Thursday, April 24, 2014

Evening Of Improv

1999 was a life changing year for me. Fifteen years ago I moved from Pennsylvania to take up residence in the wide open spaces of Kentucky. 

Also in that same year in the drama department, at the college in the town that I moved to, a group of students formed a improvisational comedy troupe. Think of a much smaller version of the Second City group from Chicago or The Groundlings from Los Angeles. 

The name off the troupe is "Happy GAS." Initially, I assumed it was a euphemism referring to nitrous oxide, an antithetic used by dentist. But I have since learned that the name is a compilation of those suggested by it's founding members.    

A couple of things from 1999 that seemed unrelated right? Well last night the paths that stemmed from those two events briefly intersected.  

For a long time I've been a fan of the TV show "Whose Line Is It Anyway." I discovered the British version on the Comedy Central channel in the mid 1990's. 

In 1998 when the US version, with Drew Carey as host, appeared on the ABC television network I was a immediately a devoted fan. Some of my all time favorite TV comedy moments are from that show. 

As someone who has always enjoyed making people laugh, I've considered myself at my best when spontaneously making jokes based on my surroundings or situation. 

Therefore, every time I watched the show I was always wondered what it would be like to be a part of it. 

Flash forward to this past March, that's when I saw members of the Happy GAS group from Western Kentucky University,  on a local TV news program.

On that day, three troupe members were there publicize their upcoming public improv show at a small local theater. After being aware of the group for a while I was finally glad to have a place to try and "connect" with them. 

I went to their show and had a good time. While there I also found out that the group planned on hosting a couple of free workshops open to the public in the month of April. 

I marked them on my calendar and anxiously waited for the chance to "play" Whose Line for myself. 

Last night I drove up the hill to the WKU campus and went to the Gordon Wilson Hall to be a part of their workshop. 

The hall is one of the older buildings on campus and has no elevator. I was a little apprehensive when I found out that the workshop was in a room on the 3rd floor. 

But as I walked up to the building I saw a sign on the door that advise visitors that there was a accessible emergency  defibrillator device on the premises. So I felt better about  walking up 3 flights of stairs. 

Including the workshop leader there were 4  other people at the workshop. Not a very big turnout but enough to have a good time. 

For the next two hours we played some standard improv games. Most of them I had never played or seen before. But they were a lot of fun. 

The one that was the most fun was one where along with a partner I had to perform a scene at gradually smaller time frames. The scene started out as being 1 minute long then went down to 30 seconds and finally 15 seconds. Same setting characters and situation but less time. 

My scene had to do with being an experience police officer mentoring a rookie cop. 

I may not have been very good at the games. Although the other participants did laugh at a few of my lines and reactions.

The two hours went by very quickly but after basically being on my feet and active for that long I was rather tired. I said my good-bye's and thanked everyone for letting me be part of the night. 

Then I walked out of Gordon Wilson Hall, down the sidewalk to my car and drove off campus. 

The whole experience was a bit surreal. From the moment I got out of my car on campus I felt like a fish out of water. I have no point of reference in regards to what it's like to be a young college student. Being more than twice as old as any of the other participants in the workshop was a little intimidating. 

It may have been in an isolated room at the top of a building in a small southern college but it was an unforgettable experience for me. It was something I've always wanted to do. It was just as much fun as I imagined it would be.

I have no reminders of the night except for those in my memory. I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to do it again but I would in a second. 

I want to say a great big "Thank You" to the members of the troupe for allowing me to be part of their workshop. 

Back in the beginning of March I wrote a couple of posts about experiences I've had over my 15 years of living in Kentucky that I wouldn't have had if I'd not moved here. My night of improv on WKU's campus is the first item that makes to my list for the next 15 years. 

I have one more chance to be a part of their improv world, yet again, when I attend their last public performance of the year coming up in early May. I'm looking forward to yet another shot of Happy GAS. 

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