Improv-ing Themselves

Memorial High’s Improv Team heads to Chicago

Matthew Mabis, photos by Andrea Paulseth

The Memorial High School Improv Team demonstrates its vast character range, from (left to right) “distraught man” to “distraught woman” to “guy standing behind chair” to “Stephen Hawking”. These (and other) chops helped to land them a spot at the Chicago Teen Comedy Festival on May 7.
 
The Memorial High School Improv Team demonstrates its vast character range, from (left to right) “distraught man” to “distraught woman” to “guy standing behind chair” to “Stephen Hawking”. These (and other) chops helped to land them a spot at the Chicago Teen Comedy Festival, May 7.

Scrap the script. The Memorial High School Improv Team has made a tradition of splitting sides and busting guts in Eau Claire, and for the first time, their impromptu hilarity has delivered them national recognition.

The team earned themselves an invitation to the Chicago Teen Comedy Festival on May 7 as one of only 16 national teams – the only team to represent Wisconsin in the prestigious event.

From the first laugh of the show to the last, team members spontaneously slip in and out of awkward, maniacal, and loveable characters that cross the proverbial line and raise the bar.

The festival will offer improvisers Elliott Adler, Zoë Bowman, Mack Chambers, Sam Faulkner, Elliot Heinz, Keegan Lynch, and Mitch Sletner a variety of opportunities to workshop with professional comedians. After grooming a stellar team last year, the group lost three seniors, but the remaining members stuck together to make a seamless transition.

Coach Amber Dernbach credits this year’s team with a preexisting core – a “group mind” – that was woven too tightly from last year to hold tryouts or welcome any new members. As a testament to the solidarity of the team and the dedication to the program, former team members will be flocking to Chicago to take part in the festival.

Memorial High School Improv alumni Jake Shuda, Jesse Wood, and J.P. Fry have continued to develop their craft and pursue improvisation. Through the years, Memorial’s team has developed a loyal local following which offers evidence that the team is accomplishing one of Coach Dernbach’s goals: make theater more accessible.

From the first laugh of the show to the last, team members spontaneously slip in and out of awkward, maniacal, and loveable characters that cross the proverbial line and raise the bar. Now nationally renowned, the group aims to improve their improv, to strengthen their tradition, and to dampen the pants of future audiences.



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