Review: Needs Improvment Showcase and BETCo’s Other Things



Daisy Elliot, Staff Writer

The Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium filled with students and eager parents on Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m., all gathered to watch the first Needs Improvment and BETCo performance of the year.

The crowd chuckled, gasped, and applauded throughout Needs Improvment’s entire performance.

BETCo (Brookline Educational Theater Company) attempted to convey in their performance the theme of people versus others. Their message is very appropriate given the results and a divided country after the recent election.

Needs Improvement, the school’s improv troupe, first took the stage.They played different games in order to create short scenes.

A highlight of the Needs Improvment performance was the interaction with the audience. For every game, Mark VanDerzee, who is the BETCo and Needs Improvment teacher, asked the audience for suggestions of a topic for a scene. The group had no prior knowledge of what the scene was going to be about.

One of the most memorable scenes Needs Improvment performed was when the audience was asked to suggest “a favorite sweet treat.” Voices yelled out suggesting chocolate, among other yummy foods. However, VanDerzee decided to go with “nerds.” This game began with one actor who gave a minute monologue. Junior Ceci Cipullo took the stage with confidence. She improved off the word “nerds,” portraying a student nerd running for student legislature. She changed her voice, making it sound small and squeaky. The audience laughed and cheered.

Another memorable moment was when Needs Improvment attempted to do an activity they had never done before in class. VanDerzee explained that he always tries to incorporate something the students have never done in class to challenge them and keep it exciting for audience members. Junior Max Murphy and senior Miki Lazowski stepped up. The game was called “first line, last line.” Murphy was given a line that had to be said first. Lazowski was given the line that had to be said last. However, the most interesting part of the scene was that neither actor knew the other’s line. The audience shouted out suggestions for the first line. VanDerzee decided on “Why did you eat my ice cream?” The scene took a humorous turn as both impersonated small children. The scene continued to progress as a sibling rivalry of stealing ice cream, until Lazowski beautifully connected her line to the scene. She brought up the fact that both siblings shared a room. “I don’t want to sleep on the top bunk anymore.” Her final line was: “The top bunk is wet.” The room filled with laughter and loud clapping.

Following, the Needs Improvment show, it was time for BETCo to come on stage. BETCo, since it is not an improv group, had a much more structured sequence.

VanDerzee explained that BETco took a common theme and message for this performance of “People versus other things.” Each scene belonged to a different category: Mainstream versus Alternative, Upper Class versus Lower Class, Liberal versus Conservative and Woman versus Man. Each short scene depicted a message about one of these crucial issues in the high school and the country.

Junior Hewitt Langton, junior Simon Ivcevic, and senior Kayla McKeon play a couple and a therapist in marriage counseling during BETCo's Other Things. DAISY ELLIOT/SAGAMORE STAFF
Junior Hewitt Langton, junior Simon Ivcevic, and senior Kayla McKeon play a couple and a therapist in marriage counseling during BETCo’s Other Things. DAISY ELLIOT/SAGAMORE STAFF

One of the most interesting scenes in the Mainstream vs. Alternative category was “SWShakespeare.” The scene included two actors playing School Within a School students, Xena, played by junior Shalinee Maitra, and Moo, played by junior Simon Ivcevic. A mainstream student named Jane, played by junior Dania Bogdanovic, approached them as they spoke in Shakespearean language. Jane was trying to make friendly conversation with Moo and Xena, but they were rather uninterested and continued their Shakespearean dialogue. This scene spoke to the recent controversy between SWS and mainstream students. This scene also spoke to BETCo’s main theme of people versus other things and how this relates to today. The scene’s message could correlate with a common message in the recent 2016 election. Many of Trump’s voters felt as though they were inferior to Clinton voters, creating anger amongst his voters. BETCo did a great job of making parallels like this very easy to see.

Another highlight was a scene called “Manhater.” The scene tackled the issue of Woman versus Man. Central actors in this skit were Candidate played by Simon Ivcevic and Jen played by senior Haley Barnes. The scene was based on an incident that took place at the high school in late September when a student ripped off his shirt during a student government speech. This incident caused controversy as female students spoke up and said they would not have the right to do this. This skit poked fun of this incident, but also emphasized that sexism is still an issue in the high school and the country.

Seeing this show was a Friday night well spent. Needs Improvment provided laughter and excitement as they performed. BETCo brilliantly incorporated real life issues into their scenes.

The next Needs Improvment show is Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium. Go for a night of laughter, and be ready to share funny ideas for the actors to create scenes out of.