Infuxn Kitchen and Cocktails

Infuxn.

 

Let’s start with the pronunciation of this odd little word, specifically the latter half.

 

It does not rhyme with suction; it rhymes with fusion.

 

Now, put it all together and say in-fusion.

 

Not only is that what the name sounds like, it also describes what goes on at Joplin’s ultra hip vodka bar and eatery called Infuxn Kitchen + Cocktails.

 

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This upscale lounge with its sleek decor, frozen drink rail at the bar, and vodka bank in the rear makes me feel like I’ve have been transported from southwest Missouri directly to a club in Vegas.

 

infuxn bank 2The vodka bank. Care to make a withdrawal?

 

In 2019, Infuxn expanded its lounge to include a full dinner menu, and swapped its low-profile tables for wooden dining tables so that its patrons could comfortably enjoy a night of cocktails and dinner all at one convenient location.

 

Naturally, I had to try it out, so my husband Travis and I went there recently on our date night.

 

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Infuxn sets itself apart from other local venues by focusing on the art of the cocktail. Many of the drinks here are actual infusions, which are defined in the dictionary as “drinks, remedies, or extracts prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid.”

 

Yes, Infuxn has a remedy for whatever ails you.

 

The medicine man here is Daniel Valentine, the creative force behind Infuxn’s cocktail elixirs. He has crafted a menu of drinks that is anything but ordinary. Daniel even takes his art beyond the menu by concocting a daily drink special, plus he makes customized drinks based on his patrons’ requests.

 

The elixir that beckoned to me on our date night was the Lower Elevation, a refreshing citrus drink with a kick.

 

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It was made with some ingredients that I recognized: Espolon tequila, fresh lime and grapefuit juices, house sour, and muddled jalapeno; and some ingredients that I had to look up: El Bujo mezcal (a smokier relative of tequila), and habanero-infused St. Germain (an elderflower liquer).

 

Travis ordered the Last Summer.

 

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Made with Hendrick’s gin, lavender-ginger syrup, and fresh lemon juice, this cocktail is served over ice and topped with a Luxardo cherry, and it goes down easily, so pace yourself. Do yourself a favor and eat that decadent (and expensive) Luxardo cherry on top; fruity with a hint of amaretto, Luxardo cherries are the elegant cousins of the familiar Maraschino cherries.

 

We ordered the hummus of the week to nosh on while we sipped our cocktails (Risotto Rice Balls and Antipasto Rose Flatbread, I’ll see you on future visits).

 

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Our curry hummus was served with fresh celery, carrots, and either baked or fried naan (we chose the pillowy fried naan, which is lightly seasoned and highly addictive).

 

On a previous visit, when Infuxn only served appetizers and small plates, we’d ordered the Crab Stuffed Mushrooms. They are still on the menu, so I thought I’d include a photo of these generously stuffed, creamy and savory goodies for you.

 

infuxn crab

 

The dinner menu at Infuxn offers something for nearly everyone’s palate and dietary needs. For those seeking an upscale burger made from superior-quality beef, there’s The Infuxn Wagyu Burger; if eating plant-based is your thing, there’s the meatless Beyond Burger.

 

If you’re cutting carbs, try the Tuscan Chicken Mornay or the meaty and succulent Seared Strawberry Salmon, topped with balsamic vinegar and strawberry salsa, and served with asparagus, and your choice of two sides.

 

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Travis ordered the steamed vegetables and new potatoes as sides for his salmon (the Parmesan mash is a good low-carb substitute for the potatoes).

 

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Since we were at a vodka bar, I chose to go the traditional Russian cuisine route. I ordered the carb-loaded Homestyle Beef Stroganoff, a hearty (and insanely huge) dish filled with mushrooms, carrots, and tender beef in a rich sour cream sauce, and served over farfalle pasta.

 

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I also ordered a cup of Infuxn Borscht with my meal, because where else in Joplin can you find borscht on the menu?

