23 Aug Improv brings spontaneous fun to Chaparral High School
Picture the TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway,” and you’ll have a good snapshot of the High School Jesters improv team at Chaparral High School. Theatre teacher Jeff English, who serves as the team’s advisor, said Chaparral is among about two dozen Clark County School District (CCSD) high schools that take part in the Jesters improv league, competing in eight events during the school year starting in January.
English defined improv as a type of performance in which there is no planned script. “When you see a play, someone wrote a script and told the actors what to say. With improv, you’re on stage, you come up with your lines, your character, everything, on the spot.” He added, “Suggestions come from the audience in terms of where the scene might be taking place or how the people know each other, those kinds of things, and it’s up to the performers to take that and run with it.”
This is the third year that Chaparral has participated in the improv league, and English expects his team will have about nine members in grades nine through 12 by the time practices begin at the end of August.
A significant feather in the cap of Chaparral’s team is Tirza Winesett, a senior who was named the league’s Most Valuable Performer last year. She will be active in the group again this year and will help her younger teammates learn the art of improv.
Chaparral’s team practices once a week after school, but improv is also part of the school’s theatre curriculum. Practices consist largely of playing improv games. As English explained, “We have a game called ‘Freeze’ where two people will go out and start a scene, get suggestions from the audience of a place, and they have to start from that place. Any time someone sees they can change the scene completely based on the poses that the two actors take, they can call ‘freeze,’ tag that person out, take that same pose and then change the scene completely.”
Although having fun is a major component of improv, it also provides important life lessons that can help students academically by opening their minds and helping them work as a team toward a goal. According to English, “Because students are performing without a script, they learn to think on their feet. It helps with higher level thinking.”
Improv generally doesn’t come easy, even for outgoing people. As English explained, “Not everyone can do it well. It can be difficult. You have to get over that. You have to be willing to go out and try things. Some people start thinking way too much. You have to be spontaneous and not be afraid to fail.”
For the improv team, however, the bottom line is having fun and putting on a humorous, entertaining show. Audiences will have a chance to see the shows starting in January, when competitions will be held at CCSD schools throughout the valley.
For more information, visit www.highschooljesters.com.