“Let’s do a life scene, nothing fantastical, no wizards. Your suggestion is a sibling getting married,” says improvisation coach Tim Mikula, seated on the bleachers in Lloydminster Comprehensive High School (LCHS)‘s Black Box Theatre.
Members of the LCHS Improv Club Entertainers (LICE) huddle briefly to discuss the scene. While acting it out, Mikula, a guest coach and professional improviser from Edmonton, takes notes on his clipboard. When the actors finish he gives his feedback.
“Honestly, that’s the best one I’ve seen so far. I could tell there were moments of seriousness and there were moments of joking,” he said. “Improv is not a game of mistakes because there are no mistakes. You can’t go off script because there is no script. Improv is the most fun when stuff does wrong and you work with that.”
LICE are three hours into a six-hour practice for the regional portion of the Canadian Improv Games (CIG) taking place from Feb. 12 to 15. On Feb. 12, eight members LICE will be heading to Edmonton to compete against 21 other schools at the CIG. The winner gets to travel to Ottawa to represent Alberta in the national competition.
This is the second time that a team from LCHS is participating competition. Last year, they finished tied for 12th out of 22 schools competing. Drama teacher and LICE coach Simon Stang says placing in the middle of the pack was not bad, considering that LICE was only three years old and were new to the games.
“Last year, was a really good experience just because it was our very first time. Some of the schools that have been going to this have been competing at the CIG for years and years. Lloyd hasn’t ever been a part of that whole circle,” Stang said. “(We) learned a lot. We did a lot better than we thought we were going to because we had never tried this different form of improv.”
Mikula is a member of the Rapid Fire Theatre improv company, which is hosting CIG. The theatre sends a member to each competing team to bring them up to speed on the specific rules and events and judging criteria at the Games. Mikula worked with LICE last year in preparation of CIG. He says they have a strong ensemble cast, and aren’t just relying on a single strong player.
“I think they’ll do really well. They’re great. They have a lot of playful energy and it’s clear that they’re having fun and that’s the biggest thing,” Mikula said. “You can tell when people are having fun when they’re bouncing ideas off of each other and they’re building and collaborating and there’s a ton of that with this team.”
Grade 12 student Michael Saunders is one of the six returning LICE members who competed at CIG last year. He said it was a great opportunity to meet and learn from other improvisers.
“It was crazy, like nothing I’ve even seen before,” he said. “It’s always intimidating to be judged, but it makes you a better improver. So, that’s what I could tell these new guys, ‘Judgement is just key to getting better, so don’t be scared about going up there and doing your thing.’‘
Stang says over the last three years LICE has grown from only six members to around 20. Now students have to audition to join the team. He says LICE has come a long way since last year, and his goal for this year is to finish in the top five at CIG, qualifying for the regional finals.
“Our team dynamic has improved. Last year a lot of the kids were brand new to improv, brand new to improv games. Now we’ve had a whole year of working together. We’re a way more cohesive group,” he said. “We want to be as successful as we can technically, but this experience is just about (the students) being able to connect with other like-minded individuals.”