BYU-I improv group leaves audiences roaring

Members of Unscripted rehearse for their show before audience members enter the auditorium. Photo credit: Abigayl Finch

The improv comedy group, Unscripted, performed their first show of the semester on Friday night in the little theatre of the Hyrum Manwaring Student Center as part of Spirit Week. Audiences laughed as players (participants in improvisational theatre) played improv games such as third-grade showdown, good cop bad cop and remote control.

“My favorite part of the show was the third-grade showdown,” said Craig Pack, a senior studying electrical engineering. “I thought it was hilarious watching them try to figure out what the insult was.”

The emcee, a player who leads the game, hosted by taking scene suggestions from the audience and giving them a prompt. These suggestions ranged from pizza and dragons to flying cars. The performers then transformed these abstract suggestions into memorable scenes.

Unscripted consists of eight members who rehearse twice a week to refine their comedy skills and the ability to think on their feet.

“We’re all a group of friends laughing and making jokes for two hours,” said Kaden Walker, a sophomore studying English and a current member of Unscripted. “I’ve laughed harder in these rehearsals than I have anywhere else.”

Stress and stage fright sometimes weigh against those on stage. Getting outside of their comfort zone and performing without a plan can be stressful at times. However, players don’t stay down long.

“Improv is all about teamwork, so even when I’m the most scared to perform, my teammates are always helping me out and coming up with ideas and making jokes that make me feel much more comfortable,” Walker said.

Members of Unscripted play "Good cop, bad cop" where Cole (center) tries to guess what crime he committed, where he committed it, and with whom.
Members of Unscripted play “Good cop, bad cop” where Cole (center) tries to guess what crime he committed, where he committed it, and with whom.

While there are no scripts in improv, there are rules and guidelines players have to follow. In her book, Bossypants, Tina Fey, a frequent performer on Saturday Night Live outlines three main rules for performing improvisational theater. First, agree with what your scene partner says, and build on it. Everyone has something to contribute. Second, make statements instead of asking questions. Don’t sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. Third, there are no mistakes.

“There are no mistakes, only opportunities,” Fey wrote.

Following the rules of improvisational theatre enlivens the experience both as a player and an audience member. Making sure to follow these rules can also put a lot of undue stress on the back of a performer.

“The most stressful part about performing improv is making sure you are following the improv rules,” said Niagra Lister, a member of Unscripted who is a senior majoring in professional studies.

Members of Unscripted throw a party, each player representing a different emotion.
Members of Unscripted embody fear as they throw a party, with each player representing a different emotion. Photo credit: Abigayl Finch

Unscripted members get casted by audition only. Auditions have passed for fall but will be held early next semester for those who want to try out. Unscripted performs Oct. 30 as part of Spooktacular and as part of Comedy Remix on Dec. 3.

Groups like Unscripted are not the only opportunities students have to participate in improv on campus. An improv workshop open for all students occurs every Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in MC 369 for those of all experience levels. You might not catch members of Whose Line is it Anyway, but laughter, good jokes and good company are guaranteed.