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September 11, 2011 | Robert Avila

3 FOR ALL Bayfront Theater, San Francisco

3 FOR ALL is comprised of Stephen Kearin, Rafe Chase, and Tim Orr, but this trio contains multitudes. Pick your genre, call out a topic; these improv comedy veterans are always worth seeing: utterly distinctive and never the same.



August 23, 2011 | Robert Avila

3 FOR ALL. Maybe the SF Improv Festival has whetted your appetite. Or maybe you already know that this longstanding, outstanding long-form improv trio comprised of Rafe Chase, Stephen Kearin, and Tim Orr are always varied and strange and wonderful. (Sept. 16–17, Bayfront Theater)



Three For All improvisation trio's April Fools performance interactive original

APRIL 2, 2011 | Cindy Warner

Three for All (3 FOR ALL) had them talking on the BART train home tonight after an exhilarating two hours running full of comedic improvisation at the Zeum Theater at Yerba Buena Gardens. All I heard was, “weren’t they great” as a young lithe Asian man sat down with his friend on the Fremont train. Did you go to 3 FOR ALL. I asked immediately. Yes, he answered. He’s seen them for years and they are always that funny. He said they do perform at another theater as well, the BATS [Bayfront Theater in San Francisco]. Yes, every show really is different from another. I suspect 3 FOR ALL itself is different from any other, with Rafe Chase, Stephen Kearin and Tim Orr.

The first half of the show they performed shorter stories initiated with a word from the audience. The second half they went on for an hour with one story, going back and forth in time and switching characters in the same scene. The girl seated next to me laughed so hard she cried, seriously—I looked over when she choked up and got squeaky and her eyes were full of tears.

One sequence involved a disturbed wife with a husband working late with his secretary. He gets a call from a neighbor saying she’s searching the trees for her pots and pans while leaving a pie on the lawn like a landmine; speaking of which he gets another call saying she’s at home trying to open the fire hydrant saying it was her oven and she succeeded. The skit made me laugh so hard that alone was worth the price of admission. Something about the firemen finding the main line stuffed with three cupcakes, like grenades.

Each of them played a woman of one sort or another fearlessly, from a psychologically tortured daughter with a Heineken drinking German therapist to the loony housewife, or a frustrated single mother at Halloween to a busty secretary or bar fly at last call.

Indeed after two hours of the trio’s comedic improvisation using audience suggestions—called out in cacophony—I felt at 10:30 pm invigorated, energized, jazzed where the long hot day had me lazy and yawning beforehand. It had been a barefoot and lemonade in hand kind of day in the East Bay.

The young man explained 3 FOR ALL only performs every few months because the third one works in LA. As I left the BART car one handed me his card for an improv troupe in Fremont, so these young actors knew their stars.

The gentlemen of 3 FOR ALL actually have talent as original as their shows while they assume old fashioned almost vaudevillian style, all middle aged and looking sharp in their gentlemanly suit trousers and vests. Clean shaven except for Rafe’s white soul patch to match his long white hair combed back. I suspected a former hippie or musician under that suit.

Although, Steve Kearin’s tousled auburn hair gives him a Kramer look my half Jewish companion from Jersey complimented. Tim Orr seemed pretty convincing in a skit “You’re Scaring Me”, which turned out to involve a pair of mafiosos with hair-trigger nerves. Meanwhile I thought Stephen Kearin rather Pee Wee-esque in his manner generally with a touch of Ed Grimley. Magnificent facial expressions, ridiculous physical humor with his walks, from gangster to slow motion, his whole persona so animated with perfect timing. The trio seems to demonstrate a genuine warmth and affection for each other even if the characters threaten violence, the actors actually kissing each other and embracing just as they described to me recently.

How do they do it, play off each other seamlessly for two hours? Is this what a decades long friendship and partnership can produce, organically? The trio relies purely on their talent, the 210 seat Zeum theater largely bare except for three chairs and a big crate they could all share, and a full house. No pre-recorded sound effects, even the keyboardist David Norfleet on the side of the stage became part of the improve troupe along with the lighting man, Glen Eastman.

There is a bit of strong language and sexual situations but it's probably within reason, adult humor. No children were in the audience, it seemed more the 20 or 30 to 50 down to Earth crowd. Casual attire, I wore Levi's. 3 FOR ALL definitely the best dressed in the house.



Robert Avila | September 24, 2010 | Weekly Pick

3 FOR ALL Bayfront Theater, San Francisco

Some veteran performers think they know it all already, feeling sufficient unto themselves. But despite the dizzying level of expertise evinced by 3 FOR ALL’s Rafe Chase, Stephen Kearin, and Tim Orr, these guys still take suggestions. In fact, they don't do what they do without a little help from the audience, by way of nouns, adjectives, and odd phrases shouted out in eager expectation that these three improv masters will take their idea and transform it into a breathless and hysterical wonder of theatrical spontaneity. Really, if you haven't seen 3 FOR ALL do its thing, you haven't seen all that improv has to offer. These are the troupe's last San Francisco performances of 2010. 



