Preplanned sets, position markers, premises and scripts? Who needs any of them? And what’s the point of a director? With the art of improvisational theater, the acting, singing, dancing and anything else the performers can come up with are combined in an unconventional way. On a dime, they can do anything, and they can say any word at a moment’s notice.
In these performances, the audience is pretty important when it comes to interaction. With improv, there isn’t much of a fourth wall and the performance is as much for the performers as the audience. “When someone in the audience laughs, I know that they’re having just as much fun as we are on stage,” says second year Biotechnology major Louis Moskowitz, a member of the BrainWreck comedy troupe. “Because it’s improv, the audience can get really involved.”
Made up of student performers, RIT Improv is combination of two RIT troupes: BrainWreck and the Improvessionals. The group holds two workshops per week. The first class is focused on short form. If you’ve ever watched improv shows such as “Who’s Line is it Anyway?,” you may already be pretty familiar with this style of improv. Short form is a series of generally unrelated games that are more gimmicky and are usually based on the construct of a preexisting game.
From there, the actual content of the game is rigged to fit around an idea or suggestion given by the audience. The last class focuses more on long form. Long form is a sequence of short scenes somehow related to another, whether characters, storyline or overall themes are strung together.
If you’ve ever been to one of their workshops or shows, you’ll notice that RIT Improv can bring the drama, the laughs, sorrows and pretty much everything else (mostly laughs) on the fly. According to fourth year Computer Science major Donald Mitchell — the president of RIT Improv and co-founder of the Improvessionals — when the workshops are first offered in the fall, most of the quarter is learning the guidelines of the stage and differences in forms. By Week 7, students get the chance to put what they’ve learned to the test.
Individually, the troupes like to have a solo performance at least once each quarter. Many of the other shows involve other troupes, and not just the ones at RIT. Each year, RIT is host of Improvamonium when a multitude of improv troupes, including those from the University of Rochester, SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Buffalo come to perform with one another, both individually and between troupes. Another event, the Harold — three beats of separate long form scenes with an opening based on the audience’s suggestion — was held at RIT in May 2012.
For students who have seen a bit of improv and are interested in BrainWreck or the Improvessionals, many members of RIT Improv would encourage coming to a workshop or two. While some members have been involved with improv since high school, there are quite a few who hadn’t heard of improv until getting to RIT. According to Mitchell, if he knew they could put on a great show, he’d work with any of the students who consistently came to RIT Improv workshops.