“Improv is sort of like being a trapeze artist without a net,” says Charlie Krebs, Lakeland’s associate professor of theatre and speech and director of the Improv Team (which will replace the recently dormant Drama Club).
“Certainly, things can go wrong in a typical theatre production too, but with improv, everything is completely up in the air. It’s exhilarating and frightening, at the same time.”
Theatrical improvisation, or improv, is a popular form of acting in which performers are given topics or scenarios to freelance about in front of an audience. The performers don’t know the situation they will perform until they receive the suggestion in real time – often from someone in the audience.
Instead of a fall play this year, Krebs will lead a student improv show on a specially designed Bradley Theatre stage that will seat 108 spectators and feature a bar (“we’re designing a nightclub,” Krebs says).
There will be a three-day, free exclusive Improv Team premiere for Lakeland students and staff Nov. 3-5 at 7:30 p.m., followed the next weekend by three more performances for paying audience members.
Recently, Krebs held auditions for LU’s Improv Team. Nearly 20 students tried out, and 12 were selected as full-time members. Krebs said he’d like to keep the others interested so that with growth, they too can join the full-time team.
Making up the 2016 LU Improv Team are: Mayce Bacon, Dani Bossler, Edward Castillo, Charles Conto, Breonna Gipson, Isabelle Gurzinski, Alex Kerr, Alex Kleiber, Zach Mock, Maia Reed, Neil Rhode and Mario Rafe.
“For nine straight years, we did a fall play,” says Krebs. “I’ve never produced improv before, but I’m psyched out of my mind. We get to invent all kinds of scenarios, and for the performers, it’s all about thinking on their feet. It’s definitely a risk. They’re really putting themselves out there.”
Krebs references shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “The Dating Game” to help explain what the LU Improv Team will do.
This past Saturday, two standout performers from ComedySportz in Milwaukee visited campus and put on a three-hour workshop for Lakeland students who are interested in comedy and improv. Lakeland students and area high school students participated in the workshop, honing their improve skills and sharing plenty of laughs.
Krebs sees significant long-term potential in the Improv Team. He envisions students giving free shows for their peers at the 1862 Lounge, and eventually a program that features varsity and junior varsity teams.
“It’s so much fun,” Krebs says of improv. “In rehearsal last night, we were just dying laughing. These students are capable of so much more than they even realize. They’re given a situation, and it’s all about spontaneity and impulse. You can’t think up there, or you’re dead in the water. Our students are really great, and their confidence is intoxicating.”