The newly formed student group Unscripted Playhouse of Stanford (UPS) allows Stanford students to participate in improvisational theatre, or “improv,” without auditioning.
Founded by Eddie Wang ’18, Olivia Popp ’20 and Diego Dew ’20, UPS is the creators’ solution to a perceived lack of improv and comedy opportunities on campus. After taking classes at Stanford like TAPS 103: “Beginning Improvising” and participating in programs like ITALIC, the students began searching for more opportunities to perform improv.
“We wanted to expand opportunities for people like us who wanted to do improv but weren’t able to continue doing it after running out of classes to take,” Wang said, after noting the brevity of the TAPS improv sequence. “In order to do that, we decided to model our group closely after improv theaters in the real world.”
By dividing their activities into two main formats — small, time-intensive performance teams and open, commitment-free public workshops — the students hope to encourage a wide range of students to join the group. For students who are serious about improv, the group will create small teams that meet independently from the workshops to practice and eventually put on a final performance together.
“By having teams that potentially focus on different areas of improv but who still practice together, we are able to create a broad, inclusive and dynamic assortment of people who are able to work on what they’re most passionate about,” Dew said.
For those just looking to try improv, UPS will host weekly workshops on Sundays at Roble Arts Gym from 4 to 6 p.m. The workshops will include improv lessons and games that will give students the opportunity to be on stage and work on their jokes.
“The workshop is an educational experience for people who are new to improv and introduces them to the medium itself,” said Popp, who is also a Daily staffer in the Arts & Life section. “In workshops, we’re playing more with short-form games and working to to get people open to the spontaneity of improv as a whole.”
Unlike the Stanford Improvisors (SImps), a small team of improvisational actors on campus with an audition process for membership, UPS aims to facilitate an inclusive environment where anyone can participate in improv, whether they choose to just attend workshops and not formally perform, or be on a more dedicated team.
“SImps is really awesome, but it can’t have that many people — otherwise it’d be hard for them to run,” said Wang.
However, the groups are seeking to work together in the future.
“We’d love to have collaboration between the two groups,” Popp added. “We have a lot of really talented SImps players who could also do projects that we work on.”
When asked if they had any advice for those afraid to participate in theater and improv, the students reassured students that UPS hopes to create a fun and pressure-free environment.
“This may sound cheesy, but it’s not the people who aren’t afraid who are brave but rather those who recognize their fear, face it and overcome it,” Wang said. “I was scared at first, but then I realized that it was pretty fun when I got there [on stage].”
Most of all, the group hopes to teach students to step out of their comfort zone and garner ideas from those around them.
“The whole idea behind improv is ‘yes, and,’ which is the idea of saying yes to something and building upon it,” Dew said. “It’s like laying bricks before you even know what kind of building you’re making. You just have to dive right into it.”
“It’s not about being funny or clever; it’s about listening, staying present and being brave enough to make mistakes,” he added. “And bonus, you get to laugh at yourself while doing it.”
Contact Felicia Hou at fhou ‘at’ stanford.edu.