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RTS attends improv conference at Oberlin

RTS worked on their improv skills with other collegiate improv groups. Contributed.

By Rachel Eber

On Saturday, April 7, members of Grinnell’s Ritalin Test Squad (RTS) improv troupe attended Oberlin College’s 18th annual Improv Conference Workshop.

Improv troupes from all over the Midwest and the East Coast attended the conference. While most were amateur troupes from other colleges, some local, non-collegiate troupes from Ohio also attended. Professional improv troupes led the workshops.

On Friday night, the professional troupes performed at The Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse, a performance venue and student space on Oberlin’s campus.

“It’s kind of like [Oberlin’s] version of Bob’s,” said Denali Carpenter ’19, a member of RTS who attended the conference.

After watching the professional troupes perform, each amateur troupe decided who they wanted to work with on Saturday. RTS attended three workshops, each two hours long.

RTS worked mostly with Holy Fuck Comedy Hour and Hitch*Cocktails, both from Chicago. Their first workshop was about “different theories of comedy, why people laugh at things and how to incorporate that knowledge into your improv,” said Carter Howe ’20, another RTS member in attendance. “And then the second one was about how to raise the stakes in a scene … someone could be doing a scene, and then it loses energy or you don’t know where to go with it, and so this was about different strategies to switch things up.”

Carpenter and Howe explained that this workshop focused on establishing a sense of status among the characters in a scene.

“The high status one, you’re always praising them, the neutral status, you’re on the same page, and then you’re putting down the lower status person,” Carpenter said, adding that this strategy gives actors something to say when the energy is low. “The worst thing about improv is when you get stuck in a scene and you don’t know what to do.”

The last workshop was about how to stay in character and the character-building process.

Carpenter and Howe, along with the other members who attended, plan on sharing what they learned with the rest of their troupe.

“On practice on Wednesday we usually talk about what we learned, and if there’s anything that we want to use. So I think we’ll probably talk about the [status] workshop a little bit,” Carpenter said.

Last year, RTS invited one of the professional troupes from the conference to come perform and lead workshops at Grinnell, and they are considering doing that again this year.

After Grinnell, Carpenter and Howe both plan on staying involved in the improv scene. Howe mentioned Chicago as the “locus of improv” in the U.S.

“I think it would definitely be cool to, after graduation, take a year or two off and work some random job and do improv in Chicago,” Howe said.

Carpenter is thinking about getting a job at a think tank as a research analyst, while also doing improv on the side and auditioning for Annoyance Theater.

“It’s not something you have to commit to full time, so it’s totally something I see myself doing after [college],” Carpenter said.

RTS’s next performance will be 24 hours of improv in Loose Lounge, spanning from Friday, April 13 at 6 p.m. to Saturday, April 14 at 6 p.m.

RTS worked on their improv skills with other collegiate improv groups. Contributed.
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