Improv Festival visits USF


Professional improv groups performed in front of students at the university’s first improv festival Tuesday night. 

Performers improvised comedic situations, crafting their stories in collaboration with their peers and the audience in the Marshall Student Center. 

The event was hosted by Improv at USF, a club that teaches and practices the art of improvisation in a style along the lines of the popular show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Five professional groups, including Post Dinner Conversation, a troupe composed of both current and former members of Improv at USF, performed for an audience of more than 100. 

Hannah Prince, a communications and psychology major and current president of Improv at USF, said improv is an art. 

“There are no boundaries when it comes to improv,” she said. “It’s a living, breathing art form.”

Prince differentiated improvisation from normal acting. 

In acting, Prince said, the performer is trapped by someone else’s script, unable to explore his or her own imagination. 

Prince said she sees improv as a method of communication, a conversation that explores human creativity.

Nicholas Riggs, the faculty advisor for Improv at USF and co-founder of Post Dinner Conversation, said improv is the actor’s process of finding his or her way through each other’s imagination, all while in front of a live audience. 

“We’re all trying to figure out a way to make you laugh while still all being on the same page…it’s teamwork at its best,” he said. 

The groups’ performances were sporadic and interactive. Performers quickly gained the trust of the audience, rallying their energy to create a cooperative relationship.

The crowd would often act as directors, influencing the theme of the antics. 

One audience member joined Six Degrees, one of the performing acts, onstage to act as a prop. The student was asked to act as the hands of a mad astronomer.

The tall tales told during the night went to bizarre places. The stories would begin with normal scenarios and then extend to the limits of imagination.

Got Jokes?, a local award-winning troupe, told the story of an injured girl seeking the rejuvenation of a sake waterfall brimming with cooked chicken, willed into existence by an alien’s sentient armpit.

The leaps in logic were, nonetheless, overlooked by the audience, with even the spectators sitting on the floor laughing at the antics despite their discomfort. 

“We’re mean and fast,” Riggs said. “We blaze through the traditions of improv theater and we bring it back to communications.” 

Prince said she sees improv as a tool that students can utilize for personal growth.

“Improv teaches people to be better people, especially college students. I think it gets them out of this college reality,” she said.

Riggs also recommended trying the catharsis of comedy to the average non-theater-involved college student.

“All your troubles are gone,” he said. “You get to be somebody completely different for two hours and lose everything. That was worth it as a graduate student. I learned to let go.”

Post Dinner Conversation performs at the campus Beef ‘O’ Brady’s on the second Thursday of every month.

Riggs said Tuesday’s event was intended to be a showcase for the Tampa Improv Festival, a larger event later in the week. The festival will be held this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Silver Meteor Theater in Ybor.