Huge guffaws and applause for ‘Improv Night’

Published 11:46 pm Saturday, October 25, 2008

The 2008-2009 Picayune Memorial High School drama season was kicked off with “Improv Night.” Dressed up with a new name, student members of High Tide Productions were more than ready to show off their comedic skills and acting chops.

Wanting to showcase his acting students’ predilection towards comedy, Bill Rester, PMHS’ new drama teacher, was able to feature the troupe’s strongest talent through improvisation.

Improvisation is one of the hardest form’s of theatre, said Abie Woolridge. Woolridge is another first year teacher who will be assisting Rester throughout the school year because of her solid theatrical background. These students are hilarious, she said.

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In a format similar to “Whose Line is it Anyway?” — the prime-time television show hosted by Drew Carey that combined stand-up with improvisation, set in a game show type environment — the students were called out in groups of two and four to “act out” situations that were given to them on the spot. The audience was allowed to participate by adding small details to the given situations.

Armed with nothing but themselves and a few chairs, the students’ took the audience on a journey out of the school’s cafeteria and into the worlds they were creating instantaneously — and yes, they were indeed hilarious.

Situations included bringing a new fiancé home to meet the folks, sports commentators calling a mundane activity (walking the dog, brushing teeth), the fast food drive through and relationship break-ups.

Each scene was funnier than the next. One of the show stealing scenes showed a father getting pulled over with his two young children in the car. The hilarity ensued when the Daddy driver was forced to get out of the car and his children, who were left to their own devices, took the car out of park and sent it rolling with the dad running behind. The students, in seconds, figured out how to create a realistic moment, complete with “rolling car” — or rolling chairs! It all just worked.

Another triumphant moment happened when the students were grouped in pairs and given movie titles which were provided by the audience. They were then responsible for creating deleted scenes, one per movie, to be included on the DVD. The “Medea’s Family Reunion” deleted scene was a huge hit.

It’s important for young aspiring actors to experience the thrill of improvisational theatre. The adrenaline rush one feels while being on stage without memorized lines can only be compared to a roller coaster ride.

Lots of today’s funnier stars have come out of famous improvisational and sketch comedy training facilities, like Chicago’s Second City. Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey are just a few of the big names of those working steadily in show business today that started with the improv base at Second City. These stars prove there is work for those with a gift for the art form.

Rester will continue highlighting the comedic talents of his students in their next project, “Hard Candy,” by Jonathan Rand, a one-act the students will perform at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 11 and Thursday Nov. 13 at the Picayune Municipal Auditorium, in “A Fabulous Festival Night of One-Acts.” The night will also include two other one-acts performed by the Pearl River Central High School Blue Maskers. This historical event marks the first time the two local schools have joined forces to present a great night of entertainment to the community. Tickets will be sold at the door on the evenings of the performances. Ticket prices are $8 for adults and $5 for students.