Oberlin Blogs

Major IMPROV'ment

April 20, 2010

Joe Dawson ’12

While the prospies descended on the Oberlin campus, this weekend was all about improv for me. Starting on Wednesday night and going through Monday night, including all rehearsals and performances, I improvved 7 times in 6 days, and still had time to run my first track race in more than a year. This past weekend was the weekend of the Oberlin College Improv Conference, a yearly coming together of amateur and professional improv groups that includes performances, workshops, improv jams, and parties.

Saturday night the Cat housed the event known in the past as "Improv 'Till you Drop." I guess dropping wasn't enough for the conference organizers, so this year the event was grimmed up to "Improv 'Till You're Dead," which saw the debut performance of Obehave!, the improv troupe I am currently involved in. This group is a product of the Advanced Improv Exco, and is Oberlin's only shortform improv troupe. The other improvists on campus do longform improv, which involves, in basic terms, creating an entire play from an audience suggestion. Our group focuses more on improv games with specific rules than longform. Think "Whose Line is it Anyway?" with about half as much Drew Carey. About an hour before Improv 'Till You're Dead started and about 2 1/2 hours before we were slated to go on stage, the Obehaviors met in Wilder to do some pre-show planning and practice.

Everything started out pretty ducky, as everyone was really excited and happy about our first ever performance. Pretty soon the excitedness turned into stress and tension, as confusions about which games we were playing and how we would introduce ourselves presented themselves. After getting pizza and some intense discussion, we realized we only had half an hour to practice before we had to head over to the Cat to catch the first group of performers. We hadn't figured out who was going to play which game or how we were going to interact with Maya, who was helping us out by being our disembodied voice/announcer. With about twenty minutes to go, we ran through the fastest round of games we'd ever played and actually came up with some really funny stuff to an audience of two empty pizza boxes. Out of the stress of the earliest parts of the meeting was born an uneasy sense of confidence that we could make the audience that night laugh, either for us or at us.

The Cat was pretty full when we got there, but we were able to find two tables to house the eight of us in Obehave! and a good number of Cat cookies (made from real cats! The Siamese snickerdoodles were especially tasty, although the calico snaps weren't too bad either). The other two Oberlin improvvers were going to perform right after us, and the room was filled with people by the time we got on stage at around 10. I personally blacked out for a half hour, so I don't remember much of anything about the show except for saying I had gotten a preemptive vasectomy while playing the prince in the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin. And some laughter, so that's a good sign.

After us came Primitive Streak and the fabulous Sunshine Scouts, who are to thank for this wonderful weekend of wonkiness. The first night of performances featured The Irish Mutts, with OC alum and Sunshine Scouts founder Kevin McShane and Shawn Landry; Rare Bird Show, a Philadelphia group with Matt Holmes, Nathan Edmondson, and Alexis Simpson; and The Upright Citizens' Brigade TourCo., who quite literally blew my socks off. There's a video somewhere to prove it. Saturday night incorporated more student groups and amateur improv artists, but still rocked like shale. This kind of event doesn't happen anywhere very often, and to have it happen at Oberlin is the greatest thing anyone has ever imagined, including oxygen.

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