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The Scarlet & Black

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Long-form improv has infinite laughs

By Carl Sessions

Most people try to avoid the “creep” label, but Matthew Terry ’15 seeks it out in a safe space: the improv stage.
“I’ve done the creepy guy for a really long time,” Terry said of his acting personas. “It comes in many forms, ages, intensities and physicality. [My character] is a guy with normal, true emotional desires. He doesn’t understand why people are freaked out by him.”
Terry will have ample opportunity to be a muse for this character as well as his other go-to figure—what he describes as a “sensual Latino”—this semester with his new improv troupe, Infinite Coincidences. He started the group last semester, and after holding auditions he chose Rachael Andrew ’16, Ben Charette ’16 and S&B  Staff Writer Stephen Gruber-Miller ’15, The next step was to decide on a name.
“We had quite a hassle in naming it,” Terry said. “We went from ‘Free Food’ to ‘Come for the Food’…then we had this one scene where Ben [said] ‘It’s kind of like a metaphor for the human condition’ and so we turned it into an acronym, ‘For THC’”
The group ultimately decided on Infinite Coincidences.
“I like it because when you go into an improv show there’s an infinite amount of options of what could happen,” Terry said.
Infinite Coincidences performed once last semester, as well as last weekend.
“The performance last weekend went really well,” Andrew said. “Almost all the seats were full.”
Terry says he wants to hold more performances this year—up to four—and that the group has been practicing consistently.
“Even though you can’t practice improv exactly, it is very skill-based,” Terry said. “You rehearse structures that you can work with. … In certain situations you can see different options available to you.”
The group is working to break out of the caricatures that they consistently rely on while performing. According to Terry, good improv actors are flexible enough to handle all types of identities.
“A weakness of most of the team is that we fall into the same personas,” Terry said. “[To fix this] we start a scene and then 15 seconds in we switch characters. That helps us break it up.”
Andrew’s temptation is to become a “weird hipster girl.”
“She’s socially awkward but she doesn’t fully realize it,” Andrew said. “Generally, there’s some kind of interest that’s not fulfilled because she’s not aware of it.”
Andrew does not have a background in improv, but she was intrigued by the posters that Terry put up for auditions last semester.
“I saw Matt’s posters and I thought he was a professor teaching an improv group because they were so professional looking,” Andrew said. “And I got to the audition and it was just Matt there.”
For his part, Terry has a lot of experience with improv acting from high school; he also worked for a summer with the comedy greats of Second City, a Chicago-based comedy troupe.
“It helps being around professionals,” Terry said. “[Working with Second City] helped me realize some of my strengths and weaknesses.”
He also took improv classes and learned about a simple trick that explains most comedy: ridiculous things can happen to normal people, or ridiculous people can do normal things. This dualism has been a framework with which Infinite Coincidences has been able to approach their skits.
This semester, Infinite Coincidences wants to have comedic improv shows as well as dramatic, despite them being more difficult to perform.
“When you’re doing drama it’s hard to know if you’re getting a response,” Terry said. “It’s not as auditory as people laughing. It’s also more difficult because you’re taking an emotional risk.”
However, if done successfully, improv is a uniquely powerful venue for drama to be performed.
“Improv creates a moment where you bond with the audience,” he said. “It makes those moments more intense.”
Students interested in trying their hands at improv can audition for Infinite Coincidences on Sunday, February 17 in ARH 302 from 3:30-5:00 p.m. or can email [terrymat].

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