In my high school career, there’s been one extracurricular activity that has stood out from the rest because of its effect on me: improv. I joined an improv club my freshman year with a group of my peers and became quickly enamored with this art form. Since then we’ve replaced the Underclassmen Show with “Freeplay: A Night of Improv Comedy.” Every year I look forward to working with my fellow improvisors because of the special unity we share. We’ve worked on our ensemble these past two years and I am beginning to realize how big of an impact a supportive group of friends can have on our performance.
If you google “Freeplay Wilton,” you’ll find that one of the first pictures is of a cast of thirtysomething kids all crowding around and hugging our director, Mrs. DeLude-Grillo. It would be an understatement to just say that we are thankful for all that she does: for three years, she has worked tirelessly to showcase all of our talents. I’ve found that all of the lessons I’ve learned in improv have helped me develop my acting skills in the fall and spring shows. But the real reason why this artform has such a tremendous influence on me is its applications offstage. We are told to listen and react to others’ initiations, to take what our scene partner gives us and incorporate it into the characters and their interactions, thus building a foundation for an interesting scene. In improv, the information given to us by our scene partners about their character or plot are called gifts, and we are taught in the beginning there are no bad gifts, that every suggestion can be used. This helps us become more trusting of our scene partners because we take care of each other.
What’s interesting is that when you treat the rules of improvisation like a philosophy by which you live, you become a more confident and outgoing person. Every year there are new cast members in the show who develop as improvisors and individuals. I see the kids at the beginning of rehearsals who were the most timid become some of the biggest personalities onstage because they learn to trust themselves and the people around them.
With the large number of seniors at Wilton High School getting into colleges this time of year, it’s important for those who know where they’re headed next year to plan ahead. Like the next scene in Freeplay, next year is a fresh start. None of us know what to expect. You get to choose to be whatever or whoever you want to be. And it’s times like these that seniors are more stressed than ever because they know that come September, they won’t have the same friend group that they’re comfortable with. It’s important to keep an open mind, and whether that means trying something you never thought you would, so be it. Try listening to the gifts and opportunities your new peers give you, and you’re bound to find your place. Take it from an improvisor: be confident, make a bold choice, and you’ll bring down the house in no time.