This moment brought to you by Spectrum Wireless: Never working. Never will.
This is just one “worst slogan” that might make an appearance at CCMS Improv’s upcoming shows — though hopefully none of the 100 sixth, seventh and eighth graders who are enrolled in the troupe will experience an actual internet outage during “Zoomprov,” as happens so often during class.
“Internet outages are the worst,” said Eric Price, lead teacher for CCMS Improv, “and that’s also a moment to improvise.”
Distance learning has produced many innovative CCUSD productions from pre-filmed dance and band performances to live monologues and full-length plays. But improv is the only art form to date requiring live audience interaction. In the traditional CCMS Improv performances, the audience contributes to the show by shouting out suggestions on various topics that the performers riff off of – professions, locations, a line of dialogue. The suggestions provide the inspiration for the improvised skit.
CCMS Improv will keep this integral component during its virtual shows. Conducted in the webinar format, the student performers will be panelists and the audience will be “off stage” watching the show. When suggestions from the audience are requested, audience members will put them in the chat. Students will take those suggestions and run – in place – from their individual confined performance spaces.
“We’ve done our best to give the kids the same training,” said Price. “But it’s certainly different. Taking the physical out of these performances is tough.”
Eighth grader Lyra Small, in her third year with the program, agreed. “One of the challenges is we can’t move around as much. But an upside is that we get to use props and virtual backgrounds.”
Price and his teaching partner Sarah Parga choose the games carefully, based on what works best in the virtual environment. “Rant is one of the favorites, as the kids get to blow off some steam,” he said.
“I mostly enjoy the emotion games, where we practice how to change emotions really quickly,” said sixth grader Jackson Niles, “and also how to make the different emotions clear and represent what your character is feeling. But not being in the same place as the students, it’s hard to interpret everything they are trying to project into their characters.”
“The kids are rising to the occasion,” said Price, “bringing in some fantastic performances. They’re really talented. I wish we were in the space because the human connection does get lost in the virtual realm. But I’m so proud – they are knocking it out of the park, and it’s still a wonderful outlet for the kids.”
For sixth grader Kiran Paesel, “The hardest bit of improv is when you forget what you were saying and/or get distracted, and it’s really hard to remember what you were saying.”
True to the craft, if that happens during his show, Kiran and his performance partners surely will use that opportunity to improvise.
Hopefully everyone’s internet will stay connected. We know the kids will stay engaged no matter what challenges – or audience suggestions – come their way.
There will be 10 shows from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the weekend of January 30-31. Each group of 10 students will perform one 45-minute set. Tickets are available at ccmsimprov.com with a suggested donation of $10 per person. You must pre-register to receive a link to see each show.