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August 2, 2014

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comedy:

At Centennial, staying after school is funny business

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Heather Cory

Phil McKeever doubles over when an improvisation game, “Samurai Unite,” becomes a little too physical during a Centennial High School improv club meeting. The group played a number of games to improve their improvisation skills.

Centennial improv club

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Members of Centennial High School's improvisation group have no idea what to expect next, but that's just how they like it.

After all, in an improv group, everything is made up on the spot.

The Centennial club includes mostly theater students, and the benefits are astounding, students said: from newly formed friendships to vastly improved skills during traditional theater shows.

For an hour after class once a week, students play games like "Samurai Knights," "Ding" or "Soup" to hone their skills. In improv, the most important skills are being able to come up with appropriate responses without thinking and learning how to feed off of partners.

"It's really good educationally if you want to get into theater professionally," Courtney McGuire, 17, said.

It's a good skill to have, because anything can go wrong on stage, from missed cues to forgotten lines, said Alicia Luszczyk, 18, a co-captain along with Alyssa Edwards, 15, and Sara Farr, 17. Having the ability to come up with something on the spot and move on rather than stopping everything can make the difference between a successful production and a failure.

That confidence may also move into other aspects of life, such as public speaking or class projects, she said.

"If you're making a dork of yourself in improv each week, speaking to a class doesn't seem so bad anymore," Luszczyk said.

It also has helped several students rise from shy and quiet to confident and boisterous, she said. Fellow students agreed.

"People just grow with improv," Brandon Mercado, 16, said.

The games played require quick thinking and actions. To play Ding, for example, students were asked to take the center of the floor three at a time. Similar to "Who's Line is it Anyway?" students were given a location and asked to come up with a scene. Anytime they hear "ding," they have to quickly rephrase the words or actions they just did.

Sometimes, they'll be asked to find a way to say the same thing three or four different times.

The games require skills that take time to develop, but as they build that talent, they end up building strong bonds with their teammates as well, students said.

"It's so much fun, and nobody's ever left out," Kory Ramirez, 17, said. "Whoever comes can participate."

Being involved in the various games and activities helps participants become fast friends, students said.

"It's like another family to us," Edwards said.

Earlier in the school year, the students participated in a districtwide improv festival, where they attended workshops and said they learned new techniques.

Their next performance will be a show at the school March 13 at 6 p.m. The students have been split into two groups and will compete against each other for audience.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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