Building the scene
By Liz McCarthy, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-2848
Think of a place, something specific like a doctor’s office. Then think about a fruit, the more obscure, the better. Now, name an occupation. Ready, set, start acting.
That’s how Rebecca Shrom might begin a piece in a performance with OverReactors, one of the University of South Carolina's improv groups on campus. With suggestions from the audience, Shrom and her fellow comedians build scenes and create comedy. Think The Second City in Chicago and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
Shrom, a senior theater and media arts major, caught the bug in high school when her drama teacher created an improv troupe. When she started at Carolina, Shrom went to practices with OverReactors. Now, she’s leading the group and spreading her love for improv.
“You’re building a scene. You don’t have a script, clearly,” she says. “What people don’t get sometimes is that the goal isn’t to be funny all the time.
“One hundred percent of the time if you try to be funny, you’re not going to be funny. The audience will sense that you’re trying too hard. It’s about building a scene, building relationships — that’s what the audience relates to.”
OverReactors began when several cast members noticed more students wanted to get involved with improv, Shrom says. The group, which began in 2011, is all about exposing more students to improv.
“That’s originally why we were created, to give people more opportunities,” she says. “Sometimes you have 40 papers due, and you might not be able to make it to improv five days a week.”
With three practices a week, two of which are open practices, OverReactors welcomes anyone interested in dabbling in improv. Practices attract 10 to as many as 35 students, and after a few sessions, someone might get up the nerve to audition for one of the group’s shows.
“Anybody can come. Some people only come once, but there are some people who come to every single practice,” she says.
The group holds auditions for each performance, which helps the group stay true to why it was created, Shrom says. Cast members must commit to a full schedule of practices for the official shows because the group has to build relationships and learn to work together, she adds.
“Improv is really an ensemble thing,” she says. “It’s based on trust and teamwork. The fun thing about the performance cast is that it changes.”
Shrom loves all types of performances. She recently starred in Theatre South Carolina’s production of “Ajax in Iraq” on top of regular improv practices. She says she can’t pick a favorite between improv and staged theater because it’s like comparing apples and oranges.
“When you see good improv, you forget that there’s no props, there’s no furniture. And if it’s a good scene, it’s a good scene and you forget everything else,” she says. “Staged performances are the same sort of thing, just in a different capacity. You’re moving people in a vastly different way.”
Staying true to the group’s mission, Schrom hopes more students will come to the show (the next one is Nov. 14) or to practices.
“It’s a fun time. It’s something very different from what you see around campus all the time,” she says. “I don’t want to say that it will open your eyes because it might not, but you can come have a good time.”
OverReactors perform every month during the school year in the Benson Theater. The next show is Nov. 14. For more information about how to get involved or find out more details about shows and practices, find the group on Facebook and watch their videos on YouTube.
Photos by Maggie Calton, senior media arts major.
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