Having only been budgeted by Student Senate for a year and a half, Knox’s Improv Club is seeing an increase in membership — especially among the freshman class.
“We’ve had a solid 15 to 20 people showing up consistently, which is more than normal … I think we’ll retain a good number of them,” club president and senior John Budding said.
Budding was also pleased to hear that several prospective students have inquired about the club.
Attendance at all club meetings is not mandatory, but more serious members who commit to performing in a show must make two out of the three weekly rehearsals, which are held in the lobby of the Ford Center for the Fine Arts from 9 to 11 p.m. on Sundays and 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Members find the openness of the lobby ideal because it allows them room to move around during practice.
Since improv implies pure improvisation, rehearsals leading up to a show involve practicing techniques as opposed to working with specifics. Club members refer to these as “show games” because they follow the same rules as typical performances, but involve less pressure sans audience.
“There are techniques you practice to build trust within a scene in order to create stronger scenes. When you see professionals do [improv], it seems pretty easy, but it actually takes a lot of practice,” Budding said.
Currently, the club is preparing for a show titled “Uncontrollable Sass” which will be held in Ferris Lounge on Oct. 13 at 8:30 p.m.
“Usually, funny things we’ve said in practice become show titles,” Budding explained.
The outline of a show is dictated by Improv Club’s executive board, which chooses the show games for each performance. Common “show game” titles include “Party Quirks, “Blind Line” and “Death Pendulum.” Each performance is unique and typically begins with suggestions from the audience.
Las Wednesday, the club practiced “Death in a Minute,” a show game which involves selection of a random setting as suggested by the audience. Club participants must then carry on a dialogue which creates a list of things that exist in that environment. If a participant falters in coming up with a new item, he or she has exactly 60 seconds to act out an elaborate death scene involving as many elements from the list as possible.
“It really is stepping out of your comfort zone, but that’s also a really important thing to know how to do,” Budding said of such rehearsals. “It’s easy because there’s no judgment. We critique scenes, I suppose, but [rehearsal] is a safe, contained environment … You’re made vulnerable in a really positive way.”
Budding feels the camaraderie outside of practice, too.
“Once we’ve gone through a term together, we’re really close. My best friends are improv-ers,” he said.
While seeing success so far this year, Improv Club hopes to expand its scope on campus and provide more opportunities for members, such as attending the upcoming visit of Second City to the Orpheum Theatre. They also aim to become more connected with the Knox theatre department.
“This year we’re passing out of the teething stage, so we want to plan bigger improv events — perhaps with other clubs and other colleges … We’re not officially part of the theatre department, but we’re hoping they can start to see us as a legitimate source of performance,” Budding said.