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Trustees form new long-form troupe to diversify comedy scene



In an effort to diversify the comedy options on campus, a new improv troupe has emerged this year. Specializing in long-form improv performance, the Trustees represent an effort to include as many forms of humor based entertainment as possible. Founded by Chris Jones and Michelle Risacher, both ’17, the Trustees have moved away from the short-form improv the two had previously been familiar with.

“I’ve been a little disappointed in how small our comedy and improv community is, and I think having another troupe will help it explode,” Jones said.

The duo draws inspiration from the larger comedy world and, especially for Risacher, their experiences with comedy outside of Grinnell. After spending her summer interning at the Arts Center Cinema and Comedy Department and observing a lot of long-form improv, she grew to love the medium.

“Obviously I knew I was [in] a short-form group, so you can’t really ask people ‘let’s be a long-form troupe now,’” Risacher said. “Since it’s my last year, I wanted to be able to pursue long-form before I graduated college.”

Long-form is, as the name suggests, generally longer than short-form performances. Short-form is popular with college troupes but limits the performers to one “game” with a set of rules that prevents the performance from developing. While short-form is highly entertaining and easy to watch, the Trustees felt that pursuing long-form would allow them to explore their relationship with comedy further.

“The difference with [the two] is what their main game is,” Jones said. “Game in improv is what you call the funny thing, that you try to heighten … that’s what’s funny, the game they’re playing.”

In contrast, long-form improv relies on a scenario or a story and requires the actors to develop their characters, relationships and storylines. Performers must be able to anticipate a story line while maintaining character, all without a script.

“With short-form you get the game handed to you, and with long-form you have to create it,” Jones added.

While they see value in both forms of performance, both Risacher and Jones feel that for them right now, long-form is something they’re more focused on.

“There’s more of an opportunity to do weirder stuff, and because it has less structure … you’re kind of put into this sink or swim situation. It has more room for growth,” Risacher said.

Both Risacher and Jones have been doing improv since high school, and find that it has added to their time at Grinnell in a positive way. Both have experience performing short-form improv on campus and believe that having more diverse improv groups on campus will add to the community.

“I almost came to college with one goal — to join an improv troupe,” Risacher said. “Then I made a troupe, and now we’re here.”

The new troupe promises a greater diversity of comedy that both Risacher and Jones are excited about. For their final year, they are excited about the opportunity to spend time expanding their comedy experience and hopefully conducting joint shows with the other improv troupes.

“I’m excited about the newness, the possibilities that could happen. We’ve never directed a troupe and that’s going to be new. I’m also just excited that this is the first third group on campus, and it seems like there [are] a lot of first-years who seem more into starting up a theatre community than I’ve seen before,” Jones said.

The Trustees will be holding auditions this Sunday, Sept. 25 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Bucksbaum 154 (the Wall).

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