By Troy Hasselman, February 5 2020 —
The University of Calgary Improv Club is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The club has been promoting the form of theatre on campus for a full decade now with shows, workshops and collaborations with improv groups from other schools.
As U of C Improv Club Co-President Lauren Conn explains, improv can be anything so long as it is based around interactions between different people.
“Improv is the spectacle of interaction,” she says. “Us talking right now is improv. The only difference is between this and what’s happening onstage is you have a name, I have a name, we both know who we are to each other. Whereas if you’re onstage, you don’t know who you are, your name, where you are, what you’re doing. You have to figure that out with your partner and other people onstage.”
Conn owes the clubs’ longevity to the many uses and skills that can be gained from improv beyond the stage.
“It has a lot of applications outside of being onstage and performing in a scene,” Conn says. “It helps with public speaking, confidence and being able to network with people. There’s a lot of other skills that come with being able to make some stuff up on the fly.”
Ten years in and the club is still growing with new members being added and new events available for club members, like the Friday night improv jam sessions.
“I would love to have more people join,” Conn says. “Something new we started last semester is we have workshops on Tuesdays and we also have jam sessions on Fridays. Jam sessions are more like people come and hang out and play drama games and it’s more of a chill atmosphere and Tuesdays are for workshops which are more about hardcore improv skills.”
While people mostly associate improv with comedy, it can cover a whole range of genres and forms with the only necessary ingredient being improvisation.
“A lot of people, when they think of improv they think of Whose Line Is It Anyway? While we do a lot of stuff like that, the fun thing about improv is that it can be funny, it can be sad, it can be heartwarming, it can be depressing,” Conn says. “There’s a lot of different genres you can cover.”
From Feb. 19–24 at the Boris Roubakine Hall in Craigie Hall, the Improv Club will be hosting the sixth edition of the Best of the West Improv Festival (BOTWIF), which brings together improv groups from universities across Canada including the University of Alberta, Mount Royal University, University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan and University of Lethbridge. The festival is one of many that happens throughout the year between university improv groups and is indicative of the strong sense of community between these groups.
“It’s a fantastic community,” Conn says. “This past weekend I was at the University of Alberta’s Improv Fest, and they’re called the University Improv Group (UIG). They do a similar thing. They invite groups from all over western Canada and some from the States. It’s like a family reunion where everyone is the fun cousin. We all get together and do night events and stuff. It’s a really loving and supportive community.”
There are numerous improv events at universities from January to April, with members of the U of C Improv Club travelling to U of A, MRU, UBC and even Montana to take part in these numerous events.
“There are more festivals from the January to April stretch,” Conn says. “There’s the U of A event in January and ours is always during February reading break. There’s Impulse at UBC and Montana has one in April. That’s been pretty recent as well. This past October Mount Royal had their first improv festival as well.”
Those looking to see the U of C Improv Club in action have their next chance when the club hosts their next show on Feb. 14 at the Boris Roubakine theatre in Craigie Hall. Shows usually involve between eight and 10 members of the club to ensure that everyone gets a chance to have some stage time over the whole improv season. The show will have two parts, with short-form improv games in the first half and a long-form story in the second half.
“The show is usually an hour-and-a-half,” Conn says. “We have a first part that is usually short form. People that are familiar with short form like ‘Sit, stand, lie’ or the alphabet game, those kinds of things in the first half. In the second half we have a longer-form story.”
Conn says those looking to join the group can look through the clubs’ Facebook page or express interest at one of the groups many events.
“We have a Facebook page and we recruit people that way or people can express interest in person at a jam session or workshop,” Conn says.