Hi, I’mProv brings back improvisational comedy

Justin Jones

Last Saturday, Nov. 5, a group of talented young actors took the Café by storm. Hi, I’mProv, Lawrence’s newly-founded, student-run improv troupe, put on an engaging, interactive show that drew quite an audience. Taking cues from well-known improv comedy groups like Second City and Improv Everywhere the troupe took their audience on a wild-ride through a number of improv games.

They began with “Cut it Down,” in which audience suggestions create a scene for two actors that they perform four times; first in one minute then in 30 seconds, 15 seconds and finally five seconds. Sophomore Joram Zbichorski and Sadie Lancrete portraying a date in Jurassic Park was particularly memorable.

Other crowd favorites included “The Dating Game,” a spoof of the ‘60s ABC television program in which audience members give each contestant a ridiculous identity that the bachelor then has to guess based on their answers to three questions. Though there were a few dry spells during the hour long show, all the actors did a great job of keeping their audience interested, which is no easy feat in a venue like the Café.

Hi, I’mProv was founded just this year by sophomores Erik Morrison and Kelsey Lilyquist. They had each directed improv troupes in high school and were dismayed to find that Lawrence’s improv scene was in severe disrepair. Said Morrison, “We had each talked to folks who wanted to play improv games again, but Lawrence’s improv, once a popular campus presence, had for some time been defunct. Kelsey tried to get the established troupe going again…and I attempted to start a new one. Of course, other commitments intervened and neither of us could get a show together.” Yet, early this year Morrison and Lilyquist got in touch and began collaborating on putting together a new group.

Hi, I’mProv began holding open rehearsals Fridays at 5 p. m., inviting all those interested to come and play games together. Aside from standard games like those they played during Saturday’s performance the troupe has also been pulling devices from “deeper in the improv catalogue” including Viola Spolin’s Improvisation for the Theatre, which Morrison says “planted improv in the USA.”

There is no formal audition process for the group, though Lilyquist and Morrison did choose a performance cast of 10 students based on their observations during rehearsals. “We didn’t want to have a formal ‘audition’ because improv is so organic; rather, we let the folks who were joining us every Friday know that the next week we would be selecting a group to perform.”

Saturday’s show is just the tip of the iceberg for this energeticgroup of actors. They already have another performance planned for Nov. 18 and are working on finding another performance space. Morrison said the group also has plans to experiment with “long-form” improvisations, which would be more serious in tone and focus on creating a “longer, cohesive performance.”

Morrison also hopes to do some shows in the style of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, an umbrella term for a variety of improvisational forms that address political and social issues.

Though they’ve still got a ways to go, it sounds like Hi, I’mProv has the motivation, the talent and the right outlook to bring improvisational theater back to Lawrence in full force.

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