On the night of Dec. 2, student comedy troupe Vassar Improv presented their last show of the fall semester.
The event’s description read, “For 99 Nights of improv by the Class of ’99. We have 99 nights left for improvising.”
As to the idea for the show, Co-President Albert Muzquiz ’17 acknowledged, “[It] was partially dedicated to the seniors like myself, maybe we thought that we could confuse the seniors into coming to our show instead of the actual 99 Nights event.” Co-President Carinn Candelaria ’18 jokingly admitted, “The title is mostly silliness and a little bit capitalizing on an event probably more popular than ours.”
The show carried special meanings to each and every member of the group. As the last event they will collaboratively perform, Muzquiz dedicated a warm farewell speech to Candelaria at the end of the show. Muzquiz said of their relationship through the org and friendship, “Carinn and I have been in this group together since the beginning. I didn’t get into improv my freshman year, but they convinced me to re-audition as a sophomore (the same year we took Carinn). I’m so grateful I re-auditioned, I’m so grateful for what she’s taught me and I eagerly await the next chapter of our comedy career with bated breath.”
He spoke highly of Candelaria’s comedic talents, exclaiming, “Carinn has always amazed me with her improv skills. She didn’t have a lot of improv experience before she came to Vassar, but you wouldn’t know it, would you? Some people just have a gift when it comes to improv, they make it look so easy and so fun and I think Carinn is one of those people. She has an energy that people gravitate towards and every time she opens her mouth on stage, she gets a laugh.”
Muzquiz then reminisced on their camaraderie, saying, “As improvisers, as artists, as whatever we want to call ourselves, as humans, we only encounter people like that maybe once in a lifetime. Carinn and I are different leaders with different approaches, but I will be so sorry to see her go. She’ll back next year, funnier than ever (that always happens when people go abroad, they get funnier), but that was my last show with her at Vassar and that makes me sad.”
Candelaria responded, “I have loved growing up in this world of Improv with Albert, in which we can challenge and support each other and, more than anything, share lasting memories of our temporary art.”
Other members of Vassar Improv expressed shared praise for each other, their art and the performance itself. Aaron Linker ’19 noted the significance of teamwork to this success: “Last night’s show reminded me how much each improviser makes a difference. Two of our members had to miss the beginning of the show because they were involved in ‘Midsummer.’ When they did arrive, I could feel our dynamic shift. That’s encouraging to a performer, because each perspective brings entirely different comedic opportunities, since each person’s since of humor is different.”
It takes time and practice to achieve the harmony and collaboration necessary to keep a fastpaced improv performance running smoothly. Unlike a sketch show, however, preparation for improv allows for more flexibility.
Muzquiz explained their process leading up to a performance, saying, “In terms of preparation, we make sure to go over the rules. We work on listening to each other and expanding on each other’s jokes. Because we obviously never know what the content will be, we need to know the bare-bones rules of improv so we can make each other look good. We meet twice a week and just goof around, sometimes focusing on new characters, or new accents, or making a more cohesive world in our long-form.”
For Linker, inspiration often comes in the midst of rehearsal. The freeform nature of improv rehearsal allows him to experiment more with his humor. He explained, “One of the benefits of improv is that show preparation is really easy. We don’t have much to prep ahead of time since improv is on the spot. When we prepare for a show we decide what games we’re gonna play, and then we practice them. It’s a much easier process than, say, a sketch show. Rehearsal is more informal, and I think we end up making more jokes suited to each other’s sense of humor. That’s to say, dumber. I really love dumb jokes.”
Linker reflected that the art of improvisation is simultaneously about each individual’s relation to self and the group. He elaborated, “I think improv is sort of like a balancing act between being aware and going with the flow. Listening to each other is key, but if you’re tense or nervous, you get in your head. If you can feel yourself intentionally thinking, then you’re not focused completely on the action of the scene. It’s sort of like letting all the different sensory information in, and then letting your body react appropriately. It definitely gets easier with practice, but once you’re in a long-form with your friends and you’re really jiving, there’s no better feeling.”
Members of Vassar Improv were brought together by their shared passion for comedy.
Muzquiz recalled, “I got involved with improv my freshman year of high school. My school was an arts conservatory and I was a theatre major. I kind of felt out of place until I discovered improv. All of my classmates were so good at dramatic scenes and serious stuff, but I just didn’t take to it as easily. And then I discovered improv. This has been my eighth year of doing improv and I really enjoy/dread it. It’s a scary and wonderful thing and it’s wild that I’m a co-president of the group now.”
New member Sarah Barash ’20 stated, “I had done some improv back in high school so it was something I was interested in. Then, I went to the comedy showcase thing first weekend of school and Vassar Improv was really great and I knew it was something I would love to be a part of.”
Linker remarked that he initially was more interested in sketch comedy, but joining Vassar Improv brought him unexpected joy and growth. He shared, “I actually hadn’t done much improv prior to coming to Vassar. I went to an improv club on Wednesdays in 7th grade, and once in a while we’d play improv games in theater. I feel like, as a member of improv, I get to work with the funniest people I’ve ever met. That’s a blessing in itself, but an added bonus is you get to see what kind of humor happens naturally within these people.”
Candelaria, who will leave campus to study abroad next semester, fondly concluded, “I will miss Improv dearly. I am so proud of the group we have brought forth and have no doubt they will continue boogie, groove and play at the top of their intelligence together.”