In a darkened Lindsay Young Auditorium Sunday night, the Involuntary Sports Party (ISP) improv team took the stage to bring back some of the joy another Volunteer team lost to Florida the day before.
Overcoming some early technical difficulties — don’t open the emergency exit mid-show — and aided by lively audience interaction, the ISP put on an hour-long escape from reality enjoyed by groups of friends and date-nighters alike.
After the show, ISP President Bridget Nagdeman and Vice-President Hunter Allen explained what improv as an art is, how ISP goes about its performances and the tight-knit bonds its members share that make their shows so enjoyable.
“(Improv) is a form of comedy that relies on impromptu storytelling to serve as the basis of the plot,” said Allen “ISP is a long form improv group that basically just plays a lot of game, has a lot of fun.”
“We make stuff up on the spot to try to make people laugh” said Nagdeman.
If the viewer had walked in mid-show, however, it would be an understandable mistake to think that the act was entirely scripted. ISP’s members play off one and other seamlessly and seem very comfortable both in the spotlight and within the structure of their performance.
The show opened with some audience participation in the form of quick quips from cast members based on words provided by the crowd. From there, it progressed through several imaginative and entertaining “games,” including a quirky house party, a pseudo-NPR show featuring dinosaur police and some lego-people drama worthy of “Days of Our Lives.”
When asked about how they develop their show structure and create new and exciting scenarios, Allen and Nagdeman explained that as a group ISP has some long-standing traditions but that nothing ever becomes stale.
“For the most part, the games have stayed relatively the same,” said Nagdeman. “We follow what our predecessors have set before us.”
“It’s a fun legacy to hold,” said Allen.
While the main cast of ISP are the performers who took the stage on Sunday, the club is open to all with an interest in trying their hand at the art form. ISP hosts public, Monday-night workshops led by the central group where anyone can show up and go through creative exercises, work on comedy skills and make friends.
In explaining how ISP operates as a club, Nagdeman discussed the different levels of involvement that students can have.
“I definitely think it is something for everybody,” Nagdeman said. “You can come and play, but then if you really are serious about it you can audition, and it’s a big commitment. The key to improv is being vulnerable and being a good team player.”
Allen explained the familial feeling that being part of the troupe creates.
“Speaking personally, it’s as close to a second family as I have on campus and having workshops where we have other people from campus come on,” Allen said. “It’s really like a big family reunion for the entire campus. We have open arms to everyone, make sure everyone’s included and it’s an amazing community experience.”
ISP can be reached on their Instagram @ispimprov, their Vol link page or a their Monday night workshops at 7 p.m. in HSS-53B.