 

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This traditional root vegetable soup, often found in Russian and Polish cuisine (although its origins are actually Ukranian), contains shredded beef and pork that is simmered in a tomato base.

 

Both the stroganoff and the borscht dishes at Infuxn are family recipes, and they reminded me of similar dishes that I ate growing up in a Polish household.

 

I’m excited that Infuxn is part of Joplin; it offers a one-of-a-kind experience in our city, making it a must-visit place for both tourists and locals.

 

Just make sure you practice saying the name before you go.

 

 

 

Infuxn Kitchen + Cocktails is located at 503 S. Main St. Click here to visit Infuxn’s Facebook page.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Turtleheads Raw Bar

Joplin is nestled in the rolling hills of the Ozarks, right in the heart of America. This means that while we’re surrounded by miles of trails to explore, we’re also a long way from the crashing waves of the ocean. In fact, there are seven degrees of latitude that separate us from our closest ocean access point: The Gulf of Mexico. 

While it’s not easy for us landlocked Ozarkians to physically travel to the beach to enjoy some rest and relaxation, we can feel like we’re there when we visit Turtleheads Raw Bar, located right here in Joplin.

 

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The turquoise exterior of Turtleheads reminds me of the bright Gulf water, and it offers a hint of the carefree, beachy vibe cultivated inside. With kitschy nautical decorations and neon signs adorning the walls, this is a hangout where Jimmy Buffet would feel right at home.

 

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Recently, my husband Travis and I ate at Turtleheads. Both of us went to college in the Gulf region; he in Pensacola, Florida, and I in New Orleans, so every once in a while, we crave the variety of seafood that we had access to when we lived there. Lucky for us, the menu at Turtleheads offers several items that satisfy those cravings.

There are some appetizer options here that you won’t find anywhere else in town, like fried gator tail and frog legs. There are also oysters, both fried and on the half-shell, which Travis ordered.

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He was given the choice of Gulf or Blue Point oysters, and he chose the latter. It had been years since he’d eaten some, and he was excited to be able to do so here in Joplin.

 

I’ve never acquired the taste for oysters, so I ordered the coconut shrimp. Served with honey and citrus sauce, it had a nice tropical flavor.

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As we enjoyed our appetizers, the languid beat of the reggae song Red, Red, Wine by UB40 played, transporting us back to the day that we met on a beach in Illinois in the summer of ‘87. Ah, yet another good time at the beach.

When it came time to order our entrees, I was torn between the po’ boy sandwich or the gumbo, two of my favorite Cajun foods. I ultimately went with the gumbo, which was packed with tomatoes, celery, shrimp, and spicy andouille sausage, served over Cajun rice. 

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My side dish of island slaw, subtly sweetened with coconut and grapes, was a nice complement to the fiery gumbo.

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The Louisiana Pan Roast that Travis ordered also had a kick to it. Similar in consistency to the gumbo, his pan roast contained shrimp and crab, bathed in a creamy – yet spicy – tomato and clam sauce, and served over Cajun rice.

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His side dish of jalapeno hush puppies, served with a remoulade-type sauce for dipping, was delicious.

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In addition to its regular menu items, Turtleheads runs specials on different nights of the week, such as Crab Feast on Wednesdays (with all-you-can-eat crab legs), and Catfish Fry-Days.

But eating seafood is only part of the Gulf Coast lifestyle feeling at Turtleheads; the other part is listening to live music under twinkling lights on the outside patio.

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Midnight Rose performs on the patio stage.

The patio is open year-round, and there’s live music played there every Saturday night. 

Outside, we sipped on our beer as the balmy breeze carried away our worries. We felt relaxed, like we’d been to the beach – yet we’d never left Joplin.

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Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, like Jimmy Buffet sings.

On this night, we mentally changed latitudes with a virtual trip to the beach at Turtleheads.

