Sarah Park (04/17/14)
There is a new improvisation club on campus, it doesn’t officially have a name yet, but it is a subset of the Stony Brook Pocket Theatre group and is currently going as the Stony Brook Improv Club. The Improv club was founded 4-weeks ago by Zohaib Rattu, 19, a sophomore Economics major, and David Bonderoff, 20, a junior Theatre Arts major at Stony Brook University.
Zohaib Rattu, the CEO of the Improv Club, said he had thought of making an improvisation group since freshman year. His interests led him to take acting classes at school, where he realized that there was potential to carry out his vision.
“I realized there were actually a few people at this school that weren’t always worried about orgo, bio, and getting into med school twenty-four seven,” said Rattu. “People have talent here, but are clouded by all the stress that comes with the expectations the school and the people who attend for it have for them. So that’s kind of why I started the club, to actually bring about diversity onto this campus.”
Rattu is a visionary. He is the idea guy in the club, and David Bonderoff, the President of the Improv club, is the realistic guy who has to sculpt Rattu’s ideas into feasible goals. The Improv club was initially Rattu’s idea, however, it wasn’t exactly improvisation per say – Rattu called it “FlashProv,” which is a combination of flash mob and improvisation.
A flash mob is usually when a group of people show up, unexpectedly, in a certain location and perform a rehearsed piece in front of others. An improvisation is a group of people performing unrehearsed, unscripted sketches to an audience – a performance out of the blue. Combine these two and you have “FlashProv” – spontanious performances of scripted or unscripted skits in random locations.
Rattu had assembled a “FlashProv” group last semester with his Acting I classmates. They performed unscripted sketches to Stony Brook University students out on the Staller Steps, however, the group didn’t last long. “The group did not have a strong enough foundation to last into the next semester because the students did not have the common acting class together anymore,” said Bonderoff.
Rattu didn’t give up on his idea and when he met Bonderoff in his Improvisation class this semester, he pitched it once more and Bonderoff was in. The “FlashProv” idea didn’t quite workout, but it became the stepping stone to their new club, the Improv club. With the help of Bonderoff and other members of the club, it has been growing slowly, but clearly in the past few weeks.
Although the club is still at its beginning stages, the group has already taught its first Improv Workshop in Hendrix College on April 14th, which is a dorm in Roth Quad on the Stony Brook University campus. Around 25 people showed up and Bonderoff said not only was it fun, but there he also saw some people with natural talent. The Improv club also has a show coming up on April 30 for the Global Studies (GLS) End of the Year event.
Improvisation is fun, but it isn’t only about that for the members of the club. For some it is a part of their life, a craft, and they want to become the cause of another’s laughter. “Improvisation is supposed to be fun!,” said Bonderoff. “It is fun. However, we want it to be entertaining for audiences not involved with the group. We need to be seriously invested into developing improvisational techniques because we aren’t going to make anyone outside of the group laugh if we treat ourselves as assembled-witty-people instead of performers.”
For others, it’s a lifestyle, an opportunity to relieve one’s stress and create memorable moments with like-minded people. “Improv is beautiful,” said Rattu. “Improv opens up the possibility to just let go. When I go up to perform, I just forget about fears, I forget about caring what people think, I just become me. This isn’t really a club, it’s probably more like an AA meeting where we just take turns to let go of everything without being judged.”
Improvisation may sound like a light subject – its only purpose to make funny jokes and banters on stage – but to the members, it is a serious matter, a craft that requires countless hours of practice and refinement.
The club currently has about six regular members that show up. However, Bonderoff hopes the numbers go up. “My goal is to have about 10 regulars – people serious about improv that come to every rehearsal – to perform at gigs,” he said.
The club meets every Monday and Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m. at the Staller Center lobby. They are open to anyone, with or without acting experience, who is interested in learning about improvisation and having a good time acting. “We aim to train and refine students in the art of improvisation, whether it be recreational, comedic, dramatic, or structured,” said Bonderoff.
Their focus right now is to get a set group of people to do improvisation sketches with because to be able to do quality performances, each and every one in the group has to be familiar with each other and be able to read each other. They have to be able to instantly know whether he or she is feeling confident, knows what to do next, or is lost and needs someone else to take over. The chemistry between the actors and the bond within the group is essential to bring out the best in everyone’s performance and deliver solid, quality sketches. It’s only week five and the club is meeting its aspirations one step at a time.