An Evening of Laughs

Imagine watching a play where the actors don’t know their lines.  They never practiced before the show and did not use props or build sets.  At first, that type of show might sound like a disaster.  But that’s why actors call those shows improv.  On Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3, UMPI students attended “An Evening of Improv” at UMPI’s Wieden Auditorium.  This was the first improv show from UMPI’s student drama club, the University Players.

Improv is very different from plays or musicals.  There is no script or lines for the actors to perform.  Instead, the audience members become part of the show.  Before the UMPI performance, student actors passed out pieces of paper to audience members.  They had to write down phrases or lines.  Those phrases and lines became part of the games “Scenes from a Hat” and “Pockets.”

In “Scenes from a Hat,” the actors pulled the audience members’ papers from a hat.  Then they performed scenes based on the phrases or topics that audience members had written down.  The scenes included “Presidential Debate,” “An Awkward Marriage” and “Locked in a Freezer.”  Other scenes were “First Time Skydiving” and “Waiting in a Long Bathroom Line.”  In “Pockets,” two actors had random lines from the audience.  They had to have a conversation based on the lines that they had.

The performance included many other games and scenes that had audience members laughing throughout.  Michael Coons, a junior fine arts major at UMPI, attended the Friday night show.  He most enjoyed a scene where four actors were in a car trying to find a highway gas station.

“I thought it was really fun.  They should keep doing this show every year,” Coons said.

Darci Faye, UMPI senior and University Players director, said that improv has always been a type of theater she has enjoyed.  She wanted to give students and the community access to the funny, entertaining show that is improv.

“Improv is something that is interactive.  The audience can influence the characters or scene,” Faye said.  “You can see 20 shows and they would all be different shows.”

Alexandra Kruczek, a freshman Elementary Education major, was one of seven University Players students who performed during the improv show.  This past October, Kruczek acted in Faye’s comedic play “Love for Losers.”

Kruczek wanted to try improv because it is a unique type of theater.  Her favorite scene to perform in was “The Dating Game.”  Audience members had to pick quirks for three “bachelors.”  Her character had to guess each quirk and pick one of the “bachelors” to go on a “date” with.

“The most difficult part is trying to come up with something when you have nothing,” Kruczek said.  “It’s easy when your partner has something and you can bounce something off them.”

Joshua Williams was another one of the improv actors.  Williams is a junior at UMPI majoring in business management and leadership.  He liked how the improv shows brought out the “goofy” side to his personality.

“It’s a show that gets good engagement with the audience.  You don’t have to worry about screwing up because there are no screw-ups.  Anything goes.”

Faye wanted audience members to walk away from both shows knowing that they had watched something great.

“I hope that they take away that theater can be fun.  It doesn’t have to be a serious play,” Faye said.  “I think something like improv is a great way to take an hour off and just have fun with your friends.”

Both improv performances had something great for audience members and actors.  The actors got to try theater that was challenging, but fun.  Students in the audience weren’t just watching the show.  They helped actors create what happened in every scene.  The result was a show that made people laugh and forget about their end-of-the-semester work for a while.  Everyone at the shows got to be part of a new campus event whether they were onstage or in the audience.