8 Signs That Your Improv Team Is Heading for a Breakup

8 Signs That Your Improv Team Is Heading for a Breakup

Improv isn’t always all fun and games. Take it from someone who has gone through two team breakups within the past year.

To the average audience member, a team may appear to have amazing comedic chemistry on stage. But if the off-stage chemistry isn’t there, improv team members will often part ways and seek new theatrical horizons. Sometimes it’s simply an issue of conflicting schedules or a lack of managerial organization. Other times, it goes deeper than that and involves a web of drama, which can end in bad blood or tears. In either case, there are some key warning signs you should keep an eye out for that may foreshadow a painful improv breakup in your team’s future.

In this article, I’m going to share with you the warning signs I noticed in the days leading up to the breakup of my improv teams. If you spot any of these signs with your own team, you may want to start exploring other improv alternatives.

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Improv: A Booming Art Form in Rochester NY

Improv: A Booming Art Form in Rochester NY

What started as monthly classes at the Rochester Brainery, the occasional weekend performance by small comedy groups, and casual stage time at Johnny’s Irish Pub has yes-anded into a flourished improv community of esteemed talent. Theater-drawn members of the Rochester, New York municipality have been flocking to the Focus Theater, a small local theater that now offers numerous classes for the arts, primarily a birthplace to the new improv comedians of tomorrow.

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My 5 Categories of Theatre Humor

Anna Hubbel

OnStage Columnist

Amidst the crazed line memorization, stage crew chaos, and mad-eyed director antics, there is an underlying bond that keeps everyone sane during tech week: humor.

Based on personal experience, I’ve comprised a list of five “Theatre Humor” categories:

SpongeBob SquarePants

In my theatre group, SpongeBob SquarePants was randomly and frequently quoted, both during rehearsals and actual performances. Lines from a renowned SpongeBob episode were sporadically incorporated into a scene. For instance, we’d frequently add “…at night” after a serious monologue (see SpongeBob “Graveyard Shift” episode). Or one of us would start screaming “CHOCOLATE!” or “Is mayonnaise an instrument?” (Episodes “Chocolate with Nuts” and “Band Geeks”.)

Innuendos

I think it goes without saying that the world behind the curtain (or at least the high school or college curtain) is PG-13 (sometimes R). The flirting and sexual innuendos (all harmless, of course) are superfluous – playful winks, suggestive voice inflections during scenes, dry humping… When you spend that much time with the same group of people in sweaty costumes under the direct glare of stage lights…

These things just happen.

Happy Slip-ups

Sometimes a happy accident comes along and someone will speak a line strangely, drop a prop, or exit/enter the stage in an awkward manner, making the cast and crew double over for inexplicable reasons. These welcome moments of comic relief are the foundation of endless inside jokes that will bring you to tears nearly every time something or someone triggers the memory.

Playful Props

During a student performance of W.S. Gilbert’s Palace of Truth, I remember watching my fellow cast members rehearsing the scene where Chrysal and Zoram are dueling. At one point in the scene, the character Gelanor enters, attempting to pacify the two characters. As they continue to fight, a crunching sound is suddenly heard and the two turn to Gelanor, who has commenced eating from a baggie of Cocoa-Puffs. He looks up at them and offers, “Cocoa-Puff?”

So of course we kept the scene.  

Even if the audience didn’t laugh at the improvised scene every night, we sure did.

Costumes

I am 5’ 8” and weigh about 115 lbs. So when our costume director tried to make me look like a very fat woman… I looked more like an odd lumpy pillow with twig legs. 

On another occasion, we used baby powder to attempt to give an actor gray hair. First night on stage, the actor swung his head in emotion, sending a puff of powder across the stage. 

Do you agree with my list? What categories would you add?

The 9 Personalities of Your Theatre Friends

Anna Hubbel 

  • OnStage Columnist

Whether it's high school, college or after you graduate, a life in theatre means you'll be a apart of some pretty interesting theatre friendship groups. 

Garnered from my own experience, I’ve made a list containing some of these personalities:

•    The Flamboyant.

This is an obvious one. The theatre typically attracts those who have magnetism for drama and the spotlight. They enjoy the attention (and why not?) and take their roles very seriously.

•    The Goof.

My boyfriend at the time filled this void in our group at college, often taking humor to an over-the-top level for the sake of a laugh. The Goof frequently engages in improv at every opportunity… sometimes, much to the director’s dismay, on Opening Night. Anything for attention and a laugh on his/her own terms.

•    The Obsessor.

These individuals obsess over memorizing lines and stage direction so that it’s absolutely perfect. They often stress about their role outside of rehearsal, practicing extra whenever they are able. And following their performance, they typically feel that their performance was inadequate and begin obsessing over that.

•    The Slacker.

The Slacker is a director’s nightmare. Slackers will choose sleeping in or getting drunk over attending rehearsal. But they perform their role uniquely enough that no one else can pull off the character quite as well, putting the director in a pickle.  

•    The Perfect.

Perfect line memorization, perfect singing voice, perfect stage performance, perfect friend – perfect everything. Perfects do everything effortlessly. Everyone knows that someday, The Perfect will star on Broadway or appear on the Oscars. You either love or hate The Perfect.

•    The Flirt.

The Flirt will flirt with everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Sometimes the flirtatious humor crosses socially acceptable boundaries. But no one in the group minds because, after all, it is the theatre.

•    The Drama Queen.

Duh. It’s theatre. Sometimes The Drama Queen fits right in, holding a center seat within the group. But in some cases, The Drama Queen is someone who constantly looks for drama, passing tolerable boundaries, and talks about him/herself frequently, seeking some kind of approval to feel superior. 

•    The Casual.

The Casual is someone who sees theatre as more of a hobby than a passion. Casuals are reliable when it comes to their role and attending rehearsals, but they don’t consider theatre the be-all, end-all of their lives. They enjoy the theatre friendships and have fun, but aren’t constantly thinking about theatre outside of the theatre.

•    The Quiet-teer.

Quiet-teers often play chorus roles. They enjoy theatre, but are too shy for the spotlight. They prefer performing in the background and mostly listen to (rather than participate in) conversations amongst theatre members. But they are reliable and dedicate themselves to their role, however minor it might be.

Oftentimes, these personalities overlap; The Goof may also be The Flirt, The Drama Queen may also be The Flamboyant, etc. Or there is several of each personality within a group.

In any case, the “characters” (behind the characters) make for a fun group of which theatre families are made.

Photo: Rollins Colege