An inside look into Shenanigans improvisation team
One dollar doesn’t buy much these days, but for the past 11 years, it has guaranteed one thing: a night of laughs with Shenanigans, Lee’s improvised performance team.
The non-scripted, spur-of-the-moment acting group has sold out numerous shows and continues to grow in popularity.
But how does the team prepare for something that changes every time? Shenanigans coach Emma Moore explained that base portions of the show are practiced to foster the team’s improvisation skills, but each show still hinges on the cast’s quick wit and spontaneity.
“Just like anything, there are fundamentals that you have to practice,” Moore said. “We practice games that we’ll do in shows, so we can do good scenes within that game.”
One aspect of Shenanigans that differs from other theater events is the unpredictability. Senior theater major Liz Davenport has been on the team since her freshman year, but she said every show is a first and a last.
“It’s an event that can never be recreated, because every scene is different,” Davenport said. “We never know what we’re creating until we look back at it.”
Audiences can enjoy a variety of stories, improvised games and a visit to Spork River, a trademark narrative involving every team member. And the crowd is an extension of the team, as participation isn’t just encouraged; it’s necessary. Inspiration for scenes mainly comes from the crowd’s suggestions.
Davenport said fostering the community of Shenanigans is critical, as the spontaneous nature of the shows forces the group to build off of one another’s ideas.
“One thing you learn about improv is collaborating. You have to build a scene together. It’s about giving and taking,” Davenport said. “Every scene you start is a freefall into your partner’s arms.”
Sophomore digital media major Noah Rodden is one of the two new students to join the team this semester. He was inspired when he attended a show last year and was struck by the fun challenge of spontaneity that fell on the cast every show, pushing him to get involved.
However, some aspects of the Shenanigans’ tricks are kept behind the curtain. The team participates in the same ritual before every show to prepare themselves to go on stage, but the details remain a closely guarded secret.
See the Shenanigans perform on Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. and Sept. 22 at 8 and 10 p.m in the Rose Lecture Hall. Don’t forget to bring your dollar to the door.