Don't be surprised if you stumble upon a scene resembling open mic night at Don Quixote's in Felton Sunday, as it will just be "The Hello Show," an improvisational comedy trio on their summer tour through small-town California.

'Hello, Santa Cruz' presented by 'The Hello Show'


Sunday, 7 p.m.
Don Quixote's International Music Hall, 6275 Highway 9, Felton.
Tickets are $7.
Details: 603-2294 or www.donquixotesmusic.info

Generally known as Evan Johnson, Jamie Van Camp and Sarah Peters, "The Hello Show" trio met as students at Dell'Arte School of Physical Theatre, and recently came together to create a new breed of group comedy. Their multi-act performance is somewhat of a talent-show farce, featuring over 24 different characters all played by just the three of them.

"It's sort of an evolution of a project we were working on last summer," explains Johnson, who at 22 is the youngest of the trio. "We wanted to do something specific to the community we live in, Placerville, and other smaller sort of kooky communities. We thought it would be really cool to play with that sort of open mic format: people coming on stage to present an act, each character coming on, each one being a little vulnerable, not knowing if their act would work or fail."

Two summers ago, "The Hello Show" performed only in Placerville, and was still just a duo with Johnson and Van Camp, 25. But after Peters, 30, joined the group this year, adding some feminine presence with her ever-changing emcee role, they decided to expand their audience and cater the show to more small towns across California.

Wanting believable small-town characters, Johnson recalls how they visited the local thrift store to do costuming for the show, picking the most unusual clothes they could find. And while the characters stay the same with each show in each city, their acts always change to fit the environment.

"We are trying to keep the moment with the audience as real as possible," says Johnson of their approach to interacting with audience members, as well as poking fun at the venue or the town itself. "It is incredibly specific to the place and the people in attendance."

As they continue this summer, the group hopes they will recognize what the constants are, create new characters, and maybe even bring other people in to add even more characters and acts.

"It's a process of discovery," Johnson said, hoping that fans will see "The Hello Show" as more of an event than a play. "We wanted it to have the feeling of a pageant, or a small-town spaghetti dinner; there is something very homespun, endearing and quirky about small-town people."

And when he is not Izzy, the gender neutral, sexually ambiguous character, or Martha T. Lipton, the pretentious bake-sale lady, Johnson works at a coffee shop and continues to pursue his theater career, while Van Camp is a full-time student working on his master's degree, and Peters works with a nonprofit.