Monday, May 08, 2006

Saying Goodbye


Student Valley Productions (SVP) is the UMass home for comedy performance. Responsible for short-form improv group Mission: IMPROVable, long-form improv group IWA: Improv With Attitude, and sketch comedy group Sketch-22, SVP presents a new comedy show at least once a week, usually twice.

On Saturday night, M:I bid farewell to Scott Braidman, Calla Cofield, Nate Crawford, James Crosby, and Tyler Wolff-Ormes. Scott and Nate had been in the troupe for their full four years of college, James and Tyler for two and a half years, and Calla for two. It was an amazing, energetic, and emotional show.

On Friday, IWA said goodbye to Laura Clark, Nate Crawford (he was in both troupes), Josh Michel, Conor Shanahan, and myself. Each departing member is allowed "Two Minutes" to say goodbye however they wish. The time period is more symbolic than an actual strict 120 seconds. Whatever time is needed for the proper goodbye is granted, no questions asked.


(click images to enlarge)


Not taking anything away from the four other amazing improvisers that departed, but the night was especially emotional for me. Out of the five people that were a part of the founding of IWA, I was the only one that remained, and although it may seem self-centered, I really saw the troupe as a project of mine to resurrect quality long-form improv at UMass. I can confidently say the project was a success, and I have the utmost confidence in those carrying on the tradition throughout the next several years. Benny Oyama, the troupe's new director, has been a good friend of mine for over seven years. Lisa Repetti, the new producer, and Brennan Clark, the new "Member-at-Large," were accepted into IWA during its first round of auditions, and I truly saw them as "the future," even back then. The fact that it's truly happening that way couldn't make me more proud of these wonderful, fantastic individuals.

The show went like this:
  • Slide Show of Josh & Laura
  • Josh & Laura Duo Improv Set
  • "Two Minutes" with Laura Clark -- she chose to administer a hot dog eating contest while singing Ave Maria
  • Brief Intermission #1
  • Slide Show of Conor Shanahan
  • Conor and Team Improv Set -- performed with IWA members who were not departing
  • "Two Minutes" with Conor Shanahan -- three toasts, each with a full glass of Guinness, each to a different letter in I.W.A. representing something different and special
  • Brief Intermission #2
  • Slide Show of Nate & Zach
  • "Two Minutes" with Nate Crawford -- Human Pyramid featuring the members of IWA
  • Nate & Zach Improv Set
  • "Two Minutes" with Zach Linder
  • "Two Minutes" with Josh Michel -- a speech that made myself and several others extraordinarily uncomfortable
I started out my "Two Minutes" by giving a speech while slowly removing my clothes as a mat was rolled out behind me and Europe's "The Final Countdown" played in the background. I explained that since improv was a collaborative art, I needed some help from my friends. I introduced Conor and Brennan by some goofy character names to do play-by-play commentary. I had told them before-hand that I was going to bring them up on stage, but they had no idea what they were going to do. I brought out Nate as referee Michael Willingham in a zebra-striped referee shirt, and my friend Benny as the evil Takahito Shukamote from Japan wearing a black speedo. I was wearing a blue speedo. We grappled, he choked me out, I hit him with a low blow as he was taunting the audience. Takahito got me in an arm lock and ankle lock. I hit the Stone Cold Stunner, and went for the People's Elbow, but he rolled out of the way at the last second. He got me in a sleeper hold, but I was able to maintain energy before my arm fell for the third time. The crowd cheered through another sequence of moves. One huge reversal and bodyslam later, I pinned Takahito for the three-count. The referee presented me with the championship belt, and I put on a t-shirt that told people where I was going -- "New York Fuckin' City," and Sinatra's "New York, New York" played as I gave a brief heartfelt speech about how much the troupe has meant to me, and how each and every one of my fellow improvisers makes me feel like a champion every night. I ended by hugging each and every person sitting in the audience.

Full Flickr photoset of the weekend's shows is here. Photoset of my performance with Nate and my "Two Minutes" is here.


Goodbye, Improv With Attitude. Goodbye, Student Valley Productions. Thank you for the best three years of my life.

2 Comments:

At 5/13/2006 8:42 PM, Anonymous Josh said...

I'm sorry if your lasting impression from my speech was that it made you and others extraordinarily uncomfortable. It was, in part, the point to shake things up, but afterwards I heard nothing but positive feedback.

Of course, I got a lot of positive feedback as a freshman too.

Good luck in the next step Zach.

 
At 5/18/2006 1:48 AM, Anonymous jack said...

this blog rules, your last act with IWA was stunning. I think it's a good group, and you should be proud of the work it does, you are one of it's dad's. DADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

 

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