finest City Improv.

Beserkus will also perform on July 23 at 7:15 p.m. at the Old Town Improv Co., located at 2415 San Diego Ave., Suite 103.

—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at margiep@alumni.pitt.edu. 

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