The Running with Scissors Improv team presents a spooktacular show


Carson Lolley

Playing an improv game, juniors Kayla Bell, Kennedy Brown, Hayden Riehl and Ann Truka act out a scene at an after school improv session.

Backstage, no frantic shuffling of scripts or stressful readjusting of costumes can be seen. Dressed in simple white t-shirts, they wait for the lights to flick on. They have prepared for months for this show, yet they have no clue what they will be performing. This is improv.

“You’re thrown into a scene, that’s the basis of it,” senior and captain Bryan Zhang said. “You’re supposed to act things out, and because none of it’s planned before hand, most of the time you just say the first thing that comes to your mind.  This means that a lot of it is just about raw expression and expressing who you really are and what you really think.”

Senior and captain Maddie DeClue believes that participating in Improv leads to closer friendships and more confidence for improv team members.

“I’m more comfortable with myself and some of the peers I never thought I would be this comfortable with,” DeClue said. “You have to be comfortable in order to be on an improv team, so I guess we’re all pretty close and that has really made me more confident.”

Performers must leave their inhibitions at the door in order to fully commit to scenes.

“I’ve never gotten this after three years of Improv,” Zhang said. “That’s one of the biggest struggles about improv, especially in a high school climate. I don’t necessarily want to seem vulnerable and show who I am to a stage, but in order to do good improvisation acting, that’s just what it takes.”                     

Zhang decided to try out for the Improv team his sophomore year as a change of pace from the rigid structures of math contests, debate and science extracurriculars.

“Improv changed the way that I view life. I viewed myself as less of a problem solver and more as an entertainer, or rather I used entertainment as a method to problem solve,” Zhang said. “Because of the fact that I can’t prep things before hand, Improv strips the mask from my identity and forces me to truly express who I am and how I feel on the inside and my visceral reaction to things.”

The team holds practices after school every Tuesday and Wednesday from 2:45 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., dividing the team into two groups as they practice.

“Basically at practices, what we do is we get into groups and we do different Improv games, so we can help establish the necessary skills that make for a good improv scene,” freshman Jon Ma said.

When acting out a scene, the team emphasizes on developing the CORE elements of Improv: characters, objective, relationships and environment. They learned this from professional improviser Steve Vance from CORE Improv in St. Louis.

“We try to focus on structure, making sure all the scenes that we see have aspects of character, objective, relationships and environment. But at the same time, we try to focus on abstract things as well. No matter how hard I train on the structure, a lot of other things like having comedic timing or being able to think on the spot are equally important,” Zhang said. “It’s not something I can just study and get, it’s kind of like a muscle that I have to keep on working to make sure it’s consistent.”

There are 19 returning team members, resulting in one of the biggest teams in school history with a total of 25 members.

“This is the first year we have a lot of people returning to Improv which means that we can really hit the ground running and start doing scenes instead of going over the basics of Improv.  A lot of people already know what’s going on, and the newcomers to the team have been catching up quickly enough that we haven’t had to slow down,” Zhang said.

The show will occur a month earlier than it has in past years in order to make it Halloween themed.

“Some of the challenges of having a show so early is we got our team pretty late on because most of them were doing the play, so that’s one hurdle we’ve had to jump,” sophomore and captain Hayden Riehl said. “We don’t know each other as well as we would have by December.  Despite that, I think we’re doing a really great job of getting everybody ready and comfortable with the team in time for the show.”

The show will take place on Friday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in the theatre. Tickets are $5, and team members will be selling them throughout the week.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun; Improv shows are always really exciting and energetic,” Ma said. “It’s going to be spooktacular!”