When your world is a stage
BY STEVEN WARBURTON
Staff Hollywood will probably never make a movie about a high school improv team.
It lacks the adrenaline-fused drama of the football game or the eye candy of the cheerleader squad. In local high schools, im- prov tournaments don’t attract the crowds that a soccer game might get, but to the students who do it, improv is a way of life.
Picture it. You’re on a stage. Maybe you’re alone or maybe you have a couple fellow improvisers with you. This isn’t a typical play. There is no script and there have been no rehearsals. Soon, the game master will tell you what your scene is about. You have about five seconds to think of something compelling and, hopefully, funny.
On Thursday morning, Tagwi Secondary School hosted such a tournament. The audience wit- nessed such scenarios as highways filled with crawling babies, shoes with live squid on them, and people who carry road maps with them everywhere they go.
For an activity that is so famously unstructured, there are a lot of rules in improv. The big one is that you mustn’t say no to anything. If your scene partner asks if you want to make cookies, if you’ve ever been on a flying saucer, or if you’re married to Donald Trump, you must say yes. Acceptance is the only way you can advance a scene.
Glengarry District High School Grade 11 student Gaby Robinson-Cadieux is already a veteran of these improv tournaments. On Thursday, she was resplendently clad in pink pajamas (the name of her team was “The Slumber Party”) and talking about how much she loves these competitions.
“I like just going up there and not knowing what’s going to happen,” she says. “You get to go on stage and act like an idiot.”
“And no one judges you for it,” chimes in J.J. Romaniuk, a Grade 8 GD student who is now in her second season with the team.
Gaby, who hopes to study theatre at the post-secondary level, says it feels good making people laugh, though she wishes improv was more popular among her fellow students.
Megan Roman, another Grade 11 student at GD, somewhat agrees. She says there’s a certain charm to improv but she prefers performing in front of smaller crowds. Compared to other sports, the improv season is relatively short. It kicked off at Tagwi on Thursday and will conclude at GDHS in mid-December. There are only four teams competing this year – from GD, Tagwi, St. Lawrence in Cornwall and North Dundas Secondary School. The winners will be announced after the points from all the tournaments are tallied.
For Tagwi’s team captain, Faith McRae, the biggest challenge of improv is thinking on your feet.
“Being captain is also a challenge,” she says, adding that she has to encourage her younger and less experienced teammates to speak up. “Sometimes they are too quiet and shy,” she says. “They have to break out of it.” Faith says she joined the improv team when she was in Grade 7. She was inspired by her older sister, Shannon, who joined the team in Grade 8. For a couple years, the sisters even shared the stage before Shannon graduated.
Today, Faith confesses that she sometimes misses the old days when she was one of the newbies on the team. She worked with some amazing talents back then and today, she just “strives to be at that level.”
PAINTING FOR A CAUSE: St. Finnan’s School in Alexandria recently held a We Paint for a Cause assignment, where students were challenged to create paintings that championed a cause they believe in. Back row: Rick Laflamme, Jonah Doniewski, RJ Antipolo. Front row: Fritzee Fabros, Zachary Baron.