EDUCATION: Improv Mondays

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Gathered in an auditorium on the school’s campus on Monday afternoon, a group of Tupelo High School students found themselves in a situation where they had to think on their feet, be creative and quickly react to new scenarios.
More than 20 students attended Improv Monday, an event hosted by Allana Austin, head of the THS theater department. They played various games that required them to improvise.
“I tell the students that improv is a muscle that you have to exercise,” Austin said.
The activity, held on various Mondays throughout the school year, is open to anyone. Austin began it last year to bring both theater and non-theater students together.
In one game, two students begin acting a scene on stage while eight others stand behind them. At any point, any of those classmates can yell “freeze,” replace one of the actors and begin an entirely new scene involving a completely different scenario. The remaining actor must adjust to the change.
“It is the first thing that pops into your mind,” said sophomore Victoria Wise, 16. “As soon as something happens and you think of something, you have to say, ‘freeze,’ and get in there.”
In another game, Austin holds a whistle while three students perform a scenario chosen by the audience. When Austin blows her whistle, the actors must change the meaning of the line they’ve just said.
“Life is a series of making things up any way, so why not make things up purposefully to be funny,” said sophomore Morgan Southworth, 16.
The session lasts 45 minutes, and participants’ names are randomly drawn for each game. Those who aren’t taking part in the activity sit in the audience and watch their classmates entertain them.
“It is funny, even if it is not meant to be funny,” said sophomore Halcyon Morgan, 15. “Even when you mess up, sometimes it is funny”
The exercise can be helpful practice for the actors in the theater department.
“Being in theater, it helps to think on the spot constantly,” Victoria said. “When something messes up, you need to be able to improvise.”
It has other advantages too, the participants said. It is an outlet for creativity and helps with memory and public speaking.
“In a job interview, you need to be able to think on your feet,” Austin said. “This makes you use your imagination.”
Since you don’t need sets, scripts or props, she said, it is also an easy way to get people on stage interacting with each other.
“They create their own universe, and it is awesome they have that imagination,” she said.
Added junior Laura Gray, 17: “It gives you a different outlook on life because you can see all of the possibilities.”

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