A few years ago, Jonathan Pitts was at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival and noticed how cool some students looked in their all-state theater jackets. Pitts, the executive director of Chicago Improv Festival Productions, was teaching improvisation, an in-the-moment style of performance, and he decided there should be an improv team at the festival.
The festival committee agreed. Pitts put the team together as part of Chicago Improv Festival's educational outreach.
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"We feel like this is a way to reach out to younger improvisers," Pitts said.
The 13-member Illinois High School All-State Improv Team, the sixth of its kind, will perform three to five shows this year, including one at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at the Improv Playhouse, 735 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Libertyville.
Members from the suburbs include: Allen Fearing, Elk Grove High School; Maria Ghant, Conant High School in Hoffman Estates; Spencer Gibson, Rolling Meadows High School; Tommy McCarty, Bartlett High School; Alex Newkirk, Hinsdale Central High School; and Zach Olafson, Dundee-Crown High School.
Pitts said 120 students auditioned for the troupe at January's Illinois High School Theatre Festival. The audition process consisted of warm-ups, physical exercises, characterization exercises and improv games. The goal is to see what each student can imagine and perform, as well as judging teamwork and confidence. Thirty students were called back for another round of improv games, similar to those on "Whose Line is it Anyway?," the improv comedy game show that ran from 1998 to 2006 with host Drew Carey. The improv team feeds off audience participation for their short-form comedy.
Once the team is selected, members rehearse for several hours before performing at the theater festival.
"They have a blast," Pitts said.
Tickets for the family-friendly show are $10, $7 for students. Improv Playhouse's adult team, T-Funts, will be performing from 9 to 10 p.m., and tickets for both shows are $15, $10 for students.