In improvisational theatre, the rule of “Yes, and…” is about responding with an open mind, which encompasses both positivity and acceptance. As a performer, that sometimes means that during a scene, yes, I did indeed steal Grandma’s winged hedgehog and flee to Denver. Or yes, I certainly did purchase and eat fifteen pounds of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream last Tuesday afternoon. Improv is composed of insanity, but what’s craziest is how widely its been positively accepted at Winona State University. In the past three years of my college experience, I’ve enjoyed watching students say, “Yes, and…” to improvisational theatre, both on campus and within our off-campus community.
Winona State has two distinct outlets for students to participate in improv. The first is WIT, or Winona Improvisational Theatre, which takes place every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. in the Smaug. This activity is a branch of WSU’s oldest club, The Wenonah Players, and allows any and all students to perform. WIT is a fun, non-judgmental place for study breakers and aspiring actors alike to drop their textbooks, hop up onstage, and play games made famous by Whose Line is it Anyway.
RunnerUp Comedy Troupe is another, student run and audition-based improvisational theatre activity. This club, of which I’ve been a proud member for three years, offers improvisational opportunities for students, both on campus and within the community. Although we can typically be found performing in Kryzsko on Thursday nights at 8 p.m., we’ve also participated in community talent shows, performed in the cities for the national College Improv Tournament, and hosted numerous community improvisational theatre workshops.
It’s at these workshops that community members and students can learn all about “Yes, and…” as well as the other ways to build community through improvisational theatre. Workshops, typically hosted by Jackson Collins and my fellow RunnerUp members, tend to focus on staying positive, accepting given circumstances, and developing relationships within a scene. The beauty of practicing these elements through theatre is that, oftentimes, they easily translate into real life. Alex Buchanan, a sophomore member of RunnerUp, explains that, “The activity cultivates a one of a kind environment that is both creative and fun for all community members to enjoy.” So, mark your calendars for RunnerUp’s first official workshop on October 5. This event will, along with building community in a fun environment, get potential, new performers ready for auditions in mid-October.
The Winona community has said, “Yes” to improvisational theatre and allowed plenty of opportunities for growth. Both within the community and on-campus, RunnerUp Comedy Troupe and WIT offer opportunities for people to laugh together. Improvisational theatre is motivated by the same ideas that build a strong community; with positivity, acceptance, and an open mind, these clubs allow performers and audience members alike to share in a non-judgmental, fun experience. This may seem like a big undertaking. It may sound a bit daunting. But that’s the beauty of improvisational theater, because building these bonds sometimes takes little more than a stolen hedgehog or fifteen pounds of Cherry Garcia ice cream.