Having honed her skills at improv over the years, it’s not Genevieve Adams’ way to let go of things easily, especially when she knows she’s latched onto something good. A disciple of the “yes and…” dictum that all such performers live by to carry on a conversation to its organic end, no matter how unusual or unlikely it gets, she nonetheless had to stare down the inevitability a few years ago that her time at Dartmouth was nearing its conclusion.
“I was surrounded by characters in college – and not just those people who identified themselves as artists,” says Adams, who cops to having “Big Chill” on heavy rotation on Netflix at the time. “A diverse group of people from New Jersey to Nigeria from different socioeconomic backgrounds, of different religions, political leanings. I just soaked it up for the first three years, and it was only during junior year that I felt the urge to somehow record my experiences, and share these eccentric, fierce friends I’d made with the rest of the world.”
Adams channeled those experiences into what would become the basis for “IMPROVed,” a play she wrote for her senior thesis and subsequently evolved into a successful off-Broadway show, adhering to the rules of improv to never allow a good back-and-forth to die not only as a guiding principle for the work to grow, but for the characters inside of it – a quartet of graduates-to-be whose anxiety about stepping out into the real world to pursue a career in the arts is exacerbated by measuring themselves against a James Franco-esque graduation speaker who creeps his way into the group.
Yet for Adams’ latest to continue, she needs a few more partners to set the scene than usual while the project, which since has been retitled “I’m Obsessed With You,” raises funds on Kickstarter before a January 26th deadline.
“The process of creating art begins with collecting people,” says Adams, who is already off to a strong start for the film, both in terms of Kickstarter donors and creative collaborators.
As it was for the stage, Adams is joined behind the scenes by Jon Goracy, an actor/director who brings a wealth of experience from working with casting director Avy Kaufman and before that, Scott Rudin, and the two have brought aboard cinematographer Bartosz Nalazek (a protege of “Lincoln” director of photography Janusz Kaminski) to shoot the film and for the rock band Filligar to provide the score. Should the crowdsourcing campaign be successful, the plan would be to return to Hanover, New Hampshire to film on the Dartmouth campus this summer, an opportunity that Adams is most excited for.
“For anyone whose gone to school in a rural place, you know how romantic it is, how cozy it feels to be isolated from the rest of the world,” says Adams. “That’s why the friendships you forge in the wilderness are so strong and intimate and vulnerable. That’s the feeling, the romance I can’t wait to communicate – the commune in the forest thing [where] people are running around naked with paint brushes and poetry books, late to class, the us-against-them rebelliousness of it all.”
While such wild abandon will no doubt give the film its energy, the time between the stage and screen adaptations has also opened up the original text to a more profound and reflective narrative, leaping off of the play’s original two-act structure that showed its characters in college before intermission and then revisit them five years later after. A fake wedding brings together the former members of the Formal Fridays improv troupe older but perhaps not wiser, and in a time where getting by is getting harder, particularly for those who want a life in the arts, the story took on a greater resonance when its core was always about whether one could apply the same philosophy to their daily lives as their craft when the rules of the rest of the world have changed so dramatically since Adams first sat down to write it.
“When I feel I want to write, I have a hunch or an impulse to communicate, but I don’t always know what I’m saying or why,” Adams says of how the story has evolved. “I have to start typing, get something out, and then go back, figure out what I’m trying to say, and then make sure I’m saying it clearly and efficiently. The idea to live life according to the rules of improv – that’s been there for awhile. That’s always been fascinating to me, and whether consciously or not, that’s where it all started. Can we live life according to the rules that govern our art form? How do we keep those things separate, or is that even useful? Are they meant to be fused?”
With the help of the crowd, hopefully audiences will have the chance to find out sometime in 2014.