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IMPROVment draws huge crowd for first ever alumni show

Melanie Sayre

Issue date: 11/12/10 Section: News
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CWRU's IMPROVment formed in 2003. President Aaron Byers stresses that the relationship between troupe members is key to the group's success.
CWRU's IMPROVment formed in 2003. President Aaron Byers stresses that the relationship between troupe members is key to the group's success. "While performing, you have to make yourself incredibly vulnerable.  It is much easier to do when you know that you have 13 other people who have your back and will accept anything that you give them. We're always there for each other, much like a family."
[Click to enlarge]
There are few things a sane person would stand out in the blustery Cleveland cold. But scores of students waited over an hour for IMPROVment's first alumni show.

IMPROVment is a short-form comedy troupe, started in the fall of 2003 after the People's Improvisational Society (PImpS) failed to resurrect the previous year. The organizers at the time took the best from the PImpS and recruited talent from another group called the Make-You-Laughers, and created IMPROVment. While in 2003 they only performed twice a semester with an attendance of roughly 15, they are now packed full at each of their shows, which now number over more than 40 a year.

IMPROVment president Aaron Byers attributes much of IMPROV's appeal to the set-up of their games. "We play games based on scene work, as well as endowment, or guessing, games. IMPROVment is unique because of our use of music, which most troupes do not do," he said.

The show last Saturday night, starting at 10 p.m. and stretching to 12 a.m., was definitely one-of-a-kind. For the first time, the alumni were invited back to perform in, as Byers said, "their natural habitat," the Eldred Black Box Theatre.

"I came up with the idea of the alumni show last spring after seeing one at Ohio State," Byers said. "Because I knew that many IMPROVment alumni have continued to perform and take classes in Chicago and elsewhere, I decided to let them show what they had learned."

Bringing in the alumni wasn't exactly an easy process. "It was plenty of work," Byers explained. "The most difficult part was figuring out how to contact everyone. After that, the response was tremendous. Putting together the actual show was challenging, but I knew that no matter what I did, ultimately, the improvisers would be amazing."

The show was first taken away by a new improv troupe, the Thunderlips and the Submissives, which include IMPROV alumni T.J Gainely and LaJuan Foust. The troupe warmed up the crowd with some skits about squirrels - "a bunch of coked-out squirrels," that is.

The alumni, coming in from many different places "around the globe, but mainly America," introduced themselves. As many of the returning talents were from Chicago, alumni-written sketch comedy, which, popular in that area, was included in the show. Sketch comedies are short scenes, usually less then ten minutes long that are performed on stage and revolve around a central idea.

Then the show progressed into the normal IMPROVment show, with the alumni taking part in the games. "I like to think that improv games have been handed down from generation to generation, taught and perfected around campfires with plenty of s'mores action going on," Byers commented. These included serenading an audience member named Mud, guessing games in two scenes, a rave and a dating show, Irish drinking songs, and perhaps the best Quidditch which kept the night alive with laughter.

Morgan Hill, a CWRU freshman, attended the Saturday night thrill. "The cast is fantastic. I have no idea how they manage to come up with some of their ideas, especially when put on the spot like that," she said.

However, she and the rest of the audience aren't the only ones that enjoyed the show. The cast delighted in putting on the performance as much as we love seeing it. "I enjoy the camaraderie.  I have absolute trust in my teammates, on and off the stage," commented Byers. "While performing, you have to make yourself incredibly vulnerable.  It is much easier to do when you know that you have 13 other people who have your back and will accept anything that you give them. We're always there for each other, much like a family."

The show was fantastic. It was light, it was fast, it was hilarious. It was even full of herpes. "The best thing about the show is the entire cast," said Hill. "The worst thing about the show is the length. It's too short."

So, if you're trying to de-stress after a week of exams, papers, and late nights, find out if there's an IMPROVment show on for the weekend. It's good for laughs and general mental health. And, as Byers puts it for everyone, "there's nothing I don't enjoy about IMPROVment. "
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