It was a dark and stormy night. No seriously, it was misty and dark and terrifying and generally pretty horror-movie-esque last Monday as I met up with Zander Weiss and Jill Lawler, CCE's improv coaches, tucked away in the corner of Hillside.
Hey there! Thank you guys for coming! Lets get right into it. First off, for those who haven’t heard, what exactly is CCE?
Jill: CCE is a comedy group at BC, started in 1988, where students work on writing and performing our own plays, as well as putting on fully improvised shows. We practice three times a week and work on improving the acting and improv skills of all members of the club, especially newcomers. We also have some practices where we work on our scripted material for the end of the year performance. We have about 4-5 improv shows a semester, and we do one big scripted show at the end of the semester, which is a murder mystery show.
Do you have a preference between the traditional improv and the longer, scripted murder mystery show?
Jill: Well, I started out doing the murder mysteries, but through that I learned how to improv. They are really incorporated into one another but I love improv, it's like my new passion that I discovered here through CCE, I would say they go hand in hand!
Zander: I think it kind of depends on the show sometimes too! We all write, direct, produce, act and do all of the behind the scenes stuff together. Its a bit interesting just because you can't have all 35 or 40 members of the club on stage at a time, so everyone ends up helping out in some way or another.
Jill: Yeah, we propose scripts every semester for our scripted shows and then the entire club votes on them to see which ones we will do.
That sounds like the perfect thing for a lot of people here on campus, because a lot of people come right out of high school never having been any part of a production, but having an interest, with no idea where to start.
Jill: I came out of high school having torn my ACL senior year. I was very sports oriented and never did any theater. And then I came here and couldn't do sports, but I found another team here in CCE. The concept of improv is very team based and it made my freshman year a lot better to have that team around me.
Zander: Exactly. I came in with no improv experience whatsoever either. It really just takes personality. I mean, people come into the club convinced that they're not funny, or worried that they have no experience on stage, but it really just takes that personality.
So with neither of you having had improv experience in high school, how did CCE become such a big part of your life? Where did it all begin?
Zander: I, like many freshman, was wandering around the activities fair looking for things to do now that I was finally here, and I tried out for all of the improv groups. Got called back by some, but I ultimately found CCE and instantly fell in love. They seem to have cultivated their own type of culture and comedy and you can really feel the difference.
Jill: I actually got dragged to a couple practices by a couple of my floormates freshman year, and I had no interest whatsoever in doing anything but sports here, but they made me go anyway. But the second I walked into the room, it was like being bitten by a bug, all of the seniors then made sure we loved it and I would say now its been the defining aspect of my BC career. I think if you talk to anyone in the CCE, they'll tell you "I would have transferred if not for this club" or "I would have been miserable if it weren't for this club" and I think its a very special thing. We are a really special group of people, everyone is super weird and quirky and not typical, but we all love and look out for each other like a family.
And so how do these improv shows typically go?
Jill: Well there
are two types of improv, one is short form which is only a few minutes long and similar to the things you might see on Who's Line is it Anyway? and things like that, and then there is my favorite, long form improv.
Zander: Which is about 20 minutes long and takes no preparation whatsoever. We just kind of walk in and ask the audience a question, like "what's something you wouldn't want to find on the beach?" and someone might reply "a unicorn!" and we just use that as inspiration like "what might a unicorn be doing on the beach?" or something along those lines and roll from there!
I feel like that could get exhausting doing it for 20 whole minutes! Which form is your next show?
Zander: Our next show is this Friday, November 14th, and it is going to be a long form improv show with an audience prompt and everything. It really has no theme whatsoever.
Jill: Its really just based around what the audience wants us to do, and whatever they want us to do, we're gonna do it because they obviously want to see something funny, and they love seeing their ideas portrayed on stage, which makes it a very unique and entertaining experience.
See the very entertaining men and women of CCE this Friday, November 14th, at 9:00 PM in the glorious Vandy Cabaret Room for their highly anticipated fall improv show. For those interested in learning more about CCE, check them out on Facebook or just show up to one of their open practices, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:00 PM or Sundays at 1 PM in O'Connell house.