When your world is a stage

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - News


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.

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