Scrolling Headlines:

Preseason serves as opportunity for young UMass men’s soccer players -

August 13, 2017

Amherst Fire Department website adds user friendly components and live audio feed -

August 11, 2017

UMass takes the cake for best campus dining -

August 11, 2017

Two UMass students overcome obstacles to win full-ride scholarships -

August 2, 2017

The guilt of saying ‘guilty’ -

August 2, 2017

UMass tuition set to rise 3-4 percent for 2017-2018 school year -

July 18, 2017

PVTA potential cuts affect UMass and five college students -

July 10, 2017

New director of student broadcast media at UMass this fall -

July 10, 2017

Whose American Dream? -

June 24, 2017

Man who threatened to bomb Coolidge Hall taken into ICE custody -

June 24, 2017

Cale Makar drafted by Colorado Avalanche in first round of 2017 NHL Entry Draft -

June 24, 2017

Conservatives: The Trump experiment is over -

June 17, 2017

UMass basketball lands transfer Kieran Hayward from LSU -

May 18, 2017

UMass basketball’s Donte Clark transferring to Coastal Carolina -

May 17, 2017

Report: Keon Clergeot transfers to UMass basketball program -

May 15, 2017

Despite title-game loss, Meg Colleran’s brilliance in circle was an incredible feat -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball loses in heartbreaker in A-10 title game -

May 14, 2017

Navy sinks UMass women’s lacrosse 23-11 in NCAA tournament second round, ending Minutewomen’s season -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball advances to A-10 Championship game -

May 13, 2017

UMass basketball adds Rutgers transfer Jonathan Laurent -

May 13, 2017

Improv With Attitude gags UMass

Every Friday night, I.W.A., or Improv With Attitude, puts on performances for the student body. The group performs at 8 p.m. for about two hours. The performance is heavily based on improv-comedy, acting within certain guidelines or incorporating suggestions from the crowd into it. The cast reminds the audience before each show that theirs is not a “family-friendly” performance.

This past Friday night, there was an added surprise to the group’s performance. They had an opening act put on by “Sit-Down” comedian Jay Petron.  His personal view of comedy was that everyone in his profession presented their material in the same stand-up format and by presenting his in an opposite medium, it would stick better to the fore-thoughts of audience members.

Following Petron’s act, the show began with a bit of unintended improv, as second year cast member Adam Graper nearly knocked over the podium up on the stage in Herter 231. Following his scramble to set it upright again, he laughed and asked the crowd, “Isn’t it funny when things are improvised?”

He then went on to describe the upcoming show, explaining that it would occur in two different sets. Each set would act within certain prescripts that vary from show to show. The first set bounced back and forth between four different sketches with common phrases and words relating them to what the troupe members were saying. The second set depended on audience suggestion; the performers were given the example of the Donner Party for a story-telling, campfire setting.

Rehearsals for the group take place three times a week, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. In total, the cast members spend about seven hours a week working on different types of improv comedy. They rehearse in both Dickinson and Herter, the latter the place of their Friday night performances. So, according to senior troupe member Andy Devlin, “don’t expect to catch a show in Dickinson.”

I.W.A. is not the only comedy troupe on campus. There are two others, Sketch 22 and Mission Improvable, all three of which make up one RSO. Of the three, Sketch 22 is the only group that does not use improv comedy. Members of the three groups actually participate in the others’ shows from time to time. Both Andy Devlin and Peter Storey from last Friday’s I.W.A. performance are also members of Sketch 22.

The art of the improvisation itself is presented in I.W.A.’s weekly performances. Senior members of the troupe describe what they do as a short introduction of the audience to what they call long-form improv performances. Simplified further, they like to think of what they do as an improvised play, with acts and scenes shifting and changing as they continue along, in order to best entertain their audience. Returning troupe member Tony Czajkowski describes the situation as I.W.A. being “deep dish pizza,” while Mission Improvable provides only a “thin crust.”

Some of the performers are unsure whether or not the audience fully understands what they do, but rest assured whenever the audiences break out in laughter.

I.W.A. has existed for about four years. Prior to 2005, the group was simply known as Toast!, with more or less the same mission of the current I.W.A., to make people laugh. Before Toast! was established in 2003, there were no improvised comedy group on campus at UMass Amherst.

Auditions are usually held once each semester for new members. Information is provided on the website www.studentvalleyproductions.com, under the tab “Groups.” Information for the other comedy troupes on campus can be found on the website as well.

As second-year cast member, Sean Toland has said on more than one occasion, “we provide a drug-free alternative for students on a Friday night, at least until 10 p.m.”

Tim Wallace can be reached at timothyw@student.umass.edu.

Leave A Comment