Manchester University
Oak Leaves

November 11, 2016

Thinking on Their Feet
Improv Troupe 'Academic Probation' Brings Comedy to Campus

Shelby Harrell

As the old saying goes, laughter truly is the best medicine. The “Academic Probation” improv comedy troupe knows this more than anyone.
Improv, or improvisational comedy, is a theatrical version of a comedy sketch in which the dialogue, plot and characters are made up in the moment, with no prior or previous rehearsal. For a large number of their performances, the actors will often call on members of the audience to suggest details or elements of the plot, situation or characters and use them as the central focus of the skit. As with the audience, the suggestions will oftentimes vary in nature. 

Senior Stratton Smith, president of the Manchester University Theater Society, is one among many of the original founders of the troupe. As a comedian, Smith has a variety of inspirational sources. “My own personal comedy style is shaped from a variety of comedians and funny people I’ve come across over the years with some more resonating than others,” Smith said. “Our troupe relates a lot of our inspiration from Improv Shakespeare, an improv out of Chicago that we make a point to see every year as a troupe.” 

Academic Probation’s rules and regulations regarding entry are very relaxed and are welcoming to all members of the student body. “All you have to do is show up,” said sophomore troupe member Eve Hansen. “Honestly, we have people come sit and watch us practice the whole time.” Hansen adds that new members of the troupe will eventually grow with the group like she did.
In keeping with the spirit of traditional improv, the members of the troupe remain cheerful throughout their practice time. “We uplift and critique one another,” Hansen said. “We may joke on each other but we never let one feel out of place.” 

In order to ensure the maximum amount of entertainment for the audience out of every show, there is a large amount of preparation that must be done. “We even learn new games to entertain the crowd,” Hansen said. “We practice once a week every week.” In the three days leading up to a show, members will also take extra time perfecting their character. 

One of the defining features of Academic Probation is the vast variety of talent that each individual brings to the group. “Some are good at guessing roles,” Hansen said. “And while others are good at personas, we are all great at jokes and helping each other.” 

In the same spirit as Hansen, Smith describes the troupe as very talented. “We have a really, really talented group of young adults that have surpassed any expectation I ever had for our troupe,” Smith said. “These people amaze me every week with their creativity, delivery and imaginative minds.” 

Though Academic Probation typically only performs once each semester, they will be making a second appearance at the International Fashion Show on Friday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. in Cordier Auditorium. VIA credit will be granted.