NAUghty Bits: quick to think, quick to laugh

 
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BY ALYSSA TILLEY —

Rumor has it the show Whose Line is it Anyway? is returning to television to the great excitement of its fan base.  However, Whose Line may have met its match right here in Flagstaff, as this type of improvisational comedy can now be found at Northern Arizona University (NAU). Several humorous students make up the university’s own improv comedy troupe known as NAUghty Bits.

Northern Arizona University's Imrprov team members Dennis Verrett and Emily Luna and (back: Robbie Webber and Dani Mancini) perform with team on Mar 3 (Photo by Domenique Pennacchio)

Northern Arizona University’s Imrprov team members Dennis Verrett and Emily Luna and (back: Robbie Webber and Dani Mancini) perform with team on Mar 3 (Photo by Domenique Pennacchio)

The first show of the semester put on by NAUghty Bits was on Mar. 3. An improv team was originally formed at NAU a decade ago, but it faded out until spring 2010, when the club was brought back to life. Since then, the group has been gaining interest and entertaining the students of NAU with the support of their sponsor Arizona Playmakers (AZP), a Flagstaff-based organization that promotes every element of theatre.

Within traditional acting, auditions are held for a show and the cast has weeks or months to prepare for it. The cast members can transform into their characters and attempt to perfect every aspect of the show before setting foot in front of an audience. Improvisational acting is a bit different, with a little less prep time and a little more leeway.

“Traditional acting differs from improv, because with traditional acting, you have a longer time to dedicate to building a character and building relationships, and if something isn’t working, you have the time to try something else. With improv, however, you have to make up a character on the spot and then just commit to it, and if it isn’t working, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it,” said Emily Forest, a senior theater studies and history major, who is also the president of NAUghty Bits and AZP. “Sometimes, it goes badly and that’s just how improv works; other times, it goes really fantastic.”

Both Forest and the vice president of NAUghty bits, sophomore theatre major Taylor Lumpkin, believe improv allows for much more freedom than acting.

“It is rather fulfilling to know that you were able to successfully create something out of thin air and entertain an audience,” Lumpkin said.

With the name of improv, it is often confusing to people as to how the group would rehearse and prepare for shows when the whole she-bang is supposed to be made up on the spot.

“What we do is practice possible games for the upcoming show and work on perfecting our craft,” Lumpkin said.  “Improv actually has very important rules and guidelines for creating a successful scene or game and we are continually working at getting those rules fully understood which takes time.”

By learning the strategy and skills needed to perform, the members of NAUghty Bits gain valuable skills that apply to their lives outside of just performing.

Ryan Cummings, a freshman theater major, joined NAUghty Bits during the fall — his first semester at NAU.

“Improv is great because when you start a scene, it can literally go anywhere,” Cummings said. “Beyond having fun, improv really helps people to come out of their shell and become more confident individuals. It also helps you to think on your feet, which can help in real life situations, such as a job interviews or something of that nature.”

According to Lumpkin’s beliefs, improv can help both actors and all other be more open to changes, new ideas and situations that happen in life.

“I know that a lot of businesses in the professional world are starting to require employees to take improv classes to gain some of these skills. In this way, I believe improv would be helpful and enjoyable to any person interested in trying, not just those involved in theatre,” Lumpkin said.

At NAUghty Bits shows, the audience will witness two different forms of improvisational acting. There are short-forms, which include more fun and games, and long-forms, which are made of extended scenes with plotlines. Currently, there are eight members in the short-form troupe and ten members in the long-form troupe. Together, both groups strive to put on shows that will have audiences forget about life’s worries and stresses and laugh until their stomachs hurt.

“Improv, at least for me, reminds me that life isn’t all that serious,” Forest said. “And that no matter how old we are, we can’t forget to play and have fun.”

Find out when NAUghty Bits is performing by following their Facebook page: facebook.com/NAUimprov

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