Parisa Siddiqui, Contributor
Improv has a long, stable history at McGill dating back to 1987. On February 20, McGill Improv celebrated 30 years of continuous existence by hosting an anniversary show that brought together several generations of alumni of the troupe.
President Laura Jarecsni began organizing an anniversary show last spring after finding out about a 10th-anniversary show that took place in 1997. “I am in my fifth year, so I know people from my first and second year who graduated. Those people knew people from their first and second years, and so on and so forth. People were pretty enthusiastic about performing, especially when they knew some of their friends were coming,” she said. Jarecsni used Facebook as the primary mode of recruitment for alumni, and she kept track of all the information she gleaned from her network in a spreadsheet.
“She started spreading the word through chains of Facebook contacts and old mailing lists, and people who wanted to come but couldn’t, sent videos, which we edited into an Oscars-style ‘In Memoriam’ reel,” said VP Communications Daniel Galef. Eventually, five teams of alumni split by graduating class and one team of current members competed to determine the best era of improv comedy at McGill.
The members from the 1980s and 1990s, the first generation of improvisers, won after several rounds of audience-determined advancement. There were also outside judges from University of Ottawa Improv and Brock University Improv to award individual performance teams certificates for specific scenes. According to Jarecsni, however, the various classes of alumni were able to interact before the official anniversary show even began. “The day of the show we had an improv jam with all the performers and many of our current members. It was the best part of the weekend,” she said.
In addition to an annual summit competition, McGill Improv hosts Saturday afternoon workshops in the Shatner University Centre and perform at open mike shows. They hold more advanced workshops for experienced members during the week and put on regular shows and competitions with other schools throughout the year. “Improv is a fantastic tool for comics, writers, and actors that can dramatically improve your ability to tell a story naturally and entertainingly … You don’t have to be interested in improv as an end in itself to come [to workshops],” Galef said.