A diverse cast of hilarious characters have come together to bring laughs to Loy Norrix.
The 2016-2017 Loy Norrix Improvisational Theatre (Improv) Team is loaded with different personalities and people of varying backgrounds. Comprised of senior Jaylan Shields, juniors Lydia Achenbach, Victor Moss, Bonnie Bremer, Sebastian Rodriguez, Joey Welch, JT Mitchell, and sophomore Abby Hauke, the youth and talent of the group is very encouraging.
“I feel old. It’s refreshing and honestly teaches me a lot about what’s relevant to today’s youth. I might let a ‘YOLO’ slip out every now and then,” said Loy Norrix drama teacher and improv coach Paige O’Shea, “And they quickly remind me that I am out of date. The team has a handful of juniors, and while Jaylan is our only senior, everyone treats each other as equals. They are all mature people, so the age/grade difference isn’t ever an issue. If anything, it’s helpful to have all the energy and experience that each teammate brings.”
Improv is a kind of acting where the majority of the show is created at the moment of performance. In improv there is no real set plot line. Often called acting in it’s purest form, improv isn’t for the faint of heart, as going on stage without knowing exactly what they are going to perform is nerve-wracking.
Participating takes a sense of courage and a sense of humor, not just to entertain the audience but in order to laugh at themselves should they make a mistake. The great thing about improv, however, is that a “mistake” doesn’t have to be a mistake thanks to the lack of structure.
“[The hardest part is] always making sure that you’re on your game and making sure the next thing you say is funny and can lead to another storyline for someone to pick up on, so it’s not a one man show,” said junior Joey Welch.
The improv team puts on shows throughout the school year that are open to the public. The group performs loosely structured skits and plays games with the audience. There’s no guarantee about the improv teams performances other than the fact that you’ll laugh and have a good time.
“We range from what is seen on TV, like SNL and Who’s Line is it Anyway?, to games that are created by well-respected thespians. We try to stick to true improv – meaning no rehearsed lines, no props, character based games versus the more scripted skits. We do usually plan a skit for each of our shows but we don’t have memorized lines or elaborate stories, we like to stay in the moment and true to the craft,” explained O’Shea. “Some of the games require all of the team, and some only require two or three [members]. We make sure that all of the teammates know how the game goes and all of them are trained in knowing the structure of the game.”
The group’s energy is truly contagious and just being around them is almost a guarantee of laughs. You can tell how they’ve grown together into their own little family by the way they take pictures, weirdly enough. When asked to take a group photo, the group lit up and made a complete photo shoot out of it, posing in a pyramid, a “prom pose,” and an Addams Family type pose.
“I love that I can have fun and be able to express myself freely,” said senior Jaylan Shields.
At the epicenter of this joyous family is their advisor, O’Shea. O’Shea is a second year teacher here at Loy Norrix and has brought an energy to Loy Norrix that students love.
In addition to teaching and coaching the improv team, O’Shea oversees the Forensics team and works with choir teacher Julie Pellegrino on the school plays and musicals. She brings out the best in her students and helps them out of their shells to try new things. For example she coaxed a talented senior, Giovani Diaz to try out for the multiple team for forensics. From there, she got him to try out for the musical, “High School Musical,” where he landed a lead role as Chad. Coaching and helping kids is very near and dear to her heart. Being able to make this impact through improv adds to the joy as it has been a staple in her own life for a little while now.
“Improv has been a part of my life since I was younger. I was the captain on my improv team in high school and I have always enjoyed it,” said O’Shea, “when the opportunity opened for me to coach at Loy Norrix, I had to jump on it. Coaching Improv is easily one of the highlights of my career. In college, I took a handful of classes and worked with local improv troupes and took a workshop at UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade] in NYC which was awesome.”
Improv attracts a lot of Loy Norrix’s comedians. Being funny is such a big part of being able to thrive and succeed in this area of acting. So naturally, many of the team’s members joined because they thought they had a unique sense of humor.
“I joined improv because I thought that I was kind of witty and people have said that I’m funny so I thought I’d give it a try,” said junior Victor Moss.