A group of fourteen budding student-comedians had a jam-packed audience of friends and family howling with laughter in Ladue High School's Black Box Theater.
DueProv, short for Ladue Improv, hosted its Spring Improv Comedy Show on Friday night. For an entry fee of $4, fourteen high school performers treated dozens of onlookers to two hours of improvised comedic games a la ABC's TV game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Split into a Red Team (called "Pumpkin Bread: The Musical") , Blue Team ("Gag Reflex") and Green Team ("Irrelephant"), the performers competed for the most laughs while coaches Ben Swoboda and Andy Sloey from CORE Improv moderated the action, solicited suggestions from the audience and judged the performance.
Although Pumpkin Bread: The Musical took home the win, the audience responded with delight to all three teams.
The 7 p.m. show featured games like "Newscast," where the comedy group used ideas shouted from the audience to fabricate a news story. The final product had newscasters reporting live from a local bakery on a breaking story about iPads taking over the world.
In the game "Emotional Symphony" audience members assigned a specific emotion -- e.g. "frightened," "perplexed," "tired," and "elated" -- to each comedian, who embodied the emotion with a sound effect. One of DueProv's coaches then acted as a symphony director, creating a tune out of these sound effects.
Other sketches includes a game of comedic charades, a "Mother Goose Story" elimination challenge and "Last Action Joke," where comedians emulated Arnold Schwarzenegger's goofy action movie puns in his gruff Austrian accent.
Five coaches from CORE Improv have nurtured the creativity and stage chops of the young comedians for the last two years. Though DueProv members met with the coaches for a group meeting once or twice a month, each individual team convened at private practices each week.
"They're putting in a lot of time on top of school," Swoboda said. "They digest information very well. They're very coachable."
Delivering comedic gold out of thin air requires practice. Sloey explained the method to the madness requires an open mind and a willingness to play along when team members mess up their jokes or become stumped.
"There's a tenet to improv called 'Yes, and," Sloey said. "Everyone's committed to supporting their scene partners. It's about saying 'yes' and adding to that and never saying 'no.'"
Blue Team leader and LHS senior Cassidy Flynn has also performed in the school's stage productions, including the recent spring musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. The experience of learning improv comedy has added to his overall acting skills.
"The constant practice of developing character and the challenge of doing it on the spot is great," Flynn said.
Sophomore Kat Weiss heard about DueProv over the school announcement system and decided to attend try-outs. Unlike Flynn, Weiss has not acted in Ladue High School plays and prefers the free-form silliness of improv.
"I'm not really into singing and acting," Weiss said. "That makes you look like more of an idiot than actually acting like an idiot."
Olivia Krebs, a LHS senior, actress and previously featured Ladue-Frontenac Patch Whiz Kid, enjoyed the show.
"It's great being able to see friends as different characters," Krebs said. "It's such a really big risk that they're taking."
Angela Mitchell, whose daughter and LHS junior Angela is the Green Team's co-captain, hosts improv comedy practices in the basement of her house. Mitchell noted a marked improvement overall from last year's show.
While the cost of admission went toward reimbursing the coaches from CORE Improv, DueProv also collected donations for the Dana Lewis Fund to benefit a local theatre choreographer's fight against ovarian cancer.
The upcoming St. Louis Improv for Charity Festival at Ladue High School on April 2 will also benefit the Dana Lewis Fund. For a suggested donation of $1, area residents can check out a full day of improv comedy presentations and a tournament between high school comedy troupes from across the St. Louis area.