His eyes lit up. “Of course, it was a success.” Fresh from the final performance of the semester Juan Solis and his fellow Glendale Theater Guild Improv performers could look forward to Spring 2002 with excitement and confidence.
“That’s Not Funny!” is the series that Glendale Theater’s Improv troupe concluded Dec. 7 in the Studio Theater to a small audience of chuckling and hooting students, relieved to have their end-of-semester stress lifted for but one lunch hour.
For Solis, the production of a comedy show is extremely rewarding.
This last performance was a particular milestone in the brief two-year history of the nameless troupe. It was completely student-produced from start to finish. Conquering some initial trepidation, the performers braved the unknown, originating ideas for performance, organizing rehearsals, designing lighting, and managing publicity.
Theater technical director Lloyd Flyer, faculty adviser to the band of merry-makers, watched for the first time and loved it.
“What’s not to be proud of?” he asked. “They figured out all the solutions and problems on their own.
They did it all from scratch. They’re fantastic.”
Teamwork has been essential since they originally formed as “Deez Nuts” in August 2000.
At the time, said Solis, an English and Theater Arts major, they were more theater-oriented, playing rehearsed and scripted skits and deferring to the Theater Guild.
Over the last summer, they agreed to reinvent themselves as all-improvisation performers giving a series of shows, as inspired by the popular television program, “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”
Audiences generally liked the final improv routines better than the skits they followed, anyway said performer Stephanie Johnson, a Theater Arts student. The skits inside jokes often left audiences out of the know; during the improvisations, though, everyone – performers and audience alike – was in the same place.
Unexpectedly, the improvisations of “That’s Not Funny!” took weeks of rehearsal. Improvisation is a skill, Solis explained, that needs to be developed. Improv games smooth out developing characters and thinking on their feet, as in one of Johnson’s characters, a dating game contestant with ants in her pants, scratching herself insatiably with her stool.
Mostly, they practice playing together.
Unity and commitment like this are what have made them grow as ensemble entertainers since their beginnings. “We’re becoming more of a family,” said funny girl and pre-law student Halleigh Andrews. Enthusiasm, she believes, motivates them to work as a cohesive unit. “We all want a good show. We want the audience to laugh their butts off.”