Improv Workshop

What do Jesus, lobotomies, gay lovers and human ice cream all have in common? Somehow, students managed to squeeze all of these topics into their work at the four hour Improvisation Workshop in Steinbach Theatre last Sunday. The workshop brought out a mix of students, from experience actors to novices and of course the Under The Bed crew was in full attendance, eager to sharpen their skills. The event was hosted by professional improvisation actor and Phillips Academy graduate Tanner Efinger ‘02, son of theatre and dance instructor Mark Efinger. This is not the first time that UTB has invited improv troupes to help them improve their techniques, but it is certainly the longest lasting. Tanner and his troupe are giving private workshops to the Under The Bed troupe all week, ending with a collaborative show on Saturday. “I thought it’d be great if we could have this workshop for longer than we’ve had in the past and open it up to the rest of the school,” said UTB head, Eli Grober ‘09. Efinger began his career here at Phillips Academy nine years ago when he tried out for Under The Bed in his lower year. “They didn’t accept me Junior year,” he laughed. From there he has cultivated his talent, practicing, he says “at least once a week for the past nine years.” His commitment has taken him to venues such as, The Comedy Store and the Improv Olympics, and openings for Drew Carry and Sarah Silverman. The workshop took on a very relaxed manner as Efinger led the group through a series of games and exercises designed to teach the most critical skills of improvisation, including the importance of communication, spontaneity and awareness of partners. “In improv, what we’re really looking for is a connection between two people,” said Efinger.  Favorites included the game Hitchhiker, in which students were asked to play a hitchhiker with a particularly odd characteristic that the rest of the car gradually had to adopt. Another favorite was the game Mirror, which focused on making two people moving as one. Despite the major time commitment for a Sunday afternoon, the workshop never dragged and the energy in the room increased with time. Even for those who were not theatrically inclined, the day had its benefits. “I didn’t really go into it for theatrical purposes,” said Dominick Chang ’11. “I just thought improv would be a great tool in life.” As Efinger said, if you’re looking for a career in improv, “don’t”. Yet he insisted that these skills have uses far beyond the call of the theatre. His skills have been called upon by corporate law firms to teach them the skills of communication, trust building, and spontaneity. “If you’re really good at improv, you can talk to anybody.” Said UTB member Andrew Schlager ’12, “I think people will see a difference in the type of shows Under The Bed does after this.”