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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Yes, and…? : Grinnell’s Improv Scene

Infinite Coincidence members (from left: Michael Lozada `24, Noa Goldman `22, Christian Stephens `24, Nadia Langley `23 and Sean Collins `22) performed a “La Ronde” at the Dec. 3 improv show. Photo by Alex Fontana.

Ever wanted to share belly laughs with friends while watching fellow Grinnellians make fools of themselves while reproducing your day’s events in three different cinematic genres? Then a Friday night improv show is the way to go.

Grinnell College has two student improv groups, Almost Always Improv (AAI) and Infinite Coincidence (IC). Though they typically practice and perform separately, on Friday, Dec. 3, the two groups united to perform a “Double Trouble” feature. Sort of like “The Parent Trap,” as the event posters advertised.

AAI is Grinnell’s short-form improv group that, according to senior member Emily Wunsch `22, focuses on “snappy, short bits” involving a lot of audience participation. The scenes are “punchy, quick and we play multiple different characters.”

Wunsch joined AAI her freshman year and has loved being a part of the improv troupe ever since. “It’s so different from anything else I do throughout my day,” she said. “Ideas and characters emerge in an improv context that I would never be able to come up with by myself. Something about just being in the moment with someone else in a scene and doing whatever first comes to you feels so freeing.”

If you think that you’re funny and you don’t have a lot of shame and you’re a good team player, then you should try out. — Clare Newman `23

Clare Newman `23, the other senior member of AAI, said that for her, improv is “a good outlet for being bonkers in the middle of the week. Sometimes you just need to be a goofball.”

Similar to Wunsch, Newman had no previous improv experience but joined after seeing AAI perform a show for prospective students before her first year. After watching AAI goof around onstage, she told herself, “I want to do that, I want to be friends with those people, that looks cool. And then I did.”

Both Wunsch and Newman encouraged more people to audition for improv next spring. “If you think that you’re funny and you don’t have a lot of shame and you’re a good team player, then you should try out,” Newman said.

Infinite Coincidence (IC) is Grinnell’s long-form improv group that emphasizes both comedy and character development.

Before joining IC his first year, Sean Collins `22 did theater in high school. “I’m sorry … you can’t make up for some crimes, I know,” he joked.

Collins said his background in theater influenced him gravitating towards long-form improv in college. “I really like keeping a character and doing character development,” he said.

Another IC member, Noa Goldman `22, also prefers long-form. “The first scene when I’m a character is never the best scene, it’s always like the fifth one,” she said.

Collins and Goldman both enjoy improv because it is so different from anything else they do on campus. “For me it’s a nice break from academic life,” said Goldman.

Collins added, “My brain is so tight and squinched up all the time when I am trying to cram information and facts into it but with improv it’s like there’s a spigot that I loosen and my tongue starts flapping and I can do bits and funny things.”

Like AAI, IC members Goldman and Collins encouraged more people to try out for improv in the spring. “We want to get a bigger cross-section of Grinnell interested in improv in general,” Goldman said. “The more people doing improv the better. We have so much fun.”

The show took place in Loose Lounge where an audience of around 40 students either nestled into comfy old couches or lined the back walls. To start the show, the four members of AAI, including Newman and Wunsch along with Zoe Mahler `23 and Henry Coen `25, took the “stage” (a small cleared-out space in front of the lounge windows) in matching white t-shirts.

AAI’s first game began with Wunsch asking the audience if anyone had an interesting day. When no one ventured an answer, Newman asked the reluctant crowd, “did anyone have a day?” Laughter followed.

Newman coaxed one brave audience member to share five events from their day, which the AAI members then acted out in different genres, including musical and horror. This game was followed by another called “Director’s Cut” in which the audience shouted out random words and the troupe created various short scenes in response. In this case, the audience offered a strange combination: “Stuart Little” and “memories.” Various mouse-related hilarity ensued.

After AAI finished their 45-minute section, they combined with IC for a 20-minute collaborative game called “Minute Mass Murder” in which the improv troupes played various kooky characters at an Alaskan truck stop. Though the game was an overall collaborative effort, the audience may have wondered at how much real affection the two groups have for each other since, by the end of the game, everyone was dead.

Around 40 students gathered in Loose Lounge to watch the improv performance on Dec. 3. Photo by Alex Fontana.

IC members Collins and Goldman closed the show alongside the rest of their group, including Nadia Langley `23, Halvor Bratland `23, Christian Stephens `24, Michael Lozada `24 and Nicholas Lampietti `25. Their game of choice was a “La Ronde,” a long-form and character-based improv game.

Beginning with a series of one-on-one scenes which introduced a quirky cast of characters (including a boy who wanted to start a nut-cracking business, his disappointed mother, and a little kid working at a law firm), the sketch tied together all of the characters in one climactic finish.

Langley played a cigarette-wielding child. “I just do it down to the yellow bit and then I eat the end,” she said, eliciting an uproar from the audience.

Those attending often laughed hardest at the hilarious non sequiturs the sketches generated. One particularly quirky line from “Minute Mass Murder” was credited to Collins, “Steve Irwin taught me that bears were allergic to Gatorade.”

Newman indicated what improv means to her by asking, “You know when you were a kid and you would play in the backyard and get dirt everywhere?” She continued, “I think a lot of what adult life is missing is being a weirdo and being a goofball and having fun and not worrying about ‘oh, my clothes are gonna get dirty.’ I think that is important for me and my sanity, especially at stressful college.”

With improv, Collins said, “you are getting something that’s once in a lifetime.”

Editor’s note: Nadia Langley is the arts editor of the S&B.

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About the Contributor
Allison Moore
Allison Moore, Staff Writer
Allison is a fourth-year gender, women's, and sexuality studies major from Granville, Ohio. In her spare time, she can be found crafting, cooking, and cuddling with her kitten, Koda. If you think her mini crossword is too hard, then too bad.
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