Trap Door Improv lives in the moment

Trap Door Improv members (from left to right) Josh Shiefer, Aaron Patrick, Jackie Voice, Rebekah Trombley, Lindsay Chestnut and Jenny Kate Wright pose for a photo during rehearsal. (Katy Kildee | GCmag)

If laughter is the best medicine, then the members of Trap Door Improv must never have to see a doctor. The group of 10, operating through the University Theatre, specializes in heat of the moment, genuine, unscripted comedy.  Each member has been with the troupe for differing lengths of time yet the group’s bond on and off stage is undeniable.

However, Trap Door Improv has not always been the group that preforms today. The troupe was founded by Cameron Dodge-White, Matt Hays and Greg Ott and was originally titled “Three Dull Guys.”  As the trio grew in popularity and more people joined, they renamed and were known as “Saturday Night Improv” from 2010-2011.

The troupe landed on their current name, Trap Door Improv, because of a trap door that was now available on stage as a prop. Performing from Moore Hall’s The Platform, the group’s popularity has grown largely and the members are now able to perform for other group audiences for a price. This is a huge step since the university does not provide the troupe with any funding.

Jackson senior and Trap Door co-leader Rebekah Trombley started an improv club in high school with her good friend and fell in love. She likes that improv lets a person let loose and be silly; she also loves the unpredictability of shows and rehearsals.

“The audience makes the show too,” Trombley said. “You have to know what the audience is into; know what’s going on in the world.  They connect with it.”

However, improv is not solely fueled by audience participation and tight troupe bonds. According to Dewitt junior Lindsay Chestnut, the quick-thinking skill set of a master improv comedian can be applied to real experiences like interview and date scenarios.

“You sit there and focus, think about people you’re going to be with, how they will think, get in a mode you can listen and take on what their saying, and then give them something new to chew on as well,” Chestnut said.

Chestnut was first introduced to improv by her high school drama teacher. However, it wasn’t until one of her first college classes that a love for improv was sparked. With much encouragement from classmates, she tried out for Trap Door and quickly became an understudy.

“It’s my favorite part of the day,” Chestnut said. “It’s not rehearsal. I get to hang out with 10 of my best friends and laugh through it.”

It is a good thing they enjoy rehearsal, because they are required to perform weekly and eventually daily when the rehearsal schedule expands during the week of a show.

A typical rehearsal consists of playing each game the troupe might preform during a show. After each run through, there is discussion about how things went and what could be done differently or better.

Rehearsals done the week of the show are more formatted and a set list is composed. Each rehearsal ensures that the set list can be performed from memory and the repetitive rehearsals allow for the light technicians to plan their contributions and time them accordingly.

Before beginning any scene, members of Trap Door ask the audience for different suggestions to base the scene on. One scene might ask for the audience to shout out places for the actors to set the scene and the next may ask the audience to interrupt when a cast member gets the scene wrong.

Trap Door member Aaron Patrick is a fifth-year senior from Goodrich who just recently joined Trap Door. A late-bloomer to the comedy scene, Patrick has been acting and has left traces of the shy boy he references in the dust.

“I know if I am having a bad day, at least I get to go to improv and even if we don’t have Improv I know anybody here I can call up and they can listen to me bitch or whatever,” Patrick said of the troupe’s bond. “It’s more than just a group.”