By Emma Russell
Student Life Editor
After losing its status as a club during the virtual 2020-2021 school year, the Improv Club has made a return to the Washington College community.
Virtual schooling made performing live theater very difficult; shows that weren’t canceled were moved to virtual formats and many were pre-recorded or presented as staged readings via Zoom. Only one show, which was specifically made to be performed on Zoom, “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms,” as a full production.
The Improv Club suffered greatly because of COVID-19. According to new Club president sophomore Skylar Hass, the budget for the club was closed and the club “ceased to exist.”
Hass and new Club vice president junior Jayla Draghici brought the club back, much to the excitement of the former and now current club advisor Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, Professor of Theater, and Director of the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts Dale Daigle.
Hass has acted for 10 years but has not gotten the chance to be in an on campus production yet here at WC, which was part of the reason why she wanted to bring back the Improv Club. They also believe that improv is an important skill all actors should have in their toolbox because they never know when something will go wrong on stage.
“Improv can absolutely add a little comedy to shows when something goes wrong and it kind of hides the fact to the audience that something went wrong, and instead makes it seem like part of the show,” Hass said.
Improv isn’t just a useful tool for aspiring actors but is something that can be shared with the Chestertown community as well, according to sophomore Julia Stanley, the new chair of community outreach of the Improv Club.
In the future, Stanley plans to bring the club to the community “to make theater more accessible to kids… and help bridge the gap between the college and the community,” by partnering with local libraries and schools for performances.
Until then, the Improv Club plans to meet every Friday at 4 p.m. in Tawes Theatre, located in the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts, and cycle through various improv games to help members improve their skills.
The first meeting was held on Friday, Feb. 18, and Hass said that for the first meeting they wanted to get an idea “for where everyone’s skill levels are at and everybody’s comfortability levels with doing improv and being on stage lay.”
The meeting started with all members introducing themselves by sharing their names, pronouns, and class years before they played a popular theater warm-up game called Zip Zap Zop that allows participants to move their bodies, work on their attention skills, and focus on their speech.
Club members then settled into acting through a few rounds of Freeze Tag. In Freeze Tag, two people start a scene and are provided with the setting and conflict, doing their best to act their way through it before somebody in the audience yells “Freeze,” and takes the place of one of the actors, starting a completely new scene.
The first scenario that was given was a Pokémon battle, which turned into sailors stuck on a ship at sea during a storm, and moved through a variety of other scenes before ending with a superhero helping a civilian commit tax fraud.
The next game they moved onto was called Reality TV Show, which was created by the students taking Prof. Daigle’s improv class, according to sophomore Allison Michaud, who described the game as “very chaotic.”
Reality TV Show is similar to Freeze Tag: there are two actors on stage and other participants remain offstage and periodically shout out “Freeze.” When they do, all action on stage stops and the participant offstage provides an inner-monologue of how the character on stage is feeling, similar to that of a confessional one might see on an actual reality TV show, and the actor on stage must take that confessional into account to continue the scene.
“Making fun of reality TV is very easy, so it’s very funny,” Michaud said.
The last improv game the club played was Party Quirks. The way the game works is there is one host and three guests attending a party who are assigned specific character traits or quirks that are unknown to the host. The guests must do their best to embody their quirks and act them out, so by the end of the party the host can try to correctly guess them.
Fun character prompts were provided to the guests, ranging from the beloved cartoon character Squidward from the popular Nickelodeon show “SpongeBob SquarePants,” to a cannibal who uses human meat to make and sell burgers.
Club members encourage any student who is interested to attend not just on their artistic abilities, but to relax.
For Michaud, improv is a really fun way for them to “destress” while also working on her “social skills.”
“It’s just a good place to get up, get some energy out, get some creativity flowing, and to make connections with other people who are similarly minded,” Hass said.
Students interested in joining the Improv Club should email Hass at firstname.lastname@example.org.