It’s not everyday you see a four-minute musical about a gum wrapper.
That sketch – complete with songs – was one of several performances given by senior improv team members at R.E. Mountain Secondary as they prepared to head off to the national competition in Ottawa recently.
The team competed from April 19-22 in the showcase of the top high school teams in Canada. While they didn’t take the national prize, they did clean up earlier this year at the provincial showcase, coming out as the top team in B.C.
They showed off their skills to friends, family, and alumni at a show just before they left for their trip.
“These kids are very advanced,” said their teacher, Gura Sidhu.
The seven-member team not only improvised the gum wrapper Disney musical – complete with a villainous janitor – they also performed more dramatic scenes, and created quick, quippy performances that centered around a variety of themes.
The recent performance included improv by the school’s junior team (third in the province this year) and by some of the alumni.
As with most improv, suggestions tossed out by the audience were used as raw material. That led to some odd scenarios, including an entire four-minute scene that took place in a yak’s digestive tract with players taking on the roles of enzymes and bacteria.
According to team member Ethan Officer, they practice as often as three to five times a week, anywhere from 45 minutes at a time, to up to six hours for a “power rehearsal.”
How do you practice improv, the art of making a scene up on the fly?
“You’ve got to sort of let go of yourself,” said Officer.
Team member Marija Danyluk said that their teacher has preached that it’s about taking risks on stage.
Jaden Kover and Natalie Peters said that you can only take those risks because of the people they have around them. Peters said they’ve spent the season building up trust.
When thrown a dramatic scene that requires them to be serious, they have to trust their teammates to back them up.
The same goes for comedy. Whatever they throw out, the rest of the team has to back them up.
This was not the first year the R.E. Mountain improv team has excelled at competition, but Sidhu was excited to see his students head to the nationals, an acknowledgment of their work.