“Needs Improvment Battle’s” audience engagement makes for unique experience



Junior Agnes Shales and alum Freddy Sell ’20 play “Hot Spot,” a fast-paced game where pairs of actors swap between several improvised scenes multiple times per minute.

The massive lights of the Robert-Dubbs auditorium shone down on the audience, and I sat there waiting for them to dim and for silence to settle upon the audience members of the auditorium. But, to my delightful surprise, the lights stayed on and the audience stayed loud. This show would clearly be something different.

The annual “Needs Improvment Battle” took place on Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert-Dubbs Auditorium. The event is a performance-meets-competition between the high school’s current improv class, “Needs Improvment,” and alumni who were previously students in the class. The following two hours were full of laughter and memorable events, but what made this experience truly phenomenal was the audience’s ability to participate and impact the show.

The show opened with a warm-up event, in which each group had to improvise a scene based on a specific improv game, a location chosen by the audience. The “Old Skool” team, as the alumni called themselves, put on a show about two pumpkin zombies who fell in love. Although it was quite absurd, it was also very creative and cute, and it made for a fun introduction to the team. The audience was also incredibly engaged, laughing non-stop throughout the entire bit.

After they were finished, “New School,” the current students’ team, took the stage and improvised their own hilarious dream sequence. The scene began with an interview and then continued with a chaotic series of events that somehow connected back to quotes from the interview.

Once both groups finished their warm-up, they competed in six different activities judged on four different criteria: storytelling, following the rules of the game, overall entertainment and “x-factor.” The last two, in particular, made the show abundantly more enjoyable: the “overall entertainment” category was completely based on the audience’s reaction, so we, once again, got a chance to influence the experience by cheering louder for the group we wanted to win.
Additionally, the “x-factor” category was particularly hilarious since its points could be awarded for almost anything, with teams earning them for all categories from clothing choice to the dedication of the performer to fall down repeatedly (to stay true to his “klutzy” character).

The performance continued with games such as “World’s Worst,” where actors pretended to be the world’s worst at a profession of the audience’s choosing, and “Numbers,” a game where all of the actors only got a specific number of lines to work with every time they spoke.

The game “First and Last Line” was especially fun, since the audience had a huge part in shaping the way it went. Before the show, audience members had written down suggestions, and the actors used some of those suggestions as to lines that had to serve as the opening and closing lines to a scene they improvised based on them.

Small bits of audience participation like this throughout the night not only made the improv seem more authentic, but it also made the show feel like a once-in-a-lifetime experience as everything in the show was centered around ideas people came up with that night.

Overall, the show was an amazing experience, filled with lots of laughs and creative ideas that we in the audience got to feel like we were a part of.