October 20-26, 2005

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, New York

DON’T MISS!  San Francisco’s finest long-form improve troupe, 3 FOR ALL, performs 3 nights for all of you. One of San Francisco’s most successful long-form improve troupes visits NYC for three nights. Says one of our staffers who used to live in SF, “What they did with the form singlehandedly restored my faith in improv comedy.”



September 9, 2003 | Robert Avila

3 FOR ALL Bayfront Theater, San Francisco

The thought of finding yourself onstage before a sold-out house on opening night, without the least idea of what you will be doing for the next two hours, is normally the stuff of nightmares for actors. For improv champs Rafe Chase, Stephen Kearin, and Tim Orr, better known as 3 FOR ALL, it's just another gig. And if working without a script or rehearsal or an idea sounds like mere laziness, watching this trio – formed in 1996 to pursue a variety of improvisational comedy that pushes the limits of the form – rather brings to mind a masterful band of jazz musicians, sustained by quick wits, mutual chemistry, and some fancy footwork. The evening, which begins with short scenes prompted by audience suggestions and climaxes with a fully improvised "movie," also features improvised accompaniment by Joshua Raoul Brody on keyboard and Gerri Lawlor on lights. With serious chops and exceptional charisma, these etch-a-sketch artists are truly something else. And that means every night. 




Monday, September 8, 2003 | Teatro


Vea cómicos improvisadores de primera categoría, se presenta entre los días 5y 27 de setiembre en el, San Francisco's Bayfront nadie estará a salvo de estos comediantes “Bay Area Improv Group” sin texto ni reglas y que en ese preciso momento de inspiración le harán morir de risa con sus ocurrencias.

English Translation:
"These first-class improvising comedians will perform between September 5 and 27 at the San Francisco Bayfront Theater. Nobody will be safe from these comedians with no script and no rules, who will make you roll with laughter when you least expect it."

Es un trío fabuloso de improvisadores que matan al publico, pero de risa con todas sus ocurrencias.  Los magníficos son Rafe Chase, Stephen Kearin y Tim Orr.  Ellos se conocieron en 1980 y finalmente el año 96 decidieron unir sus fuerzas e ingenios y formaron un grupo de improvisación BAT (Bay Area Theatresports).

Por lo general este grupo vende la totalidad de los asientos y esta no fue la excepción el día 5 de setiembre cuando abrió sus puertas el San Francisco Bayfront Theater con la apertura del show 3 FOR ALL con un lleno total, por eso es recomendable comprar las entradas con anticipación.

Uno puede verles todos los días, ya que cada día es distinto, no hay libreto, el libreto lo dictamina el publico respetable. Ellos empiezan cada pieza con una pregunta al publico, por ejemplo el primer sketch fue basado en la sugerencia de uno de los espectadores quienes sugirió la palabra pan. 

En ese preciso instante y como tomados por una furia divina ellos empezaron a elaborar una magnifica selección basada en la palabra “pan” y para que, era inverosímil.  Había 2 hombres que pretendían enamorar a un tercero y el ganador del amor de la fruta de la discordia seria aquel que amase el mejor pan.  Aparentemente el ganador fue el que hizo el pan más rico, pero no contaban con la audacia perspicaz de Tim Orr quien asevero que su pan, a pesar de no ser tan delicioso, había sido hecho con masa de cocaína, por lo tanto era más apetitoso. 

Este es una de las locuras que se les ocurrió a estos magos de la improvisación.  Hubieron muchas mas ocurrencias orates en este programa de 2 horas de hilarante distracción, y al final cerraron con broche de oro con una película ficción basada en un titulo escogido por el publico.  En esta ocasión el titulo, imposible de elaborar, bueno para cualquier otro, pero muy fácil para los de 3 for All, fue “Six of One, Half of one dozen”  Vaya a ver quien hace un film con este titulo, y hubieron otros títulos que no ganaron como el de “Running Scared”, pero para sorpresa de la audiencia que los aplaudía fervorosamente, ellos lograron representar una bella comedia con estos 2 títulos.

La comedia trato de un joven que tenia el corazón destrozado ya que su novia lo había dejado por ser un mujeriego que no se daba ninguna atención.  Su amigo lo aconsejo que se deje de tonterías de amor propio y que insista en regresar con ella.  El accede pero ella tenia una nueva relación amorosa con un “matador” francés quien estaba empecinado en ser el mejor torero del mundo y de ganar el premio mas alto que ningún torero jamas ha logrado “The Big deal”, para ello tenia que matar al toro más malo de la historia de la tauromaquia “La grosse merde”.  Suceden muchas cosas que solo la mente creativa de los magníficos 3 FOR ALL puedan concebir y al final, gracias a que “grosse merde” mata al matador, él puede reconquistar el amor de su amada.

