News Blog for Seattle's University District Neighborhood


Sitcoms come to the local stage

March 5th, 2012 · No Comments

By John Jinneman
UW News Lab

“We’ll even throw in six luxury coat hangers…you can hang your coat while you’re still wearing it!”

This is just a taste of the creativity of Carl Powers and others from The Collective during rehearsal for their improvisational sitcom “Just Friends” next week.

“Compared to a lot of other improv troupes, we do tend to be a little bit more ‘out there,’” Will Li, a senior member of the cast, said. “The themes are a little bit more sci-fi, fantasy, magic and crazy sort of stuff.”

The Collective is a registered student organization started in 1999 to give students an opportunity to perform improvisational theater. Shows vary from short-form improvisational comedy to long-form shows based on a particular theme.

“I see long-form as an improvised play, in the sense that it is easier to tech for and [there are] more things to watch out for,” Paul Lau, one of The Collective’s technicians, said.

Added Li: “Usually we have a format that we follow, that has a certain structure, then the structure is populated by audience suggestions.”

Powers specified his favorite long-form style as La Ronde because it tasks the actor with playing the same character even scenes are changed at random. “It is a lot harder than other long-forms, just ‘cause everything you do you have to justify it as, ‘what will this person do in this situation,’” Powers said.

To prepare for such performances, two rehearsals are held every week. During these, the performers play some games to relax before practicing for the show.

One of the games is zip-zap-zop, where the object is to be the last one standing. To achieve this goal, one person starts the game by saying “zip” and clapping to the left, “zap” and clapping to the right, or “zop” and clapping to a person directly across from him or her. If someone messes up the direction of the clap with the wrong word or says “zop” after someone else, then he or she is out for the round.

After everyone is relaxed, practice for the show can begin. Every show is a new experience, especially when The Collective puts on original performances like the upcoming sitcom show.

The show will have two episodes with interludes of commercials to capture the essence of a TV broadcast. Keeping with improv traditions, suggestions from the audience will determine the content of the advertisements.

The commercials will cover everything from fake product placements to political support and attack ads for famous people or characters. All political ads are for fun, and will not involve any current politicians running for office.

The name of each episode will be based on a song title, which will have an influence on the story.

Before every event, each member has his or her own ritual for getting ready.

“We usually [take] 15 to 30 minutes warming up, and usually we practice some of the games if we are performing short-form games,” Li said.

Kayla Hornbrook, another member of The Collective, said she tries to keep busy before performances so she doesn’t over think and become nervous. “I actually try to schedule work before shows. … If not that I’ll try to hang out with friends,” Hornbrook said.

Collective members go into every show knowing little of how the characters will develop.

“I don’t usually try to pre-think of characters or do anything,” Hornbrook said. “It’s just, what do I need to do right now, do I need to be crazy? Got it, done.”

The Collective’s next shows will take place at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13 and Wednesday, March 14 at Wing-It Productions, 5510 University Way NE. Tickets are $5 at the door.


(JOHN JINNEMAN is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News