Four Day Weekend’s David Wilk talks celebrating 25 years and adaptability through pandemic
See full Advocate news article by Raven Jordan here.
Four Day Weekend was just a group of four friends experimenting with improv when they first landed on the improv comedy scene in Dallas-Fort Worth. Now, after celebrating 25 years in May, the cast has relived memories from the beginning and added some new elements to match the changing times.
With two theaters— at Sundance Square in Fort Worth and Lowest Greenville Avenue in Dallas— the improv troupe has surpassed 7,000 shows to sold-out audiences.
Once the pandemic hit, adaptability played a big role in the cast keeping shows on track. The troupe used one of the theaters as a site for multi-camera production on Zoom before returning to the stage last year in June.
The shows even extended beyond virtual shows to humorous commercials for cities and parks across the country about COVID-19 safety and social distancing. They won an ADDY Award in 2021 for their advertising campaign.
David Wilk, one of the founding members of Four Day Weekend, spoke on the importance of adaptability for the troupe through the pandemic and what he looks forward to for the future of Four Day Weekend.
The cast depends on the audience to help write the show with quirky dialogue and singular words.
“I could tell you what last night was about, but tonight has yet to be written,” Wilk tells the audience during a show at the Greenville Avenue theater.
Are you still in East Dallas or is Fort Worth home?
I’ve been in East Dallas for 30 years. I just started Four Day Weekend in Fort Worth because they didn’t have any improvisation in the late 90s. Dallas had a dozen troops, so we decided to pick a city that’s never seen it.
So, it’s been 25 years. How has the show changed since 1997?
We were a blend of improvisation sketches and monologues. And we started doing so many shows that we just couldn’t keep up with that kind of sketch content. So, it just morphed into a totally improvised show. Somewhere around year three or four, we traded irreverence for professionalism, as opposed to guys in jeans and a T-shirt. It became lighting cues and video cues and changing the aesthetics of the theater and just making it more of an experience than your typical improv show.
When the pandemic hit, you had to transition. Were you all performing from your respective homes on Zoom and just kind of going from there? How did that work?
Improv teaches you adaptability, and it teaches you to fail fast and move on. When both theaters shut down, we had a meeting and said, “Okay, this is not going away in a while. What are we going to do? Let’s ‘yes, and’— which is the philosophy. Yes, and what can we do? It’s like we’ll always produce TV. Grayson was a director. We know how to create content, let’s figure out how to do it online. And while everybody was doing these Zoom things, we figured, let’s turn the theater into a multi-camera production facility. So, our virtual events didn’t look like this. Our virtual events were a multi-camera shoot from our theater. Now the theater was empty, but the audience had a visual experience that was unlike what me and you are looking at right now.
What do you think was probably the biggest lesson you learned from that adaptability?
Not to get too set in your ways because change is inevitable. And again, control is the enemy of improv. So, we were all training our whole lives to be this adaptable. We just didn’t realize it. It was so easy for us to switch and say, “Okay, we’re doing virtual.” We have the talent and we’re putting the right people in place. Within a month, we were doing several virtual events a week. So, financially, we were able to survive when most theaters just had to shutter.
What would you say is next for Four Day Weekend?
I want these younger generations to have the opportunities that we had with commercials and television and film. So the next iteration is making sure these younger performers get the same opportunity that we got, and getting to tour the globe and do comedy for corporate events and TV and film and all that fun stuff. Because it is a young man’s game.
Location Mentioned: Four Day Weekend