Picture it: it is Wednesday night, you have just finished four major assignments with still more to come, but you do not want to think about that. You want to go out and forget your assignments, and forget the fact that there are still two more days before the weekend. You check your watch; it’s 9:00 pm. And then it hits you: Sackville Presents: The Improv is performing, Mt. A.’s own Whose Line Is It Anyways. So, you put on your coat, grab some friends, and go to the Pond to watch some improv.
“We started up again this year,which was exciting,” said Evelyn MacKay-Barr, one of the team members for Sackville Presents. After a year of being shut down because of COVID-19, Sackville Presents came back with a vengeance. COVID may have stopped these performers once but that was only round one. Last semester, Sackville Presents hit their stride despite a raging pandemic, experiencing fantastic turn-out and support from the Mt. A. community. “If we compare last year [2019-2020] to this year, turn-out for the former fluctuated. We never packed the Pond even though our shows were consistently funny. We just did not have a lot of traction,” said MacKay-Barr about the pre-pandemic turn out. However, this past semester, she stated that the turn-out was wonderful and the audience was exemplary.
When asked about why she thought that Sackville Presents had gained so much traction this year, she stated that it is likely due to the novelty of seeing shows in-person again. While they tried to run online shows last year during the pandemic, MacKay-Barr said that “it never panned out.” While it was sad to lose the opportunity to see improv for a year, it is also understandable. Improv is best when an audience is present. Not only is the audience a large part of the interaction for the shows, like being responsible for prompts, but it also gives the actor energy, and sets the overall mood. To do improv online creates a disconnect between the performers and the audience and makes it a less personable experience. To go back to performing in-person, the audience gets to interact with the performers, laugh with them instead of at a screen, and even talk to them after the show, all of which MacKay-Barr expressed as reasons doing improv in-person is so rewarding. Jay Allison, another team member with Sackville presents added on, stating “I think there is a kinship between us and the audience. We know at least half the people that come to our shows on a first name basis, and we encourage their participation. Really it’s not so much a show as it is a community.”
What makes this team so special is the diversity it creates, in the personalities in the cast as well as the formats they present in their shows, whether it be a musical, murder mystery, or Holiday special. According to Allison, it is this experimentation that keeps the group alive and people coming back to their shows. The fact that the audience gets to “dive into [their] quirky little world,” and join the actors on this adventure makes the experience so rewarding, Allison expressed.
“I was nervous thinking about getting it started,” MacKay-Barr stated when talking about getting improv up and running again. She mentioned that she was worried about her workload and how that would impact Sackville Presents. “I’m super, super, happy with the people we got on our team,” she said, “everyone plays a role, and if I’m struggling, I know they got me, on and off stage.”
Last semester, the group started up again without a hitch. They hit their stride and finished strong, and this semester they are going to try to top it, according to MacKay-Barr. While Sackville Presents has had a late start because of the surge of omicron cases in New Brunswick, it will not stop them from continuing in-person this semester. Keep an eye out on the Sackville Presents Facebook page for more details about an upcoming show.