Students break out of their shells with South’s Improv Armada

Students break out of their shells with South’s Improv Armada

Anna Schwartz, Staff Writer

War veterans herding sheep on the moon is something that would not make sense anywhere outside the Improv Armada. This is South’s very own improv group,  and was started this year by seniors Josh Arvold-Zismer and Ryan Wiskerchen.

Improv, or improvisation, is the art of reacting in the moment without a plan or a script.  A story is made up and continued without any planning beforehand, although it is usually created with some sort of inspiration or suggestion to play off of.  It’s what is described by the terms “ad-libbing” or “making it up as you go along.”

While improv is slightly more offbeat than other forms of comedy and drama, it is still represented in the media.  Shows like “Whose Line is it Anyway” showed America how funny and engaging ad-lib could be, and even scripted programs like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” use improv while filming.

Improv is more than just fun, however.  Many actors and comedians began at improvisational theatres.  Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and Amy Poehler are all performers who began their careers in improvised acting groups like the Second City in Chicago and the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City.

The creation of an improv group at South shows the talent and creativity within the school.

“It started after our show, Ryan and I were in ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ together,” Arvold-Zismer recalled. “We had been thinking about it for a while, there was [an improv group] when we were freshmen.”

Much like the Chicago-based Second City, the improv group at South holds promising talent.  Arvold-Zismer knows that acting and theater is what his future will hold.  “Acting is my passion, I love it.  I’m hoping to go to college and get a major in acting and/or directing,” he said.

Although the group is starting small, with an average turnout from 7-10 members, the Improv Armada is still growing. It holds promise in helping South students develop skills outside of being able to crack a joke.

Various studies have been conducted about the benefits of learning to do improv, including a study done by the Panic/Anxiety/Recovery Center in Chicago.  People with social anxiety have found that improv classes help them to face their fears and act in a situation that would be uncomfortable for them.  Those who struggle with public speaking, or are simply shy, can find improv, and theater in general, to be a way to get them out of their shell.

Sophomore Carly Siewert was a self-proclaimed “shy kid” before she came to South and got involved with drama.  “I did not like to talk in 5th grade,” Siewert explained. “I don’t think many people even knew my name, because I was so quiet.”  Talking to Siewert now, it would be difficult to believe that.  She attributes that change to her involvement in drama at South.  “Even theatre can help you, but improv especially, because it’s like life,” she explained.  “You don’t know what you’re going to do everyday and [in] improv you’ve got to be on your feet.”

This exact reason is why improvisation workshops are being used for everything from public speaking to teaching business skills.  “People guard themselves too much,” Arvold-Zismer said.  “I feel like improv is a good way to break those barriers.”   The ability to roll with the punches is one of the most important aspects of improv, and as Siewert attested, “I got out of my comfort zone with that, and now it is my comfort zone.”

Arvold-Zismer is a more outgoing student, but he sees the versatility and helpfulness of improv as well.  “Everything is improv, no two moments are the same,” he reflected.  “It’s cool to be able to be on the spot in an environment where you’re not going to be judged. I feel like people fear judgement a lot of the time when they really aren’t being judged. “

Beyond teaching life skills, the improv group is also a lot of fun.  Siewert says that the best part of having an improv group at South is that “it’s definitely something to look forward to because it’s so much fun.”