 

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Turtleheads Raw Bar is located at 4218 South Main Street in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, and click here to find it on Facebook.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

El Guapo’s Cigar & Pipe Lounge

Over the past year, I’d seen my friends post on Facebook about places where you could throw axes for fun and I thought, “Is this for real? People are actually allowed to throw sharp objects in public?”

 

I was intrigued.

 

Certainly, there had to be rules and procedures established in order to make this safe, right? I was curious to see for myself how this axe-throwing thing worked, but the closest place to throw axes was over an hour away at the time. But in February of this year, I came across a post in my Facebook feed announcing that axe throwing had arrived in Joplin!

 

Alex Menejias is the savvy businessman who seized the opportunity to add this activity at El Guapo’s Cigar & Pipe Lounge, making his establishment the only cigar lounge in the area that offers axe throwing.  

 

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El Guapo’s House of Axe is a new arm of the enterprise that Menejias created in 2016 when he introduced his cigar lounge to the area. I admit that I’d avoided checking out the cigar lounge because, as a nonsmoker, I didn’t think there wasn’t a reason for me to go.

 

Then came axe throwing.

 

 

El Guapo’s House of Axe

I’m glad that my curiosity about this unique activity got me in the door at El Guapo’s because I discovered that this establishment has definitely been operating under the radar. There are so many activities here that it feels like a playland for adults – but with a chill, loungy vibe.

 

Let’s begin with axe throwing. My husband Travis and I arrived at El Guapo’s on a Friday night, ready to de-stress from our busy week by hurling sharp objects through the air at a wooden target. It’s better than throwing things at each other, right?

 

When we entered El Guapo’s, Alex, the owner, greeted us from behind the bar. We told him we were interested in axe throwing and he asked if we had a reservation. We didn’t, but luckily we’d gotten there early enough in the evening that there was a spot available. If you’re interested in axe throwing, call ahead for a reservation because, according to Alex, “Lots of people like to get out their aggressions on a Saturday night.”

 

Or, in our case, on a Friday night.

 

El Guapo’s House of Axe is located on the second floor of this historic downtown building, right above the cigar lounge.

 

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The cost for axe throwing for one hour is $20 per person. After paying for our session, signing waivers, and grabbing a couple of beers, we went upstairs to the cages. A floor monitor reviewed the rules with us (there’s a maximum of 3 drinks per person – smart rule), then walked us through the throwing process, which reminded me a lot of bowling in that you are assigned to a lane, then you take turns walking up to a line and hurling a heavy object.

 

el guapo cages

I didn’t realize how heavy the axe would feel until I finally held it. I had imagined throwing the axe with the fierceness and precision of a warrior, but now I wasn’t too sure of myself. At three pounds, the axe wasn’t nearly as heavy as a bowling ball, but it felt weighty. Frankly, I was a bit intimidated.

 

But with gentle prodding from Travis and the floor monitor, I stepped up to the line. It was then that I realized that a pair of flip flops was not my best footwear choice, but I had stubbed my toe earlier that day and it was too swollen to fit into any other type of shoe. I blinked away thoughts of one of my little piggies being permanently severed from the rest of its family, focused on the target in front of me, and threw the axe.

 

I may have closed my eyes, which I’m 100% sure is a safety no-no. Nonetheless, my throw actually embedded the axe into the wood.

 

el guapo chris axe

True, it was close to embedding in the wood floor – but it didn’t!

 

Travis, who’s always analyzing and strategizing (which is awesome if he’s on your team, and downright annoying if he’s your opponent) was up next.

 

el guapo axe overhead

He practiced the throwing positions, asking the floor monitor pertinent questions about hand placement and trajectory and blah, blah, blah. Finally, he threw the axe.

 

el guapo bullseye

A bull’s eye on the first try?

 

Seriously?

 

It was my turn again. I tried to summon that warrior energy that I’d envisioned earlier. I focused intently on the target.

 

el guapo worm target

Perhaps I shouldn’t have focused so strongly because the target started to resemble the face of a sweet little inchworm caterpillar.

 

el guapo inchworm

How could I hurl an axe at that?