English Translation:
It's a fabulous trio of improvisers who kill the audience, but with laughs with all their occurrences. The mighty are Rafe Chase, Stephen Kearin and Tim Orr. They met in 1980 and finally in 1996 they decided to join forces and wit and formed an improv group BATS (Bay Area Theatresports).

Usually this group sells all the seats and this was no exception on September 5th when the San Francisco Bayfront Theater opened the 3 FOR ALL show with a full house, so it is recommended to buy the tickets in advance.

You can see them every day, because every day is different, no script, the script finds the respectable audience. They begin each piece with a question to the public, for example the first sketch was based on the suggestion of one of the spectators who suggested the word ”bread.” At that very moment, as taken by a divine fury they began to develop a wonderful selection based on the word "bread" and that it was unlikely. There were 2 men who would love a third and winning the love of the fruit of dissension would be that one who loved the best bread. Apparently the winner was the one who made the best bread, but did not have the audacity insightful of Tim Orr, who said his bread, though not as delicious dough was made with cocaine, so it was more appetizing.

This is one of the crazy things that occur to these wise men of improvisation. There were many more occurrences lunatics in this 2 hours program of hilarious entertainment, and finally closed with a flourish with a fictional film based on a title chosen by the public. In this occasion the title, impossible to prepare, good for anyone else, but very easy for the 3 FOR ALL, was "Six of One, Half of one dozen" Go and see who makes a film with this title, and there were other titles that did not win as "Running Scared", but to the surprise of the audience that applauded fervently, they managed to represent a beautiful comedy with these 2 titles.

The comedy was about of a young man who had a broken heart because his girlfriend had left him for being a womanizer who didn’t pay her any attention. His friends advise him to stop this nonsense of pride and to insist on returning to her. He agrees but the girl had a new relationship with a French "killer" who was determined to be the best bullfighter in the world and win the highest award ever made any bullfighter "The Big Deal," for he had to kill the tough bull in the history of bullfighting "The big shit." A lot happens that only the creative mind of the wonderful 3 FOR ALL can conceive and finally, thanks to "The big Shit” who kills the bullfighter, he can win back the love of his beloved.

[Translations courtesy of Veronica Blaine Weberg]



September 2003 | Michael Scott Moore

Improv with a noirish sense of style and a face-saving sense of humor

At first glance, what sets the guys in 3 FOR ALL apart from normal improv actors is a sense of style: They wear suspenders and broad ties, like noir film stars, and the soundtrack to their show is mostly cool jazz. "Improvisers," as actor Tim Orr says in the press materials, "are the jazz musicians of the acting world," so the choice of a jazz-era image is perhaps not quite accidental. But Orr, Stephen Kearin, and Rafe Chase are also as tight as a good jazz trio. Taking words or phrases from the audience -- on my night, for example, "bread," "kick it," and "washing dishes" -- they develop smooth, hilarious skits. In "Washing Dishes," Chase played a senile old man trying to do dishes unattended. Without saying a word, he snapped on rubber gloves and sponged glasses clean while Kearin provided sound effects through a microphone. It was a brilliant example of two-handed improv, with both actors responding to what the other was doing: Plates broke, plumbing exploded, and Grandpa's rubber gloves went shooting around the kitchen. Other skits were just as funny, although the long-form piece in the second half -- an improvised "movie" about a failed marriage and a bullfighter -- bogged and stalled the way you'd expect an improvised half-hour play to. The material changes every night; there are no guarantees. But along with a sense of style, these three have a face-saving sense of humor. 


KQED TV, SPARK, June 2003

Driven by the artistic principle of "on a stage with no rules," improv group 3 FOR ALL hits the floor with no script, no format, no preconceptions and no safety net -- making their audiences roll with laughter. They are Bay Area improv comedians Rafe Chase, Stephen Kearin and Tim Orr.

Having met in the late '80s through the improv company, Bay Area Theatresports (BATS), the trio formed an ensemble in the summer of 1996 to pursue their distinctive brand of high-stakes improvisation, releasing a self-titled CD in February 2003. Chase, a founding member of Improv Theater, as well as other local groups, teaches improv for BATS and A.C.T., and in private classes. Kearin, a visiting instructor at Stanford University, has recently appeared on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and a pilot of "The Phil Fuller Show." Orr, like Chase, coaches improv at BATS and A.C.T. in addition to being cast in Bay Area plays and Brien Burrough's improvised films "Suckerfish" and "Security."

Spark follows 3 FOR ALL, taking you into the art of spur-of-the-moment improvisation. The three actors, along with the musical and lighting improvisers, work together to twist audience suggestions into narratives that last anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour. Whereas most actors spend countless hours getting into character, 3 For All live in the "adrenaline shots" of spontaneity. Nothing is rehearsed, nothing is discussed before or during shows, nothing is held over or reworked in future shows -- nothing but pure improvisation.

Watch SPARK TV segment