Backwards Thinkers Society and RunnerUp Comedy Troupe present “Let’s Improv!”

UW-Eau Claire and Winona State improv comedy troupes worked together to put on a collaborative production

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Photo by Gabbie Henn

Last Saturday’s show at the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild highlighted the improvisational abilities of both groups of performers.

Last Saturday night, audience members listened to a ballad about a hot grandpa and learned more about the history of a village populated by screaming goats. Although this may sound like a surreal dream, it was actually a production entitled “Let’s Improv!” featuring The Backwards Thinkers Society (BTS), UW-Eau Claire’s improvisational comedy troupe.

Taking place at the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild on Grand Avenue, the show was a combined effort between BTS and the visiting RunnerUp Comedy Troupe from Winona State University.

Improv is a unique form of comedy in which there are no scripts and the preparation is minimal. Performers interact with the audience and fellow comedians to generate content on the spot.

The idea for “Let’s Improv!” came when RunnerUp reached out to BTS last summer, Lauren Rosemurgy, a second-year English education student and president of BTS, said.

“RunnerUp initially contacted us wanting to do a workshop … we were able to get a show on the books and planned for it during fall semester,” Rosemurgy said.

The show was divided into three parts, with RunnerUp and BTS each performing an act and culminating in a collaborative act between the two troupes. The acts often consisted of games that ranged from the well-known “Dating Game” to a less common activity called “Touch Buddies,” in which two performers with a specific relationship assigned by the audience could only speak when physically touching one another.

In nearly all of the games, there was a high level of communication with the audience as the cast asked spectators to designate certain quirks to characters or generate questions that the performers must answer.

Although the content was completely improvised, the two troupes prepared for the show by playing games similar to the ones they’d be performing on stage, Rosemurgy said.

“We wanted to get a feel for how the games worked and focus on the relationships and actions between (performers),” Rosemurgy said. “Both troupes performed different games so we could see new things we wanted to try for the show.”

Although Aaron Tenner, a first-year chemistry education student, had seen BTS perform in the Cabin during fall semester, this was his first time watching the troupe perform off campus.

“I thought it’d be a really fun time … I liked how they interacted with the other group; they just did really well,” Tenner said.

BTS performs every other Thursday at the Cabin, and will also be putting on another paid show at the East Bay Lodge in Holcomb, Wisconsin on March 24.

Since its foundation in 2010, