If you have a story to share about your pointy-headed boss, the latest water-cooler intrigue or an office romance gone wrong, be sure to stop by CTN5 during this week’s First Friday Art Walk.

That’s where you’ll find Portland Playback Theatre serving up an improv production based on audience stories. This month’s theme is “What Happened at Work.”

The theater company will place five of its actors on stage along with a conductor, whose job is to elicit stories from the audience.

“A person comes up and sits in a comfy chair,” said Andrew Colvin, an actor with the company. “The conductor will ask them questions about their story to make sure they have enough details.”

Meanwhile, the actors listen closely to note the story’s key moments, along with any turning points or emotional hooks it may present.

It’s the conductor’s job to determine what form the actors will use to interpret the story. The form could involve each actor playing a different person in the drama, or all actors could play the protagonist. Other forms the conductor can select would mean the actors would have to portray the story in song or dance.

“We think of it as honoring that person’s story,” Colvin said. “It’s not necessarily improv comedy.”

That said, Colvin added, ” ‘What Happened at Work’ will probably get a lot of funny stories.”

The performances last an hour and a half, and in that time the actors will call up as many audience members and re-enact as many stories as possible.

Before they perform, the actors are not allowed to confer with each other (even to determine something as basic as who will play which character). Instead, they must rely on their improv skills.

In order to be able to do this on the fly, Colvin said the company “rehearses every couple of weeks for three to four hours” at a time.

“The audience is like, ‘How do you do that?’ ” Colvin said. “It’s exciting for us, because we don’t know how it will turn out either.”

More challenging still is the fact that many of these stories are more anecdote than fully conceived drama.

“Not all stories have an arc, and not all stories have an end,” Colvin said.

When asked what work-related story he would share, Colvin offered up a tale from early in his career. At the time, he was working as the editor of a newspaper, and his mother was the office manager.

One day, his mom started telling the other staff members embarrassing stories from Colvin’s youth. Wanting to maintain at least a shred of his professional dignity, he called his mother into his office.

“I gave my mom a dressing down about how she had to treat me as a professional,” Colvin said. “And I made her cry.”

Since it mixes workplace humiliation and parental-inflicted guilt, this particular story offers a lot of material for the Portland Playback thespians to work with. Should you have a story that offers similar conflict and drama, be sure to speak up Friday night.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila