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Originally published July 5, 2013 at 5:05 AM | Page modified July 5, 2013 at 1:36 PM

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Seattle improv troupe to stage real ‘Wedding Horror Stories’

Directed by a veteran maid of honor and featuring a bride-to-be, Seattle Experimental Theater’s “Wedding Horror Stories,” which premieres July 11, will re-enact audience members’ tales of ceremonial misery.

Seattle Times staff reporter

THEATER PREVIEW

‘Wedding Horror Stories’

8 p.m. July 11-12 and 18-19, a Seattle Experimental Theater production, 5510 University Way N.E., Seattle; $12 (800-838-3000 or brownpapertickets.com).

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The bridesmaids’ purple dresses had been custom-fitted, but when the mother of the bride found out, she ordered the dresses returned. She was planning to wear the same color.

Stories like this make actress Cheryl Platz grateful that the plans for her September wedding have gone relatively smoothly.

“It calls into attention all the moving pieces that can go wrong,” she said.

Platz is a cast member of “Wedding Horror Stories,” an original, improvised comedy show staged by Seattle Experimental Theater that will premiere Thursday. During each performance, the cast will re-create wedding mishaps solicited from the audience during the show.

The idea for “Wedding Horror Stories” surfaced after director Jeannine Clarke and colleagues were sitting around after a show about a year ago. One of the performers was having a bridal party, which got the group talking about their wedding-related experiences. An hour later, Clarke couldn’t help but see the wilder stories as great material.

“You can’t write this,” she said.

Platz had heard the idea from Clarke, her maid-of-honor, before becoming engaged in December 2012, but auditions weren’t until May.

“Jeannine (Clarke) asked me, ‘are you sure you still want to do this?’ ” Platz said.

When performing long-form improv such as “Wedding Horror Stories,” Platz loves being able to touch people emotionally. People are motivated by caring, so it’s about showing both sides of every disagreement, conveying real people and real emotions, she said.

“We are not saying getting married is a terrible thing,” Platz said. “We are trying to create a therapeutic environment because when you are planning a wedding, everything is so heightened.”

The only non-improvised part of the show is a choreographed stage fight.

“How many times in your life can you say it is perfectly normal for you and your maid of honor to have stage fights on a regular basis?” Platz said.

Platz’s wedding will not be Clarke’s first stint as maid of honor. While she hasn’t dealt with any serious horror stories, Clarke has always been “strangely involved with weddings” and understands how weddings work similarly to theater production.

Theater people often get pulled into weddings because of the tight-knight community, Clarke said. She knows this firsthand, in part because of her background in dance — she’s been asked to teach countless wedding-party members — and her abilities as a seamstress.

“Probably one of my weirdest gigs was being commissioned to make a Gandalf the White ‘Lord of the Rings’ outfit for a guy officiating a medieval wedding back East,” she said.

During rehearsals, Clarke directs her cast by giving them acting notes and exposing them to a variety of circumstances. She likened rehearsing for improv to being on a sports team.

“You need to practice the show to get better,” Clarke said. “You don’t know exactly what will happen, but you can get to know people and their strengths and weaknesses.”

Clarke said that she and the cast like to joke about wedding experiences.

“There is a crazy person at every wedding,” Clarke said. “If you can’t figure out who it is, it is probably you.”

Hannah Leone: 206-464-2299 or hleone@seattletimes.com

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