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This home is dirty

DSI quits improvising for theater space

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It almost sounds like the setup for a standup routine: Once there was this homeless comedy troupe, see? Homeless, sure, but not without resources. Various bars and nightclubs would let them crash at their place--for a night or two each week. And that ice-cream shop was cool--until the unexpected meltdown last September.

But they never felt entirely at home. Treacherous house sound systems, beery microphones, rooms not exactly built for the performing arts, drunks staggering over to ask when the band was coming back.

But the last laugh comes Friday, Oct. 7 when Dirty South Improv opens the doors of its new permanent home in Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro. The DSI Comedy Theater takes the place of the old Paper, Pen and Ink store, just around the corner from Elmo's Diner at the back of the mall. The intimate, 80-seat theater opens with a slate of seven shows per week: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, 9:30 and 11 p.m., and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. A series of affiliated and guest companies will rotate through the various slots, with ComedySportz and student performances on a weekly basis. Tickets will range from $5 to $10 and can be obtained online at ticketweb.com.

"It had been our goal since 2000 [when ComedySportz Chapel Hill closed] to open up a space," said executive director Zach Ward, "but first the push was to create a community that could support such a space. In spring 2001 we started educating people to do what we wanted to present in a theater."

By 2003, Dirty South companies were performing weekly shows at The Inside Scoop, an eccentric, independent ice-cream store in Chapel Hill. The next year, it was Tuesdays at the Skylight, also in Chapel Hill, and Wednesdays at Kings Barcade in Raleigh. In between improv festivals and annual editions of 24LIVE--an around-the-clock comedy marathon to raise money for charity--DSI-affiliated troupes were playing dates in Chicago, Atlanta and Washington.

Without a home to return to.

Not any longer.

"The audience area is carpeted, the stage is beautiful, the lights are in, and the bathrooms are handicapped-accessible," crows Ward. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have production values."

The opening weekend features ComedySportz at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with comedy companies Mister Diplomat Fridays at 9:30 and Harold on Saturdays at 9:30. DSI Theater Company presents Company Time Fridays at 11 p.m. The 11 p.m. Saturday slot will be reserved for regional guests, and Sunday's student show runs at 7:30 p.m.

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