Improv Troupe

Emily Binshtok, Reporter

Whether it’s a reparatory show or a main stage show, hundreds of hours go into the production of a theater play. The script is written, the set is painted, and the actors memorize their lines. But not all acting is structured and rehearsed. The BV West Improv Troupe is a student-run organization that performs comedy shows “on the spot” without any preparation.

“Improv is really unorganized, but somehow the scenes come full circle,” senior Luke McCammon said.

The improv troupe usually performs short-form improvisation, which focuses on acting games and short scenes. Students often use games from the popular British TV show, “Whose Line is It, Anyway?” One of the most commonly played games that students play is Freeze Tag. In this game, an actor freezes mid-scene and another member of the troupe takes his or her place. Students also perform long-form improv, which creates a longer show with more of a plot.

Even though the troupe isn’t as structured as most theater activities, it provides students with valuable knowledge and experience. Members of the troupe learn and refine important acting skills like clarity, confidence, and the ability to make instant decisions.

The BV West Improv Troupe performs before and after school plays, as well as during pep assemblies.  While their comedy games are entertaining for audiences, it is hard for the improv troupe to perform in a huge gymnasium in front of hundreds of students.

“[Assemblies] are actually the worst place to do improv,” theater director Laurie Vanderpol said. “It’s a testimony to these kids’ talent that they can do that.”

For the improv troupe, natural talent is a prerequisite. Most members of the troupe are also involved in another theater activity. They may be involved in the Rep Theater or the cast of a main stage show. Though the troupe meets at 7 a.m. most Tuesday mornings to practice basic techniques, there isn’t much they can do to prepare for shows. When an improv show begins, the actors have no idea what they’re about to do. Once the audience suggests a theme, the troupe instantly decides in which direction to take it.

“People get very nervous because they think they have to be funny,” troupe leader Dylan Coon said.  “That couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Since improv is a team effort, it is very important for the members of the group to trust one another. They must be familiar with each other’s acting styles and senses of humor.

“I know that if some of my jokes are falling flat, then someone will cover for me, and vice versa,” McCammon said.

The Tuesday morning sessions focus on developing this camaraderie.

“It’s not so much practice as bonding with members of the troupe,” sophomore Preston O’Fill said.

Even though the improv troupe has existed for eight years, it has never achieved the widespread recognition and popularity of the other theater groups.

“Improv is the unwanted stepchild of the department,” Vanderpol said.

Part of the problem is the fact that it is a high school group in an adult-dominated area. Most improv comedy is performed in bars or comedy clubs, many of which are off-limits for high school students.  Also, the subject matter is often inappropriate for younger viewers. Despite these limitations, the improv troupe continues to meet and perform. They don’t do it for money or special recognition. Members of the improv troupe share a love of comedy and acting, and that’s enough.