High school alumni return for an improv battle with current students


Lilia Burtonpatel

Needs Improvment entertains audience members with a slew of competitive yet hilarious performances.

Two teams face each other from their seats on the Auditorium stage, waiting for the chance to get the socially-distanced crowd to laugh with spot-on comedy. Both sides give performances that range from break dancing to insane astronauts to dramatic adoptions of human dogs. This was the Old School vs New School (AKA alumni vs current students) Needs Improvment battle, and it was definitely not in need of improvement.

The improv battle was performed to a live audience in the auditorium on May 28. The Old School team was composed of all alumni: 13 in-person and five online who joined through Zoom and were broadcasted with a projector. The Old School team varied greatly in graduation year: while some were more recent alums, a few, like one student, returned to the high school for the first time since 2006. The New School team was made up of 11 current students in the BHS Needs Improvment Class, an advanced drama class that requires audition.

The show consisted of multiple activities, many of which required audience participation. This included games such as “World’s Worst,” where an audience member would blurt out a random category (such as gas stations), and a line of the performers on stage would have to come up with the world’s worst example of that category, in this case, a gas station. Plots created during these activities could get as complex as multi-character stories or short and ridiculous ones. Whatever the case, the crowd was laughing at every single one of the acts.

The show was a mix of competition and pure entertainment, as the two teams were judged on all of their performances and the points were put to a final tally and winner by the end.

Both teams had insane passion and talent, even if the New School team had a few moments early on where they fell to the age-old improv cringe of looking around with no idea what to say. The Old School had some excellent performers, who shifted their voices, stances and general character to the situation with grace. The New School wasn’t bad either, as they picked up their pace later and ran off with some hilariously creative ideas like an obnoxiously smart astronaut who wouldn’t shut up about the philosophy of his occupation.

But the teams weren’t lacking direction, as they were being judged on four factors from six student judges and two drama teachers on story-telling, sticking to the rules presented to them, overall entertainment, and the random X-Factor. The randomness came from drama teachers Elena Maimonis and Mary Mastandrea randomly docking points for anything they saw fit. The voting and competition took a back seat though; it was more so a framework for the performers, who were the focus of the various performances.

Safety was at an all-time high. I had to give Covid-19 information such as if I had symptoms and my phone number to even make it to the doors of the auditorium. You had to sit two seats away from non-family and friends and not directly behind or in front of them. The turnout was still great, with more than 50 people in the seats, laughing and cheering at the antics on stage.

In the end, the New School won by a few points, but both sides gave an amazing performance. The joy in the spaced-out crowd was evident, along with the talent and vigor of both the teams. I became attached to characters and scenes that began and ended in minutes, and that’s why I loved this show so much. It was incredible to see alums and current students just having fun and making the audience laugh together in person for the first time in a long while.