Hinsdale South students may give you a romantic comedy about shopping cart pushing friends (the male lead pushed to the side, of course, left waiting in the wings while the female lead shows her shopping cart to other, more high-profile men).
Or the shopping carts may be props in a Roaring ’20s movie. Or a science-fiction thriller. Or a slapstick comedy. It is really up to you as the school’s first Improv Troupe takes the stage for its premiere performance.
Danny Yuska, theater director at the school, said he expects students to put on a 2- to 2 1/2-hour improvisational show. The night of improv games and exercises will take the place of the school’s traditional one-act plays.
The evening of entertainment will also include stand-up comedy and a magic act.
“It will be the length of a play,” Yuska said of the night’s performances. “People will definitely get their dollar’s worth. We will have minimal props. We will have minimal costumes, the students will be in T-shirts. We are taking a minimalist view with this.”
Although props and costumes will be at a minimum — even the shopping carts for the movie genres are imaginary — Yuska hopes the troupe’s work has the maximum impact on students who partake in the activity. He said the improvisation work for the students, a quarter of which have not been in theatrical productions at the school, can prepare them to think on their feet in business and in other areas of life.
He said there is a fine line between preparing performers for all the scenarios an audience can throw at them and things being scripted.
“You have to be careful that your presentation does not look that prepared,” said Yuska,who started a similar improv group at his last school, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
David Petrak and Joe Kluge, both juniors, and Rachel Saywitz, a senior, were the student forces behind the troupe when Yuska made the suggestion.
“It’s cool. We have never had an improv group at the school before,” Kluge said. “It is new. We get to experience something new to the school.”
Petrak said the misconception is that quick-witted individuals just take the stage and wing it, without prep work. He said troupe members have been working for weeks to prepare for the one-night performance and need improv tools, as well as theatrical staples such as projecting one’s voice, for the show.
He said troupe members are ready for the opportunity.
“It is a not a regular play,” Petrak said. “We get to explore a new area this year.”
Hinsdale South’s Yuska said that the response to the improv group has been good and he hopes the troupe continues to grow in size in coming years. He said this year only half of the students who tried out made the troupe.
There are 14 troupe members and four assistant directors for this year’s program.
Yuska said he has been working with the students for weeks, but performance night could be a whole different ballgame.
“They learn things and work on things every day, but all of a sudden they will be interacting with an audience,” Yuska said. “That can be difficult.”