The Rubber Chickens, Riot Act expand, engage audiences
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 03:05
This past weekend, The Rubber Chickens and Riot Act held their last performances of the school year. Both improvisational comedy clubs on campus say that attendance at events has risen over the years. Audiences now yield full houses, a dramatic increase compared to the small audiences that were commonplace a few years ago.
Sophomore Neil Redfield of Riot Act says he has noticed a higher crowd turnout. He says he has seen well-advertised shows bring crowds so large that the number of patrons exceeds the number of chairs, necessitating that audience members sit on the floor. He says he hopes that both audiences and the number of people who know about improv continue to grow.
The Rubber Chickens and Riot Act say they both welcome active audiences who will contribute to the shows by providing words and situations that determine the theme and structure of the skits.
Freshman Dillon McLaughlin of Riot Act says he believes that improv actors benefit from strong audience interaction.
“You can have realizations about yourself and the nature of humanity,” McLaughlin says. “We’ve realized that there’s a cyclical nature to our performances. You can learn a lot about human nature and yourself through an improv show unintentionally.”
Senior Alise Morales, president of The Rubber Chickens, has noticed an increase in the popularity of improve shows as well and stresses the importance of audience participation.
“For the most part, we want people who are interested in participating,” Morales says. “You need to get a person to come once and then they will come back.”
Morales says the appeal of improv shows is that they are intimate experiences between audiences and performers.
“Because everyone is aware that this is a one-time only thing and it will only exist for that night, you can tailor things to what they want and what they’re responding to,” Morales says.
Jake Meizell, a junior at Newark High School who attended The Rubber Chickens’ final show of the school year, says he has seen improv shows at the university in the past and plans to attend shows next year as well. He says he respects the performers and feels slightly intimidated by their talents. Meizell says he would consider attending a workshop dedicated to improv techniques.
Delaware Improv Club, founded last year by Morales and senior Ned Redmond, a Riot Act alum, offers weekly open improv workshops. Different regional styles from the three major cities for improv—Philadelphia, New York and Chicago—are displayed in a casual, non-audition setting.
“We thought it would be good for people who don’t have the time to commit to one of the performing groups on campus,” Morales says. “It’s an opportunity to still be able to do improv and still be able to learn about it without the pressure of being on a team.”
Redmond leads most of the workshops, which offer the basics of short-form improve, games and complicated long-form improv.
“The point of DIC is to get more people familiar with improv,” Redmond says. “The ultimate goal is to get more people to start improv teams.”
According to Redfield, practice is essential to improving as an improv actor. He says he thinks that it takes time to become comfortable improvising.
“I felt a lot stronger after I came back after my first year,” Redfield says.
Aside from structural rules of short-form and long-form improv, there is a lot of flexibility for actors, according to Morales. If a scene begins to fall apart, Morales says it is important for the actors to work together to figure it out.
“You can really do anything you want,” Morales says. “It’s the job of the other people on the team to try to help them; you don’t let them stand up there and fail.”
Redfield says the best scenes are the ones that people think they have messed up.
“Those scenes are perfect,” Redfield says. “The only mistake is thinking that you made a mistake.”