Saint Mary’s hosts Second City improv actors
Improvisational comedy group Second City, which came to Saint Mary’s on Friday for an extended weekend of teaching classes as the Margaret M. Hill Endowed Visiting Artists, held a press conference and performance in O’Laughlin Auditorium at Saint Mary’s on Monday.
According to troupe member Casey Whitaker, Second City loved interacting with Saint Mary’s students through these events.
“Anytime there’s a group of strong women anywhere, it’s going to be awesome,” Whitaker said. “Everyone is so supportive and so open, and you can tell that you guys care and love each other, and that’s great when doing improv because you’re open and supporting each other.”
Troupe member Jamison Webb said the improvisation group included some material exclusive to Saint Mary’s throughout its performance.
“There’s some improvisation throughout the show where we get suggestions from the audience to inspire scenes or moments within scenes,” Webb said. “There’s also some custom material that we’ve put together about Saint Mary’s. The Saint Mary’s experience has been pretty unique.”
Webb said he enjoyed watching students grow as performers throughout his time at Saint Mary’s.
“When we’re doing shows on the road, we’re in that town for a day or two, so we don’t really have the luxury we’ve had here at Saint Mary’s, with kind of an extended weekend where we’re able to do multiple workshops with the same performers,” he said. “Building something together is pretty cool.”
According to Whitaker, the lessons learned during last weekend’s workshops should continue to help students as they discover more about theatre.
“We always talk about process at Second City, and I think that’s true for improv in general,” Whitaker said. “It’s always a process. We will never feel like we’ve conquered it completely or like there’s nothing left to learn from improv. That will never be the case. There is always something to learn from improv.”
Webb said he hopes students learned the value of commitment to character development when acting.
“A lot of the basic principles and things that are focused on in more traditional, kind of theatrical, script-based acting apply to improv,” Webb said. “It’s still about committing to a character. It’s still about giving the audience a compelling look into relationships and a certain time and place. The difference is you are in control of that in the moment, and you are creating that. It’s very ephemeral. Then it’s gone.”
Whitaker said Saint Mary’s students should use the skills they learn as they progress in their acting careers.
“You kind of have an advantage going into improv and sketch comedy because you already know about emotion and commitment,” Whitaker said. “When you’re improvising a scene, you’re writing as you go. So it’s kind of a completely different muscle. You can’t go home and practice your lines a bunch. You just do it in that moment, so you have to be super present when you’re improvising, which could of course then lead to a great scene.”