Improv team improves with new talent

With 16 out of the 20 improv members with zero improv experience and and their first show only a month away, the Running with Scissors Improv Team is gearing up for another year with practices every Tues. and Wed. after school at 2:30 p.m. in Amie Gossett’s room. 

Improvisational theatre “is a form of live theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment. Often improvisers will take a suggestion from the audience, or draw on some other source of inspiration to get started” according to Hide Out Improv.

The initial shock of making the team had senior Kunal Sharma ready for the challenge of being a newcomer.

“After pinching myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming, I let out a really loud ‘WOO-HOO!’ in my head. It felt good to know that others recognized something good in me, even though I really didn’t see it myself,” Sharma said. “I auditioned in the hopes of becoming Aziz Ansari. I joined improv rather late, but personally, all I want to do is have fun. There are things which need work like my coherency, speech, action and reactions, etc. But as long as I am making a positive impact on the team, I am a happy dude.”

Along with Sharma, freshman Maddie Cooke is a new addition to the team. She is also one of the five freshmen who made the team and has been introduced the mental challenges improv can present for players and audience members.

“The best part of practice is either watching the scenes because every scene is so original and majority of them are really funny. I feel like I am watching a really silly movie or television show, and sometimes I wish we would record our scenes because they are so entertaining and special,” Cooke said. “Improv really works another part of your brain, and it works the audience’s brain because you have to really catch up with the crazy ideas that are thrown out in the scene. ”

Junior Ann Rapp is the only returning member, besides the three captains: seniors Koel Branson, Kathryn Harter and junior captain Bryan Zhang. Rapp believes that her seniority is both a blessing and a curse.

“It kind of stresses me out a bit. I feel like all the new members expect me to be better than I am. It’s also sort of fun, though, since I can play the seniority card on them,” Rapp said. “It’s far better. The team environment is a lot stronger and friendlier, and we have a wider variety of improvers to work with.”

Rapp has been working with the captains to give critique and to channel the new talent.

“Instead the new members’ raw eagerness and talent for improv allowed for an extremely unique team that’s held together by their collective love for improv. That being said, our returning member is super dope. Ann Rapp has been able to offer critiques on scenes and provide the touch of someone who’s adept at improv to scenes and manage to control the craziness that happens sometimes,” Zhang said.

Zhang has taken on the role of Junior Captain. He is given the duties of a captain and is receiving the training and experience to take over as full-time Captain next year.

“It was definitely nerve wracking and unexpected. While I was excited to give back to this year’s team all the fun and learning I had from last years team, I was unsure if I was experienced enough to do so,” Zhang said. “Everyone on the team last year saw that Koel and Kathryn would get the captain position from a mile away and they had every reason to get the position. However, I seemed barely qualified to fill the same position that they have. While being a junior captain often means I’m not held to the same standard that the other two are, it still makes me feel like I have really large shoes to fill.”

But the talent of the team has been a reason to stay positive for him.

“Improv this year’s been giving me salamis in the tummy. It’s like butterflies but worse since salamis are so spicy. The team is everything I hoped for and 10 times better. Instead of making me feel reassured and confident, I feel even more pressure to be the sort of captain that a team will look up to and respect. There’s a lot of raw talent on the team; it’s gonna be a great year,” Zhang said. “As much as I thought it would suck, it’s actually pretty awesome. I was terrified that none of the new members would listen to what we have to say would refuse to bond with the team, but none of that happened.”

Despite the amount of new people, Zhang believes the team has the talent of an experienced group.

“Everyone has a great idea to begin with of what an improv scene should look like. All it takes is a single sentence from one or two people, and the characters, objectives, relationships and environments all fall into place quickly after that. Those four basic elements form the base of the salami, that is only enhanced by the spiciness of their sense of humor and unlikely scenarios,” Zhang said.

The team’s greatest weakness is not, however, the lack of experience.

“Ironically one of the biggest weaknesses of the team will undoubtedly be the biggest strength by the end of the season. The team is a hodgepodge of people of different genders, races, ethnicities, grades and social groups, while at the beginning of the season this initially caused some awkwardness and detachment. In recent weeks I’ve seen this group quickly become an improv family as everyone seems comfortable enough with each other. Cooperation in scenes is getting better and better, and the diversity only serves to make each experience great in different ways,” Zhang said. “Every year no matter who it is, I end up loving everybody that I meet from the improv team. It’s interesting to hear about football in one sentence, and caring for grannies in the next.”

The first Running with Scissors Improv Show will take place on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. in the theatre.

“Everyone should see the show because as a team, we are going to try our very best to display our improv skills,” Sharma said. If you come to the show, we promise to make your time worth while and help you escape your everyday stress for some laughs. That’s the reason I think we all do it. Not only because we enjoy it, but because we want you guys to have just as much fun as we are on stage.”