Without a memorized script or a planned idea, Comic Frenzy actors stretch their imaginations and conjure memorable characters, improvising a theatrical experience for audiences and castmates at BYU-Idaho.
Comic Frenzy, directed by Trevor Hill, is an audition-based improvisational theatre troupe composed of students with various backgrounds and majors. The troupe specializes in long-form improvisation, which is the acting method of performing dramatic scenes on the fly using only minimal concepts and ideas. In long-form improv, actors take care of the morals of the story and character development in improvised scenes.
“We create brand new stories based off of audience suggestions that people will see for the first time when they come to the show,” said Isaiah Jeffries, a Comic Frenzy actor and freshman studying business marketing.
Jeffries and the troupe invent short scenes through a series of acting games involving charades and short monologues. Games include interpreting gibberish from characters and switching between “tv shows” with different stories and other quirky activities.
Audience members can also participate by contributing ideas or decisions concerning the actions of characters and the movement of the plot.
“It’s all off the top of our heads, just right in the moment,” said Joey Hokulani, a Comic Frenzy actor and junior studying theatre. “We will go into the audience and we’ll ask them for a suggestion. So we have really no idea what is going to happen, and then we build off of that.”
With games such as “Third-Grade Throwdown” and “Pop-Up Storybook,” troupe members are challenged to collaborate and conceptualize characters and storylines on stage.
“There are different kinds of games within improv you can play to help you build a story off of just a simple suggestion,” Jeffries said. “When you study the methods, then you can all come together and make something new every time — like a new play or a story. We are storytellers, that’s the main thing. Impromptu storytellers.”
While enacting exciting plot twists before the crowd might appear effortless for Comic Frenzy, the improv students practice developing scenes before testing their acting limits on stage.
In class, students study methods of narration and improvisational performance with each other before shows. They also discuss the importance of discovering truth in situations to bring honest and relatable traits to characters and circumstances. Rehearsals center on unity and teamwork.
“When you can develop a group mind, then it helps you create a story with other people, which is why we practice so much,” Jeffries said. “A person could be like ‘why do you rehearse? You don’t have a script.’ Just being able to bounce off each other and have the experience doing that we’re able to come together and create better stories.”
Before auditioning for Comic Frenzy, Jeffries and Hokulani participated in improvisational theatre in high school and middle school. Hokulani was introduced to the university improv team by his roommate, a former Comic Frenzy member.
“I did improv all throughout middle school and high school, and I just loved it,” Hokulani said. “I was really excited to hear that there was something like that at BYU-Idaho. So, I showed up and auditioned and it was really, really cool.”
While Jeffries studies business marketing, he enjoys nurturing his craft of improvisation with Comic Frenzy.
“I just really love theatre stuff — especially improv,” Jeffries said. “So this is more of an elective, just so I can have something fun to do during the semester.”
From jubilant laughter and ripples of surprised reactions, energy from the stage captivates audience members to the troupe’s stories and plays.
“There is a little exchange between the audience and the performers,” Hokulani said. “It’s so energetic. I can’t explain it, but it’s just a feeling that you get when you and the audience are on the same page. It’s electric. The greatest gift is to give something to the audience and they give it to you right back, and you just play tennis with that energy.”
Comic Frenzy performs two shows once a month in the Eliza R. Snow Building Black Box Theater. Entrances to the shows are free on a first come first serve basis.