Student teaches improv to fellow students
By Ashley Cole
"It's pure creation, it's pure artistic expression, it's collaboration, [and] there's no pressure of a script," said junior Topher McLean about what attracted him to improv.
Coming from a background of 10 years of acting and over 200 show performances, McLean is teaching an improv troop on campus called "Much Ado About Improv."
The troop, which started out with only five people, has grown to 18 members and performed on April 19 in Moore Hall. This was the first improv show ever sponsored by University Players. "For most people this was their inaugural show," McLean said.
Many of the members came to the first meeting having little-to-no improv or comedy training. Still, McLean is confident in his troop.
"We have met every Tuesday since September," he said. "We would meet from 9-11:30 p.m. and we treated it just like a class. They had homework to do, and we were serious about studying the art, comprehending it and growing as artists."
With all his years of experience, McLean said that even he doesn't consider himself a master of improv.
"Improv takes years to get really good at. It is difficult to learn and teach how to do comedy," he said. "With this inaugural show," McLean said, "I'm just trying to get their feet wet."
"Much Ado About Improv" was a short-form improv show, similar to televised shows like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and "Wild n' Out."
The troop got a suggestion from the audience and they either made a scene or played a game around the suggestion; it is all in the spirit of having fun and entertaining.
Fun and friendship go hand-in-hand with improv, as McLean found out.
"It [brings] all walks of life together...you get a certain closeness with the people you perform with regularly," he said.
McLean also encourages his troop to support other organizations' shows and events on campus.
"Improv, which has its roots in a 16th Century Italian art form known as 'Commedia dell'Arte,' is more than just get on stage and perform; it's community and since it's community there needs to be supporting of community," McLean said.
Although McLean will be leaving UNCP after the semester ends, he is hopeful and confident that the improv troop will continue on.
"We're trying to find someone to lead the group into another year...there are Pembroke alumni in a troop in Fayetteville that can hopefully help out," McLean said.
He wants nothing more than to see this troop continue to grow.
"I've been very frank about welcoming any and all people that want to come in [and] that are serious about wanting to learn," he said.
Anyone interested in joining the improv troop can contact David Underwood in the Theatre Department.