Thinking fast on their feet

MARSHALL – A small gathering of people stood in the middle of Southwest Minnesota State University’s Black Box Theatre on a Friday night, awaiting instruction to be pulled out of a hat.

“Unlikely shows or movies for Batman to cameo in,” was the first thing players had to develop for the game, Scenes from a hat.

The evening was an open improv night put on by SMSU’s Take 2 Improv Troupe – something the group wants to put on a couple times a month for people to “come, play and see what they think.”

“We’re trying to make it a regular thing,” trouper Madeline Hentges said about the open improv night.

This year’s troupe includes Hentges and Alex Pikala as co-captains, along with Callie Frank, Turi Jystad, Alec Otto, Kerry Billings and Zachary Petersen. Take 2 Improv is student-run, and it puts on shows throughout the school year, including SMSU’s homecoming.

Hentges said she joined Take 2 when she was a sophomore and wanted to get into the theater a little more.

“It sounded like something fun to try,” Hentges said. “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

Those interested in being part of the improv group have to audition. You try a game, and it’s a “sink or swim moment,” Hentges said.

Hentges said she remembered a piece of advice about being part of the improv group.

“It’s going to get weird really fast, so you have to keep up,” Hentges said.

One of the troupe’s improv games includes Party Quirks, where you have someone playing the host of a party who has to be sent out of earshot while personalities are given to the three party guests. Party guests can be anything from a person to an object to a personality trait. As the guests arrive, they have to act out what “party quirk” they were given. The host then has to guess what the guest is. The games are either long term or short term, Hentges said.

Basically, Hentges said, for Take 2 Improv, you get together with people and make a fool of yourself and be entertaining and fun.

Hentges said Take 2’s show is similar to “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” but the students make it their own.

“They (“Whose Line”) have a good model to follow,” Hentges said.

Other games the troupers played with those who attended open improv night and participated included Directing Scenes, Freeze Tag – where two people start out a scene and then another person comes along, tags out a player and starts a totally different scene and “The Dating Game.”

“A lot of the times we have to depend on the audience,” Hentges said, adding that the audience will give suggestions during a game. Some personality suggestions included pretending to be the Titanic or a blender as guest for Party Quirks or the Incredible Hulk or the Geico gecko as prospective suitors for “The Dating Game.”

And everyone gets a turn to experience all the improv games.

“We give our players a chance to play the games they haven’t done,” Hentges said.

Billings and Petersen are the two newest additions to Take 2.

“I played a lot of improv as a kid, and I watched a lot of ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?'” Billings said.

“I just like having fun and doing random (scenes),” Petersen said. “They make it pretty easy.”

Pikala said he’ll normally create scenes out of nowhere.

“It’s nice to focus it on stage,” he said.

Hentges said this year’s troupe is a great group of people.

“We get to be weird together,” Billings said.

“It’s a weird, natural outlet for us,” Hentges said.

“I love to have seven people on the same page together,” Pikala said. “Once we get going, it’s that natural energy that comes through.”