 

Not very well, according to my throw…

 

Travis must not have seen the caterpillar’s face because he scored a couple more bull’s eyes (or sweet caterpillar noses, if you saw it through my eyes).

 

Our hour flew by and groups began arriving to take our place in the lane, so we moved on to the corn hole game area.

 

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I was pretty pumped because I’m fairly adept at playing the corn hole toss. Thanks to the numerous trips we’ve taken to pumpkin patches with the kids over the years, where the corn hole toss seems to be a staple venues, I’m well-practiced.

 

Or so I thought.

 

Travis went first.

 

el guapo corn hole

Guess what happened? His first toss went right in.

 

Did I mention that his cousin is a corn hole champion from southern Illinois (she’s been on ESPN playing this sport), so he might have some corn-hole-tossing skills in his DNA?

 

 

El Guapo’s Cigar & Pipe Lounge

We then went down to the first floor and did some activities at which I was more genetically compatible to Travis: pinball, shuffleboard, and billiards.

 

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One thing that we didn’t try was El Guapo’s indoor golf simulator – the only one in the Joplin area.  

 

el guapo golf simulator

It was fun to play all of these things in a relaxed atmosphere, and we agreed that this would be a fun place to come with our friends – we could socialize while we played. I also learned that El Guapo’s hosts monthly events like Comedy Night and Poker Night, giving us yet even more reasons to come back.

 

el guapo stage

As far as purchasing refreshments goes, you can choose from wine and beer (there are more than 20 domestic and craft beer options) on the first floor of El Guapo’s; if you need more sustenance, there are snacks like chips and hot dogs to keep you going.

 

Well, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention the cigar lounge. You can begin your cigar-smoking experience by stepping into the walk-in humidor and browsing through over 100 cigar facings and selecting the perfect cigar just for you.

 

el guapo cigars

 

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After that you can settle in to smoke in the first floor bar area, or if you’re interested in purchasing a membership, you can enjoy your cigar in this classy members-only lounge.

 

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With a relaxed, lounge-like atmosphere and lots of activities for you and your friends to enjoy, El Guapo’s is a unique addition to Joplin’s nightlife scene.

 

 

El Guapo’s Cigar & Pipe Lounge is located at 532 South Joplin Avenue. If you’re interested in axe throwing, call 417-825-7700 to make a reservation. Click here to follow El Guapo’s on Facebook.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Tropicana Bar and Grill

In Sanskrit, buddha means “awakened one,” and that’s how I felt after tasting the Buddha Gouda burger at the Tropicana Bar and Grill.

 

Not that I had achieved enlightenment or anything – it was just that my taste buds had been jolted into a state of hyper-alertness.

 

This tender burger’s topped with sweet sauteed onions, smoky bacon and gouda cheese, plus a creamy sauce that’s amped up with a dash (or five) of Sriracha, a hot chili condiment. Sweet, smoky, and sassy, this burger is one of the most popular items on the menu here.

 

tropicana buddha

I’d describe the menu at the Tropicana as pub food with a twist. Take the Munchies (appetizers), for instance. You can choose from traditional fare like spinach artichoke dip, onion rings, or deep-fried mushrooms, or you can venture out and try the Killer Bill’s Fried Dills (pickle chips served with ranch dressing) or the Philly Rolls.

 

tropicana phillyA philly IN a roll – not ON a roll. 

 

The Philly Rolls are made with sliced beef, sauteed onions and bell peppers, plus swiss cheese all wrapped inside an egg roll and served with ranch dressing (who doesn’t love ranch?). These rolls are fabulous.

 

The rest of the menu contains something for every palate. There are salads like the Big Bleu, with fresh greens and grilled chicken topped with apples, blue cheese, and candied walnuts; sandwiches like Grilled Pimiento Cheese served on wheat berry bread (a vegetarian option); specialties like Fish Tacos, and a variety of inventive burgers.

