The DePauw experience offers students countless opportunities to show off their creativity, whether in a unique class from the College of Liberal Arts, performing on stage in one of the School of Music’s many ensembles or as part of many campus clubs/organizations. One new club is trying to break onto that scene this semester, and its founders and participants are enjoying plenty of laughs along the way.
“It’s been a great experience trying to get this thing off the ground,” said senior Lily Reed, founder of the new Improv Club, “and it’s been even better having two of my best friends by my side for it.”
Reed, fellow senior Andrew Petersen and sophomore Kate Whalley, form the exec board for this informal club, which is devoted to helping DePauw students explore their creative and quick-thinking side. Each week, they gather on Wednesday evenings and do different improvisation exercises that are both instructional and fun.
This past week’s meeting opened with the assembled group going around the circle and introducing themselves with their name and a yoga pose of their own design; some resembled poses one might see in an actual yoga class while others were on the sillier side. As more people filtered in and joined the circle, each was met with the same level of enthusiasm as the last.
“We have about five people who come regularly, but we average about 10-12 people each week,” Reed said, though their most recent meeting topped that figure.
The next set of exercises relied on participants paying attention and thinking quickly. In one, an imaginary bunny was passed around the circle, and participants had to not only pay attention to if they were being given the bunny, but also if those on either side of them were, and react accordingly.
In the next, one person stood in the middle of the circle and tried to trip up the others, either by challenging them to quickly finish a phrase, stay silent when they say something other than that phrase or work with the people on either side of them to form an object of the middle person’s choosing; these could be anything from a squirrel to Longden to an ATO.
The last group of improv exercises focused on creating a character through exaggeration. Those assembled (sometimes everyone, sometimes just the execs) would pick up on behaviors that people were naturally displaying and either encourage the person to exaggerate that trait or take their place in the scene and exaggerate it themselves.
When asked what a first-time participant in improv club should expect, Reed was quick to say “weirdness,” which she closely followed up with “a safety net.”
Though missteps and failures in the course of the exercises were met with a chorus of laughter, Petersen assured that it was all in good fun.
“Yes, we do some ‘light roasting with butter,’ but we’re laughing with you, not at you, because we’ve all been there before and made those same mistakes,” Petersen said.
Reed had some prior experience in comedy, having worked on D3TV’s “Pre-Recorded Late Night Show” during her sophomore year, but she said this club came from her lifelong love of improv and sketch comedy. She also loves to listen to comedians’ podcasts, especially Amy Schumer’s, and she said all of the podcasts encouraged aspiring comedy lovers to start improv clubs at their schools.
She espoused the benefits of participating in these exercises, which went beyond just a good laugh or two.
“Mind stimulation—I just feel so much more productive and wanting to get stuff done after this,” Reed said.
Above all, the exec team values the human aspect of their club, which is on its way to being recognized as an official student organization within the next month.
“Just meeting new people and spreading the love of comedy has been the biggest benefit of doing this,” Whalley said. “We always have so much fun.”