How-to comedy series returns with a show about rules

GOING ROGUE ON RULES: The How-To Crew of sketch comedy returns with 'Rules and How to Break Them.' From left, Scott Fisher, Katie Langwell, Emily Spreng and Glenn Reed will show theatergoers how it's done through sketch, song, dance and other hilarity. Photo courtesy of The Sublime Theater

You’re not the boss of them.

In the world premiere of Rules and How to Break Them, the How-To crew will dive deeply into various scenarios, questioning the directives for such events as calling siblings on their birthday, using social media, having sex outside of marriage, and engaging with the rules of the road. This fifth installment of the popular How To series, produced by The Sublime Theater, will even challenge Marie Kondo’s organizing wisdom. And, when it comes to taking on the Ten Commandments, Moses and God will make star appearances.

Rules and How to Break Them opens Thursday, June 20, and will run for six performances at The Bebe Theater.

The show is mainly structured in sketch comedy form: set characters within written scenes. Elements of improvisation are incorporated, and “There’s also quite a bit of singing and dancing in the show,” says producer and director Steven Samuels. “I Feel Petty,” for example, is sung to the tune of Westside Story’s, “I Feel Pretty.”

“The scenes run the gamut from the seemingly trivial to the seemingly earth-shattering, and yet what I adore about the show — and I credit this to the How-To Crew — is that it has such a light, bright touch,” says Samuels.

The How-To series originated as a short, late-night piece in 2012 with Sex and How to Have It. Its success inspired the team to develop it into a full-length production in 2013. The cast then followed up with Food and How to Eat It in 2015, Beer and How to Drink It in 2016, and Money and How to Make It in 2017.

Audiences may remember some of the cast members (the How-To Crew) from previous How-To shows or from other comedy events around town. Glenn Reed was in Bernstein Family Christmas, is a LaZoom tour guide and host of the Home-Groan Pun Battle. Scott Fisher performed in All in the Timing, Off the Rails and The Zoo Story. Katie Langwell was part of Silent Sky. Making her How-To debut is Emily Spreng of the improv group What You Pay For, who is called “New Val” throughout the show, as she replaces former cast member Valerie Meiss. Samuels, head writer Lisa Yoffee and choreographer Kristi DeVille round out the team.

For all the fun they have in creating the show, it’s a lot of work. “I come up with a theme, which is then approved by the group,” says Samuels. “Then the four cast members of the How-To crew and [Yoffee] set about dreaming stuff up.”

While some sketches originate on the page, others are found through improvisation in rehearsal. “Sometimes they work in teams, sometimes independently, and they generate a whole bunch of sketches,” Samuels explains. “When they feel like they have enough material, they bring me in. Then we begin to shape the show.”

This year, Samuel says, he had the good problem of having to cut nearly half of the sketches because the crew came up with so much material. Once sketches are selected, the order is decided upon. “Then we start working it harder,” says Samuels, “stripping things down and tightening things up. But even within the tightening, we always leave a tiny bit of room for improvisation onstage so the performers can be free to mess around a little.”

The Sublime Theater had its inaugural production in November with the world premiere of associate artistic director John Crutchfield’s play TRNZ. The not-for-profit company is dedicated to new, established and neglected works. Other productions so far have been Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape and Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story.

But Rules and How To Break Them, while new, will also be somewhat familiar. That’s not to say it will be predictable. “This year, the show has a theme song,” says Samuels. “I don’t want to give away too much, just that the lyrics are sung to the tune of ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ from the musical Gypsy.”

He adds, “We’re excited that the How-To series is back. We’re here to make people laugh.”

WHAT: Rules and How to Break Them
WHERE: The BeBe Theater, 20 Commerce St.
WHEN: Thursdays-Saturdays, June 20-22 and 29, at 7:30 p.m., $15. rules.brownpapertickets.com

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About Kim Winter Mako
Kim Winter Mako is a fiction writer and actor. She's lived in Asheville over 10 years with her husband Chris. Kim held the 2017 Community Author residency at UNCA's Ramsey Library, and is a member of The Flatiron Writers. She's at work on a short story collection and a novel. You can find her at http://www.kimwintermako.com/ Follow me @KimWinterMako

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