Catch the members of the Saint Francis improv troupe, Shakespeare’s Dropouts, on stage playing such games as Swinging Pendulum of Death or Freeze Tag, and the guffaws, chortles and grins are bound to be plenty.
“I love it because I like to make people laugh,” says senior Dominic Agudelo. “It’s rewarding when you throw out a joke that you thought about, or didn’t think about. I love the sensation of having people value what you say, but also appreciate it because it’s entertaining.”
The audition-based group, a nine-member ensemble supported by a team manager, recently held a show in the school’s Performing Arts Center, graduating there after its audience got too big for the Little Theater. Unfazed by the nonsensical scenarios they find themselves in, these performers still have to fight nerves before getting on stage. For junior Sofia Graziani, who acts in musical theater, the unpredictable nature of improv can be unsettling.
But it gets better “once you put the pressure off yourself, the pressure of ‘I have to be funny’ and just have fun,” she says.
And then, those first laughs from the audience always calm the butterflies.
“When the laughter starts rolling in, it’s like, ‘I know this crowd. They’ll laugh at anything so it’ll be good,’” says senior Paulina Cerros with a chuckle.
However, the improv members take their funny business very seriously. The group holds regular practices to stay nimble, and they examine their performances, scrutinizing everything from enunciation to knowing how to move on when they feel stuck in a scene.
“A major thing when we’re nervous is we’ll talk over each other because we’re trying to say what comes to mind and be funny,” says Sofia. “We’ll remind ourselves not to talk over each other because playing off each other is really important.”
The benefits of laughter are many; these students know that a good laugh can lower stress and strengthen bonds.
“We have a group text message, and we text each other all the time,” says Paulina.
Whether they communicate with funny voices or wild hand gestures, members of Shakespeare’s Dropouts love being able to serve their school with their gifts.
“It’s great to showcase that odd talent that is so specific,” says Dominic. “You have to think of things quickly, work in a group, be funny and work a crowd. It’s my favorite thing.”