“We don’t write scripts! The beauty of improv is that it’s all on the fly,” said MIA member Colin Hauck ‘20.
On Thursday, Oct. 17, members of the performance ensemble MIA (Muhlenberg Improv Association) had their first show of the semester, Mamma MIA: Here We Go Again! MIA is a short-form comedy group and is the oldest such group on campus. Last Thursday’s show marked the first performance ensemble show of the semester.
During their shows, members of MIA play improv games. Although they have a “mega list” of games to choose from for their performances, the games they chose for last week’s show were Good Cop/Bad Cop, Hollywood Director, On the Scene, Fandango, Objection, Ventriloquist, Family Dinner, Dunk Tank and World’s Worst/Scenes from a Hat.
The improvisers have to be thinking and focused while playing these games, as they sometimes require group members to remember hints and accurately guess the character that they’re playing. The first game, Good Cop/Bad Cop, required three improvisers, two of them acting as cops and one acting as the criminal being questioned. This game, like many of the games during the show, allowed for audience participation. The audience was asked to choose who the criminal was, what their crime was and which weapon they used to commit the crime.
Mary Fiala ‘20 played the criminal at last week’s show. She left the Event Space as the audience made choices for the three categories. With the hints given by the “cops,” Fiala was able to guess that she was playing Sleeping Beauty, who had stolen a horse using a spoon as her weapon. The audience was amazed at how quickly she was able to figure out who she was. As Fiala figured out certain aspects of the role she was playing, she gave indications of her knowledge with her responses, which lead her to start acting progressively more like Sleeping Beauty.
Each semester MIA holds auditions for new members. “We look for people who are fun and go with the flow; those who aren’t afraid to take risks and love being a team player,” said Sophie Pulver ‘20, who has been a member of MIA since her freshman year.
To prepare for shows, members of MIA begin each rehearsal by warming up with improv games, and they usually pick a couple of games to experiment with and perfect. They usually have rehearsals twice weekly, which total two and a half hours, though they rehearse once each day during the week leading up to a performance. A typical show can include between seven to 10 games. Each game varies in size, structure and style.
“After we play each game [during rehearsals], we discuss what worked and what didn’t and try it again with new people,” said Hauck, co-president of MIA.
Sometimes a member will share a new game with the group that is so funny that they add it to their “mega list.”
A game that is traditionally played at MIA’s first show of the semester is called “Dunk Tank.” This game is played by members during their first-ever show and last-ever shows with the group. During Dunk Tank, two members improvise a scene while the third member’s head is in a bucket filled with water. The third member is not allowed to take their head out of the bucket until they raise their hand, which signals that they thought of a reason as to why they are wet that fits within the scene. Then, the member whose head was just in the bucket switches places with one of the members who was in the scene and this rotates for a couple of rounds.
“It’s a fun dumb game that gives your time in MIA a lot more of a ‘full circle’ kind of feel and definitely makes your last show a lot more sentimental,” said Pulver. “You get this very bittersweet feeling watching your senior friends have their last MIA show experience, and then you get that fun double-punch knowing that that’ll be you someday soon!”
New members Noah Katz ‘23, Joey Marcacci ’23 and Taylor Reed ‘23 played the game at last week’s show.
The last game that was played at the show was “World’s Worst/Scenes from a Hat.” Before each show begins, audience members write down scene ideas for members of MIA to perform. These scenes are very quick and can even be as short as five seconds long. Some scene ideas that were performed at last week’s show were “world’s worst college president,” “world’s worst trick-or-treater,” “Muhlenberg in the year 3019” and “world’s worst condom ad.”
Improv shows are unique because they are very interactive in the way in which they revolve and often rely on the audience’s participation.
“We usually have a fun audience and we love when our friends come and support us as well as seeing newer faces in the crowd! It’s great when there’s a lot of outreach,” said Pulver.
Don’t be MIA for this group’s next show!