The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

A little taste of improv

By Anda Totoreanu ’15 & Julia Ben-Asher ’14

Photo Courtesy of


“D to the O to the W, N that’s the way we get down,” chanted students participating in last Saturday evening’s improvisation workshop held by seven representatives of Philly Improv Theater. The workshop was followed by an improv performance by the seven in the Farinon Snackbar, causing an hour of continuous laughter.

Five students were fortunate enough to have signed up and participated in the workshop—PHIT workshops and performances are typically sold out. Among the hilarious improv games played between the professional and novice comedians were “Show Us How You Get Down” and “Create This Space.” These games not only stretched the imagination but also created a bond between the students, who had not known each other well beforehand.

One, “Follow the Follower,” prompted players to form a circle, run a little ways away, then join each other, each making a silly gesture. “You legitimize each other,” improv instructor and PHIT performer Amie Roe told the group.

“The lesson I learned [was] to go off of other peoples’ ideas,” said Dave Wenger ’12, who attended the workshop and was a member of the subsequent performance. “It encourages people to work together, which I thought was really cool.”

Philly Improv Theater performs over 300 shows a year—in 2011, 413 shows, to be exact. “Lafayette was one of the most fun shows we’ve done,” executive director of the company, workshop teacher and performer, Greg Maughan said. “At most of our college workshops, the students already know each other beforehand, [because the group that brings up there is an improv group or a sorority]. But [at Laf], none of the students really knew each other but over the next hour and a half, had really gelled together.” He added, “That’s the great thing about improv.”

The fun vibe PHIT professionals and Lafayette students created in the workshop carried into the performance downstairs. The storyline began with a monologue about a UFO convention which led to a creepy skit about aliens, followed by an appearance by Big Foot, which gave way to the arrival of a reoccurring raptor character, which somehow developed into marriages based on arguments, voices taunting a guy who was just trying to get a glass of water in the middle of the night, bugs with Brooklyn accents “shittin’ on the floor” of a kitchen, raptors in cat suits, and angsty teenagers complaining about society in a Wawa storefront. The scenes managed to transition with nice flow from one to the next, however drastically different the two may have been.

“Those seven performers were PHIT’s top performers,” Maughan said. “But the seven PHIT performers each have their own specialties outside of being part of a traveling improv group.” These include stand-up comedy, story-telling, and standard sketches.

After seeing an improv group perform at a National Association of Campus Activities Conference, the LAF executive board was inspired to bring the show here.

“Improvisation isn’t just useful for acting,” Jared Piette ’12, one of LAF’s comedy co-chairs, said. “Being quick with your words is a great skill to use in everyday social situations, too.”

“It was a great experience to have a comedy event other than the traditional comedian come to Lafayette,” Jared’s comedy co-chair Ariana Giorgi ’13 said, “and we hope to offer more events like this in the future.”

This event brought an upbeat feeling and a bit of variety in terms of events that spiced up campus life. Hopefully, these types of events will be become a mainstay at Lafayette.

“Next time, more people should come,” said Wenger. “I’m going to encourage Res Life to look into having them do a similar program for Orientation Groups or RA’s.”

Even if a student does not regard him or herself as naturally theatrical or especially quick-witted or funny, improv should not be ruled out as an enjoyable and constructive activity to try. “Improv is like two things,” Maughan said in reflecting about his calling. “Improv is like being in a band, and improv is like playing a sport. Even though you might not know exactly what might happen during a concert or during the game, you’ve still practiced and work together to make it work.”


Tips for aspiring improv artists from one who made it:

Greg Maughan is the founder and executive director of, as well as a performer and teacher with, Philly Improv Theater. He shares some tips for those looking to make it in the improv biz:

1. “Don’t do it. It’s not easy. You’re not going to make it. The chance that you’re the next Tiny Fey is slim. But if you love improv that much and can’t bear to live without doing it as a career:

2. Agree with someone else when you’re performing. Accept whatever your scene partner gives you. You’re building a world together during a skit, so take any ideas that are put out there.

3. Always make the other person you’re performing with look good. You’re in this together, so if you make them look good, you’ll look good too.

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