Manchester University
Oak Leaves

October 2, 2020

Improv photo

Manchester’s improv group has had to move online this year for their rehearsals and shows.

Photo provided by MU Theatre Society

Improv Society Adjusts to Online Practices, Preps for Fall Show


James Walsh

It takes months of practice and training for an actor to gain the courage and charisma to go on stage and perform a show, but what if that same actor had to come up with their performance in an instant? This concept is familiar to the members of Manchester’s own Improv Society.

In the past, these students were able to undergo preparations and training to get ready for their big off-the-cuff performance. But like most things this year at Manchester they have been forced to make some changes.

According to Terri Roach, this semester’s improv coordinator, practices would normally proceed along a set of relaxing improvisational exercises. “ We would start with games, usually some quick voice games, and then we would get into the more scene based games later on, and we would always end on a game called freeze, which is basically just freeze tag but with a story,” she said. However, due to the switch to Zoom, certain aspects of these practices were naturally limited through the digital medium.

“Because of COVID we can’t do physical stuff, so Zoom helps us work on vocalness and trying to get everyone to deliver lines right,” said Andy Vance, president of the Theater Society,. “We just can’t do body language.”

Despite the drastic effect the pandemic has placed upon the improv society, it has not been the only shift that they have had to adjust to. “The thing with improv is that it used to be the rebel group on campus before Theater Society pushed it to become an established group; it was all friends doing stuff together,” Vance said. “But we don’t want people to think there’s some joking hateful group on campus.”

Indeed, improv tends to reach outside the safety of standard political correctness. “We are really trying to backpedal away from more profane comedy,” Roach said. This kind of sensitivity filter was important before but due to the difficulty the actors having gauging responses with a digital audience, it becomes double important in this time of pandemic.

Even with these challenges the group still has optimism for this performance year--specifically, the closeness the smaller team will be able to achieve and the chemistry that will accompany that. “I am excited for the morale standpoint that we’re going to be able to bond as a group and help first years expand their groups of friends,” Roach said.

A special ring of excitement accompanied discussions of their upcoming show. “So if you can, come see our show in person on Nov. 14 and help support theater at Manchester,” Vance said.