Improv groups host interactive virtual performance

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Everett Tolbert-Schwartz ’22, CC Mesa ’22 and Ash Wright ’22 deliver an unscripted performance inspired by audience suggestions.

The school’s improvisation groups hosted one-hour performances over Zoom May 14. The Jackanapes, made up of sophomores and juniors, went live at 5 p.m., and the Scenemonkeys, composed of mostly seniors, went live at 7 p.m.

Performing arts teachers structured the event to invite audience participation. 

Performing Arts Teacher Michele Spears and Lisa Fredrickson led the event,which consisted of scenes where two or more actors were matched in the webinar. Audience members suggested scenarios and locations for the scenes in the Zoom chat.

Jackanapes member Kayla Choi ’22 said that although the viewers were faceless, their enthusiastic participation made her feel more secure and calmed her nerves as she performed.

“The show was so much fun because it was live and the audience was able to applaud and type in the chat,” Choi said. “Hearing the clapping, ‘whoo-hoos,’ seeing the ‘F’ in the chat, which meant ‘funny’ as well as reading their comments as they rolled in, was so exhilarating. Although I usually get extremely nervous right before I perform anything, I was instead excited and comforted at how all the improvisers were in the same boat.”

Performers incorporated improv games into their performance. 

Another aspect of the performance incorporated different improv games into the interactions. Choi participated with Everett Tolbert-Schwartz ’22 in Dubbing, an activity where actors move their mouths and gesture to the sound of others’ improvised dialogue. She said that while the game was challenging, it allowed her to embrace more physical comedy and utilize her surroundings.

“I love being physical when improvising, so Dubbing is one of my favorite scenes to do,” Choi said. “The most difficult part would be trying to match your mouth movements with the person voicing you, and also trying to find ways of always moving and changing the distance between you and the camera, such as getting very close [or] far from it or standing at the side or corner of your Zoom box.”

Improv team develops camaraderie during rehearsals. 

Casey Weisman ’22, a Jackanape, said he has become accustomed to this year’s virtual performance format and does not feel it hindered the group’s improvisation.

“This was actually my second Zoom improv show, so at this point, Zoom shows are more normal to me than live performances,” Weisman said. “I always look forward to the improv shows because they’re so fun and so chill and just an hour of you and your peers joking around and laughing.”

Scenemonkeys member Alon Moradi ’21 said that even online, members of the improv groups were able to establish a sense of camaraderie during rehearsals and performances.

“We normally meet Fridays after school when people usually feel pretty tired, but everyone who makes a point to come to our meetings really wants to be there and contribute and engage,” Moradi said. “It has been nice to have a solid moment [with other seniors], but it has been equally gratifying to witness the spark and potential present in our newcomers to improv at the Upper School. I have no doubt that it will keep its momentum in the future.”