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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Improv-ing campus morale

Members of Infinite Coincidence practice their craft. Photo by Shadman Asif.

This past weekend, campus was awash with improvised theatre performances by its two student groups, Ritalin Test Squad and Infinite Coincidence, both of which performed for their peers at well-attended shows.

Ritalin Test Squad pushed their performative medium to its limits by performing a full 24 consecutive hours of improv. As a short-form group, the six-person troupe creates brief sketches based on games which establish limits for their performances. The 24-hour show is an annual tradition for the group, during which members bond over their shared exhaustion.

Eleanor Griggs ’15 said the group draws energy from their audience, which usually fluctuates over the course of the night.

“There’s usually no one there at five or six in the morning, so at that point we play a fun game called ‘lying on the floor and making puns to ourselves,’” Griggs said. “But I think there [were] a few solidly funny hours and then there [were] a few scary hours where no one had slept enough and it started to get weird. And I definitely think that coming out of it like … you feel just so happy that you got through it and there’s this sense of accomplishment. Everyone on the team just gets very close by the end of it.”

Despite the brevity of their performance style, Griggs said the group aspires to create relatable characters and cohesive storylines that an audience can connect with quickly. For her, the best moments of performances are when she feels an unexpected connection between her fellow performers and the audience. 

“The goal that we work towards is [what] we call finding the game, where you and the audience make a connection where they’re sort of in on the joke with you …” Griggs said. “You really want to be able to find what is that weird thing that’s funny to the audience, and to sort of play with it throughout the scene.”

Despite their different style as a long-form improv group, Infinite Coincidence shares similar goals for their performances. Group founder Matthew Terry ’15 said that although the sketches they create are longer and based less on games than those performed by short-form improv groups, he hopes that they can use their lengthier performances to build connections with audiences that go beyond humor.

“What we focus on more so than laughter—which is part of it—is to have the audience engaged in a story [and to] hold it up to standards that normal plays would be held up to,” Terry said. “It’s kind of like sports, where you root for the guy, or you root for the team, because you’re both in there together.”

Terry said that, like a team, the group’s central goals onstage are to support each other in building upon what each member creates to form a unified performance despite its lack of a planned plot or cast of characters.

Isabel Cooke ’16 said that this spontaneity makes each show more meaningful.

“I think it, in a way, is very magical to be a part of something that’s getting created in the moment, because you never know where it’s going to go but it ends up in some really amazing places,” Cooke said.

For Joe Engleman ’14, the influence of improv isn’t limited to the stage. He values improv’s central tenet of saying “yes, and” as a roadmap for his writing and his life, which reminds him to respond positively to unexpected events and build upon new ideas to make something better. 

“I think that in a lot of ways saying yes and letting an idea run is very much tied to writing short fiction now, and it’s odd to see those two things overlap … I didn’t used to think of it that way but now I do,” Engleman said. “And you just find throughout life … more and more ways where saying ‘yes, and’ and having that attitude towards life can push you ahead. I know that as a graduating senior, that you have to be able to say ‘yes, and.’”

Members of Infinite Coincidence practice their craft.  Photo by Shadman Asif.
Members of Infinite Coincidence practice their craft.
Photo by Shadman Asif.
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