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Improv at Dublin High School – Highwire Theatre Without a Net

February 18, 2014

By: Jennifer Strasser – Dublin High School (Class of 2014)

DHS Improv Team

Dublin High School Improv Team

You wake up with a jolt as your alarm blares loudly in your ears, alerting you to a new day. You scramble out of bed and drag yourself into the bathroom, fumbling to get the toothpaste onto your brush. You dress yourself mechanically and hastily yank the tangles out of your hair. After rubbing your eyes and letting loose a massive yawn, you glance half-heartedly at your calendar and when you discover it’s Tuesday, suddenly everything changes.

There is bounce in your step as you scoop up your backpack and rush down the stairs. Your smile shines brightly and you sing your goodbyes to your mother as you rush out the door. You just know today is going to be a fantastic day. Why? Because you are a student at Dublin High School, and Tuesdays mean just one thing; improv.

Now improv is relatively unknown to many people that aren’t involved in the club or team we have at our school. To put it simply, improv is acting without a script. Improv is performing entire scenes on the spot using just a spur of the moment suggestion from the audience as a guide. It requires quick thinking and spontaneity from the actors on stage to be successful.

However, improv is perceived differently depending on who you ask. I have compiled a few opinions about improv from some of the dedicated members of our Improv Club here at our school and it seems to be a common theme that improv is more than just entertainment to those that participate in it. Improv is a helpful tool in life because it allows you to make quick decisions or problem solve when something unexpectedly goes wrong.

Performing at a Rally

Performing at a Rally

Sara Vukojevic, a junior member of the club, feels that “improv is really just a way to have a good time and get a little bit of an escape from stressful everyday life.”

Similarly, Shawn Rickenbacker, another junior club member, says that he enjoys “exercising improv once a week, [because] it really helps think of things to talk about, and helps me hold conversations.”

Nick Padnos, a sophomore member of the club and improv team member, agrees that improv helps him too outside of performances. He says that “improv makes me feel awesome.” He loves improv because it makes him feel more confident about himself and his “abilities to think on the spot and handle problems that come up” in his life.

Aside from the crucial skills of thinking on your feet and problem solving, improv creates bonds between scene members. Since the only thing you can count on during a scene is the person you act with, you develop trust and chemistry with that person.

One of the closest groups of people on campus is our very own improv team (Improv the Nation). Being a part of this team is an incredible experience. I can not find a group of people that make me laugh more than my fellow team members. Every show is wildly different and has a whole new energy than the previous one. However, although most of the tingles you get during the show are from excitement, a good amount still come from being nervous.

Dublin High School Improv Team Backstage

Fun Backstage

It is truly incredible how much adrenaline one person can produce right before a show. No matter how many times you perform, the nerves never completely go away. When you are performing improv, you are letting your sense of humor take control. You are yourself on stage and that can become a very daunting idea.

Creating stage names for each team member is one way we take the edge off. That way, you are not Jennifer Strasser trying to make people laugh, you are “Boo” – the improv team member – just performing in an improv show, because that’s all Boo does.

The names are creative little alter-egos that we paint across the backdrop of our show and display on our t-shirts to give us a sense of togetherness and set us apart from our everyday lives.

We also do a few exercises before going onstage to get rid of any leftover nerves we might have. One of our more common warm-up games is called ‘Don’t Drop That’. It involves a simple chant and an A-A-B-B rhyme scheme. We all gather around in a circle, get a category and go around the circle, each one of us adding a sentence that rhymes with the previous one. This is a perfect pre-show game because it allows your creativity to start flowing and you really need to be thinking quickly when you have to rhyme.

The combination of exercises and pre-show chants help us to get through the nerves and feel ready for our performance. Of course there is never a cure for all insecurities but knowing that your team has your back can help you through a show much like it can help an athlete through a game. Improv really is a team-effort which is why we call ourselves a team, instead of just a group.

When you improv, you are doing it for the whole team, not just to make yourself look good, and for this reason, I find solace in improv. It is why I risk looking stupid onstage in front of many of my peers. It is why I put up with late nights and early mornings the week of a show. It is why I, among others, wake up with a smile on Tuesdays.

The Dublin High School Improv team returns to the Little Theatre stage March 14-15 at 7pm.

Dublin High School Improv Team

Dublin High School Improv Team

Dublin High School Improv the Nation Stage

Dublin High School Improv the Nation Stage

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