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A Life of Improvisation: Don't Tell Anna

By Lizzie Glaser
On October 5, 2011

As Don't Tell Anna, one of Xavier's improv groups, performed

its first full-cast show on Friday night, I began thinking

about the value of theatrical improvisation in relation to the stresses of everyday life. There's something about seeing common situations portrayed through comedy

that makes you realize that the most important part of life is to live it happily, and that's exactly what an hour of DTA does for you.

The group's 10 cast members, including three new members this season, put on a hilarious show for an audience

of about 250 people in Kelly Auditorium. The show centered on the theme of a fall premiere

TV show, and included appearances by Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.

Each show has two "producers"

within the group who select the theme of each show and plan the format. They also act as emcees

during the show, helping the audience to recognize and understand

the transitions between different


The producers for this show were seniors Laura Wallace and Conor Gallagher, who selected the theme of fall TV, as several television series had premiered the week before.

The show opened with the skit "my TV show," in which the cast members proposed humorous taglines

for televsion shows. Next, they moved into "soap opera," in which a voiceover phantom listened in and commented on several telephone calls between cast members.

They then entered "monologue wars," in which they chronicled a fictional CNN debate about the overpopulation of hamsters. Next, they presented the "newlywed

game," in which dynamic duos (Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and Dr. Frankenstein and his monster) had to blindly answer questions about the characters of their significant


The cast performed one last scene, "director" in which actors pretended to be stars in a reality TV show entitled, "The Back of the Refrigerator."

The show concluded with my personal favorite,

"innuendo." In this skit, the audience

calls out a random object, such as an ant farm, shoelace, or All Card and members of the cast then convert

the object into a joke using the format: "I like my All Card like I like my men/women,"

drawing comical, clever and often obscure parallels

between the two.

I have to admit, my abdominal

muscles got a workout from laughing too much.

If you've never been to an improv

show, it's a fast-paced series of scenes that the actors create in the moment; they are not rehearsed


The group practices acting exercises

twice a week for an hour to help strengthen their creativity and scene-building skills.

"A lot of people ask how we can prepare for improv. I always say it's a lot like practicing for a sport," Wallace said. "There's no way to rehearse how the game will go, but you can exercise your skills."

In reflection, watching a DTA performance is similar to watching a sporting event. You're engaged the entire time and constantly on your toes, because you never know what will come next.

But the difference is, Xavier's DTA cast never disappoints you. They rarely miss the mark, because

improv and theater in general

have shaped them in ways that sporting events cannot.

Sure, I love a Xavier win as much as the next person, but there is something fundamentally didactic

about watching people represent

real-life situations. It makes you take a step back and appreciate

the humor of daily life.

"Really good improv looks like a bunch of people choosing to fall down stairs together and then somehow all landing on their feet," Wallace said. "It teaches you to trust others and find a way to make things work out."

Don't miss DTA's next show at 9 p.m. on Oct. 21 in Kelly Auditorium. If nothing else, it will teach you that, sometimes, you've got to trust the irrational because the best things in life are often completely ridiculous.

The members of Don't Tell Anna are: Ollie Birckhead, Chris Dobbs, Laura Wallace, Conor Gallagher, Greg Gerbus, Meredith Francis, Bobby Nichols, David Franke, Luke Giberson and Alison Price.

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