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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Public (Improv)ements

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Abby Counihan ’25 and Dan Barry ’23 playing an improv game called “Whacky Newscasters.” PHOTO: KELLY SHANNON ’24/THE HAWK

SJU Improv Club continues to create laughter on campus

When Jakob Hull ’23 and Daniel Barry ’23 stepped onto the Forum Theater stage one Monday afternoon in mid-April, their goal was to make their teammates laugh. But they had no idea what they were going to say.

Fortunately, the men have gone through this scenario multiple times. After a few minutes of mundane conversation, they were standing on chairs discussing their appreciation of taxidermy.

Hull and Barry are members of SJU Improv Club, an on-campus organization with nine team members whose mission is to entertain people on the spot. 

“I define improv acting as perfecting the art of conversation,” said Gavin Kuebler ’25, who has been performing improv for six years. “As long as you can understand the character and environment that you’ve been assigned, then you just have to take it as you do [in] everyday life.”

The club practices every Monday and Friday in the Forum Theater. While Fridays are reserved for team members, Monday practices are open to anyone who wants to participate or just watch. Practices consist of a collection of games, which are small challenges for performers to complete both individually and as part of small groups.

One popular game among the club is called “Sounds Like a Song,” said Joe Shoemaker ’22, the club’s president.

“You do a normal improv scene, and then every so often someone will say, ‘Oh, that sounds like a song,’ and then you sing for the next 30 seconds,” Shoemaker said. 

While using games to practice is typical in the improv industry, the club has come up with many original games, Kuebler said.

“It’s really interesting not only to see in the moment [what] people come up with but also how many different ideas there are to express this form of comedy,” Kuebler said.

Nearly all of the games involve audience participation, which means every member of the club can help the performers sharpen their skills.

“Improv in general is not really about being funny,” Hull said. “That’ll come. It’s more about making the scene believable. Because you’re with a team, if everyone does their part, then it will be entertaining and it will also be funny.”

The club collaborates with Ronald Dufresne, Ph.D., chair and professor of management and director of the Leadership, Ethics and Organizational Sustainability Program. Shoemaker said the club will occasionally teach Dufresne’s students about general guidelines for improv and how improvisation can make a person’s leadership more effective.

“The improv club members’ skillset is uniquely suited to help other students grow as thoughtful leaders in service of others,” Dufresne wrote in response to written questions from The Hawk.

That collaboration has been so successful that in October 2020, Dufresne published an article in the academic publication “Journal of Leadership Education” where he recommended that other professors implement a similar program. 

Similarly, Hull recommends that those who are interested in improv put themselves out there and try it.

“My best advice would just be to show up on Mondays at Forum Theater and just get involved,” Hull said. “You just got to do it.”

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Vincent Kornacki
Vincent Kornacki, News Editor
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