Kent State’s improv troupe rehearses for upcoming comedy shows

Students participates in acting exercises during an improv group meeting on Thursday. Exercises included tug of war, where the actors had to react depending on various situation called out during the tug of war. Photos by Thomas Song

Anthony Dominic

As darkness fell upon the Kent State campus Thursday night, academic buildings began to close and most students ventured downtown or back to their rooms for the evening. However, laughter could still be heard echoing through the empty halls of the Music and Speech Building.

In an unadorned acting studio on the building’s second floor, the Portage County Players, Kent State’s improv comedy troupe, laughed and applauded their teammates as they tested their wit in a rehearsal exercise that troupe president Jason George called “Three Line.”

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PCP meets Tues. and Thurs. at 7 p.m. in the Music and Speech Building room D-205.

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“The mind is so weird, especially in comedy,” said George, a senior theatre studies major. “Because if you decide you want to do something, your mind will work against you, no matter what.”

George said in a game such as Three Line, which involves actors spontaneously exchanging three lines to establish a scene, one cannot preplan their next move.

“You have to stay out of your head, that’s what I tell (the actors),” George said. “Acting isn’t so much acting as it is reacting.”

PCP plans to hold improv performances at various venues on campus as the semester progresses, but it is currently in a rebuilding period after acquiring many new members, George said.

Troupe newcomer Emilea Swick, a sophomore Spanish and international relations major, said she first heard about PCP’s recent auditions from a classmate and convinced her best friend, Elise Hapanowicz, to try out with her.

“We have competitions to see who can get more laughs from our friends,” Swick said. “We’re always role-playing and making jokes, so it seemed kind of natural to give it a shot.”

Hapanowicz, a sophomore theatre studies major, said improv can be nerve-racking, but it’s about being comfortable with who you are.

“You have to get over yourself and accept the fact that you’re going to go up there a couple times and flop,” Hapanowicz said.

In some of the rehearsal sketches, troupe members dove onto the floor and acted out physical comedy with little or no props. Veteran troupe member Norman Tubero, senior integrated language arts major, said these moments are organic and just happen.

“I find the best scenes I’m in are the ones when I’m on autopilot,” Tubero said. “Even if you try to plan things, it never goes the way you expected.”

George said real humor is about keeping it simple and making sure an audience can relate to what’s happening on stage.

“Funny is about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary,” George said. “If you’re sitting in a lecture, that’s boring. But if the lecturer’s pants suddenly fall down, you have to react to that.”

Troupe veteran John Pfanz, a junior English major, said outside of sketches, good improv can carry over into other facets of life.

“I’m really comfortable with myself now and can talk to basically anyone,” Pfanz said. “In the end, life is just improv.”

Contact Anthony Dominic at [email protected].