Ever wish you could take a break from the stress of school? Do you frequent downtown Manhattan comedy
clubs during breaks, using laughter as a form of escape?
Lucky for you, a night of comedy doesn’t require a trip to the city. TBA Improv is SUNY New Paltz’s very own improv group that delivers the laughs right to campus!
“Very basically, improv is just theatrical scenes made up on the spot. They’re usually pretty comedic, but they don’t necessarily have to be,” said third-year digital media production major and President of TBA Improv Zach Friedman.
Friedman leads the group, which currently consists of 13 members. Since improv groups are usually on the smaller side, TBA holds auditions once a semester to take on new members.
“There were between 30-40 people who auditioned, seven were called back and only two were taken into the group,” said second-year student Alexa Dale, who was one of two to make it into the group for the fall semester.
This is Dale’s first year on campus, as she is a transfer student, and therefore her first time auditioning for TBA.
“I had seen a lot of TBA’s shows from the past year. I have some friends who went to New Paltz, so before I transferred here I knew that if I did it would be something that I would want to try and join,” Dale said.
In order to make it into the group, Dale and the other members go through an audition process where they’re judged on their ability to perform in an improv setting.
“Everyone in the group says that it took a lot of the groups best members more than once to get in,” Dale said. “It’s a very competitive process.”
The audition process is like that of any other acting role. There are preliminary auditions, which take place in front of the current members, followed by smaller, more personal callbacks.
“I hate the whole audition process, but it’s a necessity,” Friedman said.
Although all the scenes performed during shows are completely improvised, the group does hold rehearsals to practice the basic rules of improv: character work, listening to your partner and the most important rule, “yes, and?”
“In improv you’re never really supposed to say no,” Friedman said. “Instead, you’re supposed to say ‘yes’ to whatever was said, then add on to it. It kind of goes back and forth until you get whatever weird comedic scene you get.”
TBA hosts two to three shows every month, usually taking place in the lounges of different residence halls. At these shows, the group plays different improv games in order to come up with scenes. The shows are very audience- driven, with most games beginning with audience members suggesting words, locations, titles, etc.
“During a show we’ll play anywhere between five and eight games, and usually we try to get every member playing at least one game,” Friedman said. “Towards the end we’ll have a game with everyone in it. We try to get everyone to have their little moment.”
At the end of each semester, TBA hosts a large-scale show in Studley theatre.
Along with performances, TBA also hosts different events for those who aren’t in the group to get a feel for improv.
“It’s hard because the average size of an improv group is around five people, and the nature of college is everyone wants to get involved and I want to get everyone involved. It’s a delicate balance,” Friedman said. “The way we try to balance it out is along with shows throughout the semester, we have open practices and workshops where anyone can come and bring their friends and have a good time.”
Dale, who made it into the group with one other student, says she stayed up waiting both after the initial auditions and the callback rounds to find out if she had made it through or not.
“All my roommates stayed up with me so that if it was bad news they would be there for me and if it was good news we could celebrate together,” Dale said. “We all stayed up past two in the morning.”
The most important rule of improv, to TBA’s members, is having fun.
“There’s no feeling like being up there on stage when a scene is going well and the audience is having a great time,” Friedman said. “There’s just nothing like it.”
For more information on TBA Improv and their performances, follow them on Instagram, @tba_improv.