Fifteen members of campus improv group Scared Scriptless took to the stage on April 12 for the org’s most recent show. The group’s performance, titled “Revenge of the Script,” was unlike their usual fare.
The “Star Wars” themed show took place on a cozy, makeshift stage in Hoyme Lounge. It differed from previous improv shows this school year in that it featured long form improv rather than the usual short form.
The typical Scared Scriptless performance has improvised games and short skits. An actor might base an entire scene off an audience suggestion. However, “Revenge of the Script” attempted a long form style. They developed characters and weaved one storyline through the hour-long performance. Playing with the “Star Wars” idea, Scared Scriptless put on a trilogy performance: the original narrative, a prequel and a sequel. An audience member yelled out, “K-Mart” for the location and the story began.
Improvisational shows are comprised exactly as one would assume: completely created on the spot. The first rule of improvisation is to agree. So when an actor says something crazy, such as, “Are you square dancing with Jimmy Fallon?” their scene partner is supposed to say something to the tune of, “Why yes, I love square dancing with Jimmy Fallon.” You not only agree, but you add on. Example: “Why yes, I love square dancing with Jimmy but he keeps stepping on my feet.”
The “Yes! And…” rule of improv leads to bizarre jokes, wacky humor and unlikely storylines. The best improvised scenes do not try to be funny. But there is both humor in the random and interest in how the random becomes normal. You wouldn’t think a cabbage farm, planet 69, a strong dislike for kumquats, a samurai sword fight, a pig farmer and K-Mart appear to fit together. Yet Scared Scriptless blended all these unrelated items into a coherent trilogy.
Dana Smith ’20 played a K-Mart employee in “Revenge of the Script.” In the show, Smith’s character wanted to sell a blue fertilizer invention. Smith hopped onto a spaceship into a different universe. But, in real life, Smith is a first-year student at St. Olaf and found comfort in the improv group.
“It’s a really fun group,” Smith said. “And the fun is contagious.”
Scared Scriptless’ camaraderie drew in the audience. The performance let us audience members in on the inside jokes of a close friend group for the hour. Dirty jokes such as, “Excuse me, sir, where can I insert the Galactoid?” cracked up the small audience. Audience members loved off-color jokes like, “I apologize for calling you ugly. I stand by it, but I apologize.” The audience was fully invested in the show; it was as if Scared Scriptless held up cue cards for their responses.
“I thought it was original and creative,” audience member Neetija Krishnan ’20 said.
Scared Scriptless gives opportunities to perform regardless of a student’s previous experience. Without auditions, a student only needs to show up to rehearsals to join the team. And, like Smith, many students find refuge within this improv group.
With improv, you can be whoever you want. You could be a character named Chin, whose life goal is to have a cabbage farm in the middle of Tatooine. You could plan to take over the world or simply hope to fall in love.
Improv brings out the spontaneous. It makes every moment urgent. Because you want world domination right now, there is no planning, no expectations and no setbacks. You must continue to move forward, saying “Yes! And…” because there is no script. You must fall in love before an actor calls “scene.”
In the world of improv, there are no doubts, no uncertainties and no faulty steps. There’s something beautiful about looking at life through an improvisational lens. Improv says take every opportunity and build off of it. Say “Yes! And…” and improvise.
Was “Revenge of the Script” a great show? Yes! And I look forward to what Scared Scriptless has in store for the future.