By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Many people fear the thought of performing onstage in front of a crowd of spectators. And even those who do accept the challenge are often afraid of forgetting their memorized lines. In contrast, there's the improvisational comedy troupe known as Popped! consisting of students in grades eight through 12. They bravely took the stage unscripted Jan. 9, 10, and 11 in the Intel Mini Theatre at Hudson High School.
Directing the improvisation program for his sixth year was Tim Reinhardt, a social studies teacher and varsity baseball coach. While attending college, he enjoyed seeing a couple of his buddies perform improv and offered to share that appreciation with students.
“There are no lines to learn with improv,” he noted. “You can do it as long as you'se comfortable in your own skin and quick on your feet. The kids like to have a good time and they also know that it's something to take seriously because they'se going to perform shows.”
The students” first task was to name the troupe, which is dubbed differently each year.
“Every year is different because the personalities are different,” Reinhardt said. “They usually come up with their name from something funny that someone said at a rehearsal.”
Rehearsals began after Thanksgiving and continued twice weekly.
“At our first meeting we did “get to know you” exercises,” Reinhardt explained. “The whole concept being that if the kids don's feel comfortable acting outrageous in front of each other, then they'se never going to feel comfortable acting outrageous in front of an audience. We started the year with some fun activities.”
The fun activities included improv games, many of which became familiar to British and American television audiences via “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” In rehearsals, performers executed short scenes driven by suggestions from the director or their offstage peers.
Reinhardt brings his experience as an athletic coach to the game plan for improvisational comedy.
“They learn to work together as a team in our rehearsals,” he said. “It's very much like a sports team, where the players work together toward a common goal. The improv performers all do that in our rehearsals. They learn to offer constructive criticism and praise. They learn to truly act as a team.”
Popped! rehearsed scenes with about 15 improv games, most of which were included in the
public performances with audience suggestions. Some ardent fans attended the show each of the three evenings.
“People know it's a different show each time,” Reinhardt said. “While we play the same games, the way they turn out and the kids who perform in them are all different. So it truly is a new experience every time.”
The level of improv experience among this troupe of students ranged from a first-time effort to a five-year involvement in the program, Reinhardt noted.
“It's fun to watch them grow,” he said. “As they get older and smarter, they have more academic knowledge. They add those elements to their reference bank with jokes about politics and pop culture.”
The members of Popped! include seniors Nick Allan, Jack Colaianni, Cody Grimm, Andrew Hatch, Duncan Martinez, Sydney Orason, and Jeremy Saunders; juniors Scott Kall, Kayleigh Kenny, Mike Lacerte, Pat Reynolds, and Teddy Waszazak; sophomores Brian Hureau and Brian Matthews; freshman Isabel Banks, Emily McLaughlin, Eva Tipps, and Thaya Zalewski.
Understudies, each of whom participated in a public performance, were sophomore Emma
Murphy and eighth-graders Grace Harney and Chaia Leibowitz.
Reinhardt is proud of Popped!
“They'se courageous for going out onstage in front of 100-plus people,” he said.
Photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.