 

My husband ordered one of specialties: Fish and Chips. These house-battered cod loins were mild and crunchy, and they were accompanied by a side of handmade chips.

 

The Tropicana has a full-service bar on the main floor and offers several beers on tap. Here’s a sample of the ever-changing beer menu.

 

tropicana on tap

We visited the Tropicana on a Friday night, and heard live music from a band playing on the second-story stage.

 

tropicana bandIt looks like this musician is shooting laser beams on innocent diners below… 

In addition to the stage, there’s also seating upstairs which consists of a long wraparound bar and stools overlooking the dining area below. We ate upstairs and enjoyed watching the hustle and bustle of the activity below.

 

We also had a clear view of this enormous octopus mural, which is a creative addition to the Tropicana’s nautical theme.

 

tropicana squidThis looks small, but it actually spans a good portion of the wall. 

 

The Tropicana also has several outdoor dining areas. This makes me giddy.

 

tropicana day

I love that more Joplin restaurants are adding this option. I look forward to chilling out on the Tropicana’s patio this summer, whether it’s for dinner or lunch (the Tropicana is open during the day, too; see its Facebook page for hours).

 

When we were done with our meal, we walked through the main floor and that’s when it dawned on me. We were there on a busy Friday night, yet something was missing.

 

Smoke.

 

That’s because the Tropicana is a smoke-free establishment. Woohoo!

 

But something that was there that captured our attention was this flashy contraption hanging on the wall.

 

tropicana juke This looks like an overgrown smartphone, doesn’t it?

 

Can you guess what it is?

 

It’s a juke box for the digital age.

 

The Tropicana has certainly succeeded in putting a contemporary spin on the traditional pub atmosphere, creating a modern and welcoming gathering place on Main Street.

 

The anchor’s been dropped – the Tropicana is here to stay.

 

tropicana anchorI couldn’t resist the nautical pun.

 

 

Tropicana Bar and Grill is located at 2402 South Main Street. Click here to visit its Facebook page.

 

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Enjoying the patio in summer

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

RSVPaint Date Night

My husband Travis and I love our occasional, and much-needed, date nights. Once the kids are shipped off to grandma’s house, here’s what we typically do:

 

Date Night Option #1: Stay in and binge-watch some Netflix.

 

Date Night Option #2: Go out for a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

 

Date Night Option #3: Go out for nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, then come home and binge-watch some Netflix.

 

Aren’t we exciting?

 

Sometimes even we bore ourselves. That’s when we know that it’s time to look for some new activities to shake things up on date night.

 

Recently, I signed us up for the Date Night session at RSVPaint, a paint-and-sip art studio in downtown Joplin. Since neither one of us is really good at painting, I knew there would be no danger of intra-couple competition (unlike the time we played laser tag; I beat him at that, by the way).

 

So if neither of us is a painter, why did I sign us up for RSVPaint’s Date Night? First, so we could learn something new together. Second, so we could encourage one another in the process (just kidding – I did it so we could laugh at each other).

 

rsvpaint-date-group-sitting

The studio was packed when we got there, and I was glad that I signed up ahead of time online, although walk-ins are always welcome, if there are still easels available.

 

We started sipping some wine – to get our creative juices going, of course. There’s a bar in the back of the studio where you can purchase beer, wine, mixed drinks, soda, water, and snacks. You can also bring your own beverages; we brought a bottle of our favorite Merlot which the bartender uncorked for a small fee.

 

Then we got settled in front of our easels. Our supplies included four paintbrushes, a palate of five paint colors, and an apron to protect our clothes.

 

The theme for our Date Night session was “Under My Umbrella,” and we were going to create a diptych. A diptych consists of two paintings that, when placed side by side, make one scene.

 

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I chose to paint the male figure and Travis painted the female, although some of the other couples did the opposite.

 

rsvpaint-date-instructor

Jordan was our instructor that night, leading us through the process stroke by stroke, and color by color. She was laid-back in her teaching style and supportive of everyone’s creative expression. She made me feel like Picasso.

