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The Scarlet & Black

Improv Goes All Night Long

Many Grinnellians are familiar with pulling all-nighters, but few can maintain their sense of humor throughout one. On Friday, members of Grinnell’s improv troupe Ritalin Test Squad (RTS) began their traditional 24-Hour Improv Marathon, in which RTS members played improv games in front of an audience in Younker lounge from 9 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday without stopping.

Improv members refuse to surrender to the passage of time. Photograph by Avery Rowlison

Though the event was initially created to raise money for charity, 24-Hour Improv is now primarily a way for troupe members to bond and test their own stamina.

“It’s mostly a traditional thing,” Alex McConnell ’12 said.  “I saw it as a prospie, which would have been Spring 2008, and it had gone at least a couple years before that.”

Despite the physical and mental toll, 24-Hour Improv has become an important troupe experience.

“For some reason it’s kind of a bonding exercise and a rite of passage for the members of the troupe,” Margaret Allen ’12 said. “I mean you really see someone’s true colors at 4 a.m.”

“I think it’s also just one of those fantastical tasks that people make themselves do just to see that they can,” Allen continued. “I mean it is exactly like a marathon, only for acting. There is no better time for us in our entire lives to do something this completely ridiculous, but also fun.”

The novelty of 24-hour improv is in that troupe members are truly invested in improvisational skits for 24 hours. “We don’t stop. We don’t stop,” Allen said. “There was a time period where we were all too tired to even stand up, it was like 4 a.m., so we did a radio improv game sitting on the couches with our eyes closed but not sleeping. There was a time where we played a game that was just like, genital puns, and we did that for about an hour and a half.  That was also really fun.”

RTS members have to be creative in working food, drink, and rotating mini-naps into the show.

“We continue acting during [our] meals,” Allen said. “We do this thing called a ‘business luncheon’ where it’s a business meeting and you’re having lunch. This year our business luncheon was at a local coop.  All of these people were characters that are the biggest hyperbole of someone who’s like vegan, local foods, all of that.”

Not surprisingly, 24 hours of a high-energy task such as improvisational acting can be rather draining on one’s mood. “I think the biggest thing that’s important for the troupe to communicate to other people is that if we treated you like a douche bag, … if we were ‘unkind’ or ‘insensitive’ or ‘rash’ with them, or unappreciative, we were just sooo tired and beyond any point of having manners that, … forgive us for our obscenities,” Allen said. Still, troupe members appreciate participating in the event each year.

“It’s a pretty unique event, honestly,” McConnell said. “There are other schools where troupes do marathons like this but I don’t know of any that do 24 hour marathons. … It’s a cool thing that we’re able to do here because we have the kind of support that we do, and I’m very thankful for that.”

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