Students utilize creativity, spontaneity in improv

Sam Sharp and Sam Sharp

Put five to nine people in a room, give them a topic and watch them as they attempt to act out wacky impromptu situations. This type of unscripted acting is called improv and there are four different teams on campus that offer free weekly shows to the public.

The four improv groups on campus are: No-Name-Basis (short form), The Plastic Shatners (short form), Lady Parts (short form) and Bad Genetics (long form).

“You will laugh. You will cry. You will laugh hysterically. You will cry because you’re laughing so hard. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s fun–that’s the best way of putting it, because (with) live performances there’s always an element of experience that video does not have,” said sophomore No-Name-Basis member Jameson Kamp.

Creativity is a necessary skill needed for improv acting and it’s often called upon when the audience suggests ideas that are hard to embody, like “the War of 1812” or “Atlantis.” The only safety net that the actors get is each other and their ability to act on the spot.

“One of the things about improv is that you won’t actually want to use props. In long form you sometimes use two chairs, and those chairs can be anything you want them to be. In short form you normally don’t want to use things like a piece of clothing you have or hat–you pantomime everything,” said Kamp.

However, the performers do not walk into the room mentally unprepared. They go through a series of warm-ups that get them on their metaphorical and literal toes.

“What they do is they get us going, they get blood moving and our brains going. We do a lot of exercises like ‘Busted Tee,’ where you will describe a T-shirt and the person next to you gives it a quote that gets the creativity going,” said senior director of Bad Genetics Adam Lewton.

These vocal exercises may seem strange when being observed, but they help the performers get into a positive mind set.

“It’s very fun. It brings a lot, you can express a lot of emotion with it. It’s a great stress reliever and it’s a great way to socialize with people. Performing in general has always been something I’ve enjoyed and making people laugh has never been a bad thing,” Kamp said.

Spontaneity is a key element of improv comedy because none of the performers are given a script to base their actions off of. Performers are expected to deal with the suggestion that their director accepts from an audience member.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is that an audience member understands that we have no pre-conceived notions about what’s about to happen during the show,” said student director of The Plastic Shatners and Lady Parts performer Natalie Wilson.

Wilson became the director of the Shatners last fall and balances her time between directing them and honing her own performing skills for Lady Parts. Lady Parts have a philanthropic nature to their team because they sell tickets to their Women in Comedy show that benefits female victims of abuse.

“The way that I want to make the world better is by making people feel happy and feel good,” said Wilson.

Improv acting isn’t just for theater majors; many of the participants are a variety of majors. Improv veteran member of Bad Genetics and psychology major Katya Dachik got involved last year at the annual fall semester auditions after a friend suggested she try out for a spot on one of the teams.

“I like the team dynamic of it- just knowing that you have support no matter what you go out with- so that there’s no chance of something going badly- because someone’s always going to be there to support you and justify your actions and make it funny,” said Dachik.

Auditions for this year’s teams have passed, but prospective members have the opportunity to try out for any of the four teams next fall semester. Getting involved with an improv team can be hectic, intimidating,crazy and unexpected.

“The best things happen when you least expect them to, and that’s improv; it’s unexpected,” said Dachik.