Regardless of socioeconomic background, the rules of the game are the same. Pruter likens the experience to other artistic disciplines. "Before you ever become a pianist, you practice scales; that's a tool. Before you ever write, you learn the alphabet. The classes are the language of improvisation, and some of them are really counterintuitive. What we are teaching is how to work together — you are working in an ensemble group — so what you are learning is the skill set so that you can effortlessly work with people."

If that sounds like it might fly in other aspects of one's life, that's no coincidence. The Improv Tricksters believe their work in the classroom can have relevance beyond the stage. The basic tenets of improv — listening, teamwork, respect — are skills that don't just make good comedians; they make good human beings. (A significant number of the group's students come from the corporate world.) Says Pruter: "What we teach is: You're building something together."

For now Pruter, Golden and the rest of the crew stage weekly shows in their basement theater space on Cherokee and at venues such as the nearby pub the Stable, which hosts Stagematch, a weekly wrestling-themed comedy smackdown between Improv Trick students.

But Pruter has his sights set on something more permanent: a dedicated theater space for the Improv Trick. This, he hopes, will encourage other groups to embrace St. Louis' legacy and make improv a viable institution once again.

"It's time for a resurgence," Pruter insists. "This is something we'd like to bring back, because certain aspects of improv have their roots in St. Louis, and not any other city can claim it. We gave it up!" he laughs. "Chicago stole it!"

To learn more about Marc, Doug and the rest of the Improv Trick, visit www.riverfronttimes.com/microsites/improv-trick

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