Last fall, a member of Left Right TIM founded the Umbrella Improv Initiative (UII) to expand the improvisation community at CU and get more students involved in a less-rigorous setting than Left Right TIM.
Junior Camden Johnson, 21, started the 23-member group last fall to fill the void of a beginner improv group on campus. With Left Right TIM, Johnson, a psychology major, created a beginner’s workshop that happens every Sunday. He enjoyed training new people interested in improv. This inspired him to create a group for those at a lower level than Left Right TIM requires, those who couldn’t make the time commitment for the group and those the group couldn’t take. He pointed out that improv requires an intimate group, which limits the team’s ability to take on additional members.
“We usually have about 50 people show up [to Left Right TIM’s auditions held once a semester]; the most we can ever take at a time is two to four,” Johnson said. “This semester, we had 45 auditioners, and we took one person.”
The Initiative currently has two performing teams, The Sexy Pilgrims and Slumber Party Knife Fight, and two teams in training. Each team goes through a 12-week crash course in improvisation, with two meetings a week.
UII emphasizes a close community within the teams as improv requires teams to work as cohesive units. The art thrives on trust and closeness among group members, so the teams are small, with about five to six members each.
“All of us have passion for improv, we work hard and we are all friends,” Kailyn Bennett, 18-year-old freshman film major and member of The Sexy Pilgrims, said.
“After three weeks, I could tell you where people would take the scene,” Jesse Pacheo, 19-year-old freshman theater major, said. Pacheo is part of one of the teams in training, and he joined the Umbrella Improv Initiative as a way to continue his improv career after being involved in improv in high school.
The community extends beyond the individual teams. In most other activities, Left Right TIM would be considered competition to UII, but in improv, collaboration and community reign.
“The idea [of UII] is to create a community for comedy in Boulder,” Johnson said, noting that most people don’t know that Boulder has an underground comedy scene. “You can catch about three comedy shows a week in this town.”
Johnson trains each team on his own – with the occasional guest workshop from other Left Right TIM members. He uses the Left Right TIM shows as examples and a way to train UII members. He trains UII for about six hours a week, with one group meeting and individual team meetings.
“Something people don’t always realize about improv is that it’s not quite like theater, where if you have the idea of it, you understand it and you’re good to go,” Johnson said. “Improv’s more like athleticism; you have to train your body to do this stuff.”
Johnson’s trainees said that they enjoy his take on improv, and are thankful for his guidance.
“[Johnson] has a unique way of looking at the art, and it’s something that I’m really glad I was exposed to,” Pacheo said.
UII has its next show at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 17 in the UMC Gallery. Tickets are $3.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ainslee Mac Naughton at Ainslee.firstname.lastname@example.org.