By Jonathan Woon
News and Opinion editor
The wacky, wild, and hilarious antics of the improvisational comedy group, 9 Lives, seem to flow so smoothly when on stage. The jokes tickle your funny bone. The acting is spot-on. The laughs run like a river, echoing around the auditorium until the comedians leave the stage. However, like any successful show, the majority of the work happens off the stage.
Like any organization or team, there are practices and preparation to be done before a performance. There is a focus time for each show, which fills up the time between performances. There are six regular rehearsals, as well as four, more focused, sessions when it gets close to show time.
“Every week, the troupe gets together and rehearses a variety of different games,” said Allyson Moon, associate professor of theatre and speech. “And then, sometimes for an entire semester, we’ll have a brainstorming session.”
These sessions focus on the timing of each show, such as if a performance lands near a holiday. The troupe also discusses what they want to work on for the remainder of the semester. In addition to the practices and rehearsals, many of the members also attend improv class.
Following warm-up, the group goes right into rehearsal. The group plays various games that focus on character development, being able to tell stories, to build a performer’s physicality or building on their ability to sing. “There’s comment too,” said Moon.”Just like with any endeavor, there’s feedback from individuals in the troupe, and there’s feedback from me.”
Keeping the material fresh and the audience laughing is always a challenge with Moon and the troupe. Moon expects troupe members to be up to date on current events and on pop culture, so as to use material that audiences know about. “I think the introduction of new games is also helpful,” said Moon. “We have to keep finding new frameworks to keep each show unique and fresh.”
9 Lives is also branching out from the stage and making feature films. Their current idea, a sequel to the troupe’s previously filmed rendition of “Forrest Gump”, is currently in the creative stage. It’s the group’s idea of keeping things new and different.
However, before you even step onto the stage, you have to make the cut to join the troupe. “If you do well in the improv class, and we think you’re good enough, we’ll invite you to the troupe,” said Chris Cole, a third year member of 9 Lives. “It’s usually really easy to tell who’s good enough and who’s not.”
The term “kitten” becomes your title at this stage, as you are not a full member of 9 Lives. However, once you are fully accepted into the group, you get recognized by a t-shirt, personalized with your name and number.
Justin Tinker, also a third year member, has attended the same improv class with Cole for three years. “That’s kind of how we scout people, recruit them,” said Tinker. “It’s definitely by invitation; you come and get invited to play with the troupe.”
Due to the nature of improv and how it’s never the same, there are many jokes that the audience will never hear. “Some of our best stuff never sees the light of day, because it’s done here,” said Cole, talking about practice.
The final product that 9 Lives perform s on stage for students and community members is just the tip of the iceberg. All the time and effort put forth off the stage, directed by Moon, can be seen Feb. 8 in Darbeth theater. The show, entitled “Once Upon a 9 Lives”, is set to bring the laughs at 7 pm. Laughs and candy are to be served to all.
Jonathan Woon is a senior majoring in communication. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @jonathanwn.
Dalton Carver is a sophomore majoring in communication. You can email him at email@example.com or tweet him @dalty_james.