Scared Scriptless, St. Olaf’s improv comedy group, held its annual “A Very Potter Improv Show” on Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 in Haugen Theater. Each show featured one half of the group’s actors divided into two teams, or “houses.” The Slytherin and Ravenclaw houses competed on Friday, while Gryffindor and Hufflepuff battled on Saturday.
The night featured various improv games such as “What you got?” where groups of three competed in a mini team rap battle, and “Blind Line,” which required the improvisers to blindly incorporate the audience’s dialogue suggestions into their scene. The weekend was a success, as both nights had Haugen filled to the limit well before the show began.
Scriptless’ origin is unconfirmed, but current members believe it was formed in 2002, when a group of friends met to do improv together.
The group has been growing over the past several years. Casey Bouldin ’15, the president of Scriptless, has seen significant change during her time at St. Olaf.
“My freshman year, the group was lucky to have more than 15 or so people at practice. It’s really the last three years that has seen a boom in popularity,” Bouldin said. This year, more than 30 students attend the Wednesday and Sunday night rehearsals.
Improv, by definition, is a form of unplanned acting that involves multiple actors creating a scene that is based on a prompt. In many cases, the prompt is given by the audience, making the entire show very engaging. Short form improv shows, like last weekend’s, are made up of a variety of three-minute scenes.
“The biggest thing that sets [improv] apart from other comedy, I would say, is the team,” Bouldin said. “Improv is a team sport, and while there are some very talented people who have done one-person shows, most improv is done with at least two people. Stand-up is me comedy; improv is we.”
There are very few rules when it comes to improvisation, but most scenes are anchored by the idea of “yes, and…” This rule helps the scene continue, developing the characters and plot smoothly and simultaneously. By saying “yes, and…” the improvisers are accepting the ideas of their castmates and adding onto them. Rejecting creative ideas causes the scene to become stagnant and die quickly. Such scenes are usually hard to perform and painful to watch.
“The first rule of improv is that there are no rules, but there are guidelines that, when followed, produce really strong pieces. My top three guidelines are to have fun, listen and don’t try to be funny,” Bouldin said.
Scriptless meets every Wednesday and Sunday night in Viking Theater from 9:30 to 11:00. Rehearsal usually begins with some sort of warm-up to get everyone focused and energized after the school day. Announcements follow, and then the group is led in a variety of games that are focused around one particular guideline, such as setting, object work or characterization.
The group performs three shows per semester and one during Interim. The group has had a great turnout this year, and Bouldin said she hopes for even larger crowds in the future.
“We actually had to turn people away for the first time ever, and I want to apologize to everyone who didn’t get to see the show,” Bouldin said. “We’re in the Pause next, so everyone who wants to will be able to get in, I promise. Our popularity just humbles me. It’s incredible.”
In response to anyone who has been hesitant about joining improv, Bouldin said that it’s a group for everyone.
“Scriptless is one of the most diverse clubs on campus in terms of backgrounds and interests, and I think that is so, so cool,” Bouldin said. “Sure, we’ve got a theater major or two, but we’re made up of everyone. English, music, neuroscience, chem, Latin, education, bio – you name it, we’ve probably got it. And for those doubters out there who want to come but don’t think they’re funny or whatever: most people in Scriptless have never done improv before joining, and being funny is the last thing we want from you.”