If you listen carefully from as far away as North Side on a Wednesday evening, you might just hear the laughs of audience members attending a performance of Presents: the Improv. The weekly improv show, which opens its doors at 9 p.m. at the Pond every Wednesday, has resumed its presence on campus.
Every year since 2004, the group has gathered members to perform shows throughout the semester. The cast often performs in a variety of different styles, but their emphasis has always been entertainment value – most often comedic. This year features the largest cast in the history of the improv program. With 24 members, the executive team has had to devise a plan to handle the influx of so many actors of varying skill levels. The company still expects more people to join as the year goes on.
Alex McGrath, company director of Presents and longtime improv performer, spoke about the structural changes that have been implemented to accommodate performers of all levels of experience. McGrath introduced a tiered system with levels 101, 201, and 301 as guidelines for future directors.
“We have three casts: two [are] performing casts, and the other is a kind of one-on-one workshop cast of people who are really just starting out.”
McGrath expressed his hope that the tier structure would be followed in future years. “It allows the program to be very adaptable to suit the kind of philosophy we’ve always had. Everyone who comes into improv needs to have a first year working with a small group of peers.”
Adam Teskey, a second-year student, decided to try improv for the first time this year. “I went to watch a few shows at the Pond last year and found them hilarious. I knew a few people on the team and they told me it was super fun. The first meeting [had a] really open environment, and I found it easy to dive into that group of people.” After a two-hour-long tryout, he was notified that he made the “101” level of the team.
Being at the 101 level offers Teskey a way to relax amid the stresses of midterms and student life without having to perform in front of a crowd. “I really enjoy the stepping stones and levels because they’re a nice way to ease into everything…I asked if I would ever get called up to main stage, and [McGrath] said ‘no,’ and I thought ‘perfect.’”
For others, Presents: The Improv offers an opportunity to continue perfecting their improvisational skills. First-year student Molly Bowes was immediately placed in the 201 level due to her prior experience with improv.
“I think the thing I’m most excited about is meeting new people and developing my improv skills. I’ve been doing high school-level improv, which is very PG…I’m really excited to expand – that’s why I decided to work with Presents,” Bowes said.
Other initiatives this year include featuring special guest bands, guest hosts and possibly organizing a stand-up mic night. Presents will also host introductory workshops throughout the year to help integrate stragglers who were late to join improv.
All the aforementioned actors emphasized that everyone should try improv and attend shows when they can.