NEVER SAY “NO”

THEY SAY HISTORY is written by the winners—but if it’s improv you’re talking about, history isn’t even written at all.

True to its form, the King’s College improvisational theatre scene seems to be made up as it goes along. Though we have an impressive team—“KICASS”, which supposedly stands for something like the “King’s Improv Collective, Association, Society and Syndicate”, though nobody knows for sure—even the most veteran players have a foggy recollection of how things started.

And then there’s this weekend’s Atlantic University Improv Championship (AUIC), hosted by King’s: nobody on the team knows how it began; it’s no one’s job to organize it; and one of this year’s official judges is best known as the seven-foot-tall immortal giant in the 2006 Spartan blockbuster, 300.

“You can try to be clever, but comedy is basically jingling keys in front of a baby.”

But despite campus-wide notoriety and a zest for weird poster design, KICASS audiences waver each week. One week’s performance will get a 40-person showing, while the next will be down to five.

“It’s hard to convince people [to come out],” says Josh Tibbetts, fifth-year KICASS member and former society president. “It was hard to maintain a group of people who’d… remember it. People would just sort of forget.”

He thinks the team is not getting the recognition it has recently begun deserving. KICASS has struggled at the AUIC every year until recently—especially in 2006, when King’s hosted and “came in dead last,” Tibbetts recalls with a grin.

“We used to be better at weird ideas than actually selling ourselves to the audience,” Tibbetts says. “You can try to be clever, but comedy is basically jingling keys in front of a baby.”

Last year, however, the team placed first. You can find their plastic wrestling belt sitting in the campus bar’s trophy cabinet, with masking tape over it, reading, “Awesome at Improv”.

Tibbetts, along with several others, transformed what used to be simply “The King’s Improv Society” from a small campus workshop experience to the AUIC-winning performance troupe it is today.

It started seven years ago. After the stone-faced, tie-wearing KSU executive of 2002 rejected then first-year, now recruitment officer Terra Duncan’s proposal for an improv team at King’s, she finagled the King’s Theatrical Society to allow her to pilot an improv workshop one night. It was a success, but that was as far as things went.

“[The KSU and KTS] didn’t think that was something that anybody at King’s would be interested in,” Duncan recalls.

“Even if it was just a group of us in a room in the basement, just doing it for no real reason, and just making ourselves laugh… That was enough for me.”

The pivotal moment came in her second year: during a KTS showcase of their upcoming season (a lost tradition, it seems), Duncan performed a “desperate monologue” wherein she stripped off her clothes to reveal a superhero costume and fell to her knees, banging a shoe against the floor, begging the audience to “just give improv a chance, just once.”

“That intrigued people,” she says with a smile.

In the coming years, the team would grow in popularity and size, eventually becoming the weekly performance troupe it is today.

“It’s become more close-knit than it used to be,” Tibbetts says, “which is something I really like.”

The team’s skills will be put to the test this weekend, when the AUIC games return to King’s on March 14 and 15, in Alumni Hall at 8 p.m.

While Tibbetts hopes for a large turnout, he’s grown tired of postering the school with ads and creating Facebook events. More than anything, he’s just happy to perform.

“Even if it was just a group of us in a room in the basement, just doing it for no real reason, and just making ourselves laugh… That was enough for me.”

——————–

Originally published in The Watch, the King’s College monthly magazine, in December 2008.

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