Manchester University
Oak Leaves

November 8, 2019

‘Academic Probation’: Not What It Seems

Ryan Daine


If you’ve heard the term “Academic Probation” thrown around campus sometime this year, you may be under the impression that the words connote some sort of punishment or reprimand for someone with low grades. While certainly academic probation is a serious issue, Academic Probation, in another sense, is anything but.

Academic Probation in this instance is the name for Manchester University’s improvisation group. Unless you’ve been hiding out in your dorm room during your entire stay at Manchester, you’re likely to have seen the group’s many different posters adorning walls and corners within the Academic Center, or perhaps stumbled upon the Theatre Society’s social media pages, which also provide digital copies of these posters.

Academic Probation is run entirely by Manchester students who have a passion for all types of acting, and a penchant for the lighthearted and funny side of the stage, or, off the stage, if you will.

No two meetings are likely to be the same, as the dizzyingly chaotic nature of improv acting takes a foothold early on. Roles are given out, members take stage front and center, and things such as time period and location are doled out as well. What happens next is completely up to the actors, and how they choose to move the scene forward.

“We try to use current campus events and world events to make our comedy relatable for the audience,” said Austin Gowen, president of Academic Probation. Improv is, of course, performed spontaneously, with no scripts or props. Actors and actresses alike must form their own “props” out of thin air, create their own dialogue as the scene moves forward, and keep all of their physical actions and facial gestures in check. All of this is done fluidly, right off the top of one’s head, with the end goal being to keep the scene from stalling out. Awkward silences are . . . well just that, awkward, and frowned upon within improv circles. “Improv is a balance of instilling commitment to practicing whilst also allowing the actors to be creatively free to portray and character they choose,” Gowen said.

All of this comes together to create a challenging yet very engaging and fun activity that can help to improve the skills of very seasoned actors who have seen their fair share of stages, and novices who have never stepped one foot onto a proper stage before. For those observing the chaos, the scenes can range from wildly hilarious, to scarily dramatic and tense, to extremely cheesy and melodramatic; at times, all within the same scene. “Our goal is to be funny, entertaining, and unique from every other club on campus,” Gowen said.

Academic Probation meets every Tuesday evening, at 9 p.m., in the upper level of the Jo Young Switzer Center. Anyone regardless of acting ability or experience is welcome to come out and join in the antics and fun for as long as they’d like.

For anyone wanting to dip their toes into the world of acting, this club is a great starting point to experience the thrill of acting, without having to get on a huge stage in front of an even bigger crowd! And in the words of the members of Academic Probation themselves, “Improvise life, bro.”