Just a year ago, Andrea McCloskey, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction here at Penn State, attended a three-day theater improv summer camp. When she returned home to State College, her experience inspired her to find a similar improv group locally. But none existed.
Instead, McCloskey found Penn State economics lecturer James Tierney, Penn State Altoona assistant professor of education Sam Tanner, and an open space in the basement of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
The trio began holding improv practices there in the fall of 2016, and soon after welcomed Nathan Rufo from Penn State’s Office of Global Programs to complete their troupe. Happy Valley Improv was born from their combined 30 years of improv experience.
“It is much more concerned with relationships and making connections between scenes, as opposed to ‘who can make the dirtiest joke quickest?'” Rufo explained. Rest assured, though — “There are plenty of dirty jokes to go around.”
Happy Valley Improv follows in the longform improv footsteps of Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Jordan Peele, and Stephen Colbert, so there’s a chance you may one day realize that the new host of the Late Show was your introductory macroeconomics lecturer.
The group is “dedicated to building a community here, above everything else,” Tanner said. “We want to create what we’ve been a part of in other parts of the country.”
Happy Valley Improv will officially kick off with four performances this fall as they graduate from the church basement to The Attic of the State Theatre. Performances will be held at 8 p.m. September 28, October 19, November 9, and November 30. You can purchase your tickets in advance on the State Theatre website for $9 (adults) or $6.50 (students).