 

Or maybe that was the vino…

 

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We started painting our backgrounds, then added our trees. I do admit that Travis’ trees were better than mine.

 

rsvpaint-date-colored-trees

Then it came time to paint our male and female figures. If Travis were a wise man, he would have painted a dainty feminine figure like everyone else in the class did.

 

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But, no.

 

My renegade husband chose that particular moment to “express his individuality.” While everyone else’s figure was black, his female was bright yellow.

 

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That, combined with its, um, interesting shape resulted in something of a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George.

 

rsvpaint-date-curious

Thanks, honey.

 

Did you notice how slim I made my male figure?

 

Did you?

 

rsvpaint-date-couple

I guess I’ll forgive him because spending a few hours creating a one-of-a-kind diptych at RSVPaint was a welcome break from our usual date night routine.

 

Plus, it gives us something to chuckle about for the rest of our lives.

 

 

Group photo courtesy of RSVPaint’s Facebook page. RSVPaint is located at 223 Third Street. Click here to visit its website. 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Siblings Improv

The pounding of my heart grew louder, faster. My mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls. I took a sip of water. When I did, the paper napkin under the glass stuck to my sweaty palms.

 

I had no reason to be nervous. I was a mere audience member seated in the shadows, waiting for someone else to step into the spotlight on stage. Yet, I felt anxious for the performers that night. After all, the audience expected them to come up with entertaining material on the spot.

 

siblings-guys

I couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept. I’m the type of person who needs to write down my thoughts in order to process them, so the idea of having to immediately construct a story while acting it out gives my stomach butterflies. That’s way too much pressure – even to witness!

 

But moments into the performance of the improvisational group Siblings Improv, I began to relax. These actors were sharp, going through scenes like they’d rehearsed them several times before. In reality, they were making up the material based on suggestions from audience members. And in the process, they remained as cool as cucumbers.

 

siblings-group-front

Their spontaneous creativity was off the charts and reminded me of watching the Drew Carey TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” which introduced improv comedy to the masses. That night, Siblings Improv was introducing improv to Joplin.

 

This group of actors – none of whom are actually siblings – was formed in 2013 by Drew Crisp and Eric Epperson. They had taken classes at The Second City in Chicago and wanted to bring that style of theatre to Joplin. And they have.

 

Siblings Improv performs at various venues in the city, and it was at one of these venues that I, along with a couple of my girlfriends and a house full of people hungry for inventive entertainment, watched the Siblings’ show.

 

siblings-ladies

It was my first time watching live improv theatre and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Before each game or sketch, the group collected written suggestions from the audience then quickly began acting out their interpretation. It would have taken me a good five minutes to process, plan, and execute the suggestions (so never choose me to be on your team for charades), but these actors were right on it, never missing a beat. Honestly, I was a little intimidated by their MENSA-worthy response time in their games and sketches.

 

The sketch “Homeschool 2072” involved a teacher from the future presenting history lessons from the year 2016 to her students. The audience was asked to supply topics pertaining to current events, and then various performers would act them out. With it being a month before a controversial presidential election, you can guess which topic came up repeatedly!

 

“Swipe Right” was a game where each actor sat in a chair and pretended to create a dating video. During the videos, the actors would extol their best – or quirkiest – qualities, depending on what was written on the slips of paper provided by the audience. Below is what one of the troop members said when she introduced herself in her “video”:

 

I’m Susan.

Not “B. Anthony.”

“B. Tony.”

 

siblings-susan

Susan B. Tony

 

Quick wit – I love it!

 

In addition to performances, the Siblings Improv also offers creativity workshops, teaching everyday people (like me) the art of improvisation. Maybe I should go to one of these workshops to overcome my anxiety about performing in public. 

 

Siblings Improv’s performances are both intellectual and entertaining, and provide a unique, big-city type addition to the nightlife offerings in Joplin.

 

For more information about Siblings Improv, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.