The pounding of my heart grew louder, faster. My mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls. I took a sip of water. When I did, the paper napkin under the glass stuck to my sweaty palms.
I had no reason to be nervous. I was a mere audience member seated in the shadows, waiting for someone else to step into the spotlight on stage. Yet, I felt anxious for the performers that night. After all, the audience expected them to come up with entertaining material on the spot.
I couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept. I’m the type of person who needs to write down my thoughts in order to process them, so the idea of having to immediately construct a story while acting it out gives my stomach butterflies. That’s way too much pressure – even to witness!
But moments into the performance of the improvisational group Siblings Improv, I began to relax. These actors were sharp, going through scenes like they’d rehearsed them several times before. In reality, they were making up the material based on suggestions from audience members. And in the process, they remained as cool as cucumbers.
Their spontaneous creativity was off the charts and reminded me of watching the Drew Carey TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” which introduced improv comedy to the masses. That night, Siblings Improv was introducing improv to Joplin.
This group of actors – none of whom are actually siblings – was formed in 2013 by Drew Crisp and Eric Epperson. They had taken classes at The Second City in Chicago and wanted to bring that style of theatre to Joplin. And they have, performing regularly at JBs Downtown Joplin, where I happened to be watching them that night, along with a couple of my girlfriends and a house full of people hungry for inventive entertainment.
It was my first time watching live improv theatre and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Before each game or sketch, the group collected written suggestions from the audience then quickly began acting out their interpretation. It would have taken me a good five minutes to process, plan, and execute the suggestions (so never choose me to be on your team for charades), but these actors were right on it, never missing a beat. Honestly, I was a little intimidated by their MENSA-worthy response time in their games and sketches.
The sketch “Homeschool 2072” involved a teacher from the future presenting history lessons from the year 2016 to her students. The audience was asked to supply topics pertaining to current events, and then various performers would act them out. With it being a month before a controversial presidential election, you can guess which topic came up repeatedly!
“Swipe Right” was a game where each actor sat in a chair and pretended to create a dating video. During the videos, the actors would extol their best – or quirkiest – qualities, depending on what was written on the slips of paper provided by the audience. Below is what one of the troop members said when she introduced herself in her “video”:
Not “B. Anthony.”
Susan B. Tony
Quick wit – I love it!
In addition to performances, the Siblings Improv also offers creativity workshops, teaching everyday people (like me) the art of improvisation. Maybe I should go to one of these workshops to overcome my anxiety about performing in public.
Siblings Improv’s performances are both intellectual and entertaining, and provide a unique, big-city type addition to the nightlife offerings in Joplin.
For more information about Siblings Improv, click here.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.