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And Now for Something Completely Different: Improv at Penn State

Submitted by Elli Skrzat, a freshman member of Full Ammo Improv

The Full Ammo Improv Troupe is having auditions this Tuesday, January 18th at 8:00 p.m. in the Chambers building lobby, and you should come. Now, I’m sure that you have many persuasive, yet likely bogus, excuses at hand for avoiding this audition, and any of the possible embarrassments, or anxiety that it may bring. I know I had my fair share. Since that time, however, Full Ammo has completely changed my college experience for the better, and perhaps, if you come to this audition, it can change yours too.

Full Ammo performs long-form improvisation, which is unlike what many first think of when they visualize improv: “Who’s Line is it, anyway?” Long-form, (or shlong-form, as we tend to call it), is composed of clusters of inter-connected scenes, which are usually based off of a monologue given at the beginning. The scenes can relate to the monologue as literally or as vaguely as what feels natural. Once the ground rules are understood and effectively used, there really is no right or wrong. Getting to that point, though, is a progression that I’m still going through.

The audition process and earlier rehearsals covered all these basics, which, although seemingly simple, were extremely mind-stimulating. Somehow though, I knew I would catch on and hopefully be able to utilize all of the new, rich knowledge that the troupe was providing me with. One of the most important tenets of improv is “Don’t think”; it is vital to follow one’s strongest impulse and verbalize the first strange idea or response that comes to mind. Not being the biggest risk-taker myself, I found this to be one of the most difficult aspects of the process. One of the elements that came a bit more clearly to me was the idea of the “game” of the scene, which is the unusual twist that breaks a scene from reality. Once the game is found, it is played with and heightened. It is ultimately sculpted into the new reality. When approached with a game, one must think, “If this is true, then what else is true?” As for me, reacting to the humor in my everyday life had always been so normal; I really never knew that there existed such a positive outlet for it.

Before Full Ammo, I had zero experience with improvising in a troupe, let alone a learning environment. I would soon discover that this was perfectly okay. I truly auditioned on a whim, hoping for little more to come out of it than a lot of laughs on an otherwise boring Tuesday night. Then, once inducted into the troupe, I found the whole image to be quite intimidating. I was the lone freshman, dropped into the accomplished hands of these comedically-experienced upperclassmen. Little did I know, many of them had been in my same position a few years earlier, and they were completely open to any questions or concerns I had.

More than anything, my one semester thus far with Full Ammo has been a learning experience – a really, really fun learning experience. Since my first rehearsal, when I was a shy, uncertain apprentice to the people who are now my close friends, I have read 2 books on improvisation, performed in many shows and one festival, and watched innumerable videos of some of the most revolutionary improvisers that have ever performed. Improv has changed my way of thinking and given me a more positive outlook on life. It has made me a better public speaker, and turned me into a more confident, perceptive person. I could go on and list so many more gains that I’ve made from the art, because everything it has taught me can also be applied to real life. Every scene is a new discovery of some kind of truth. Comedy is grounded in reality, and to find it, we must simply let ourselves be approached by the world around us, and improvise.

Please, come out to audition Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Chambers building and join us every other Sunday in the Forum building at 9 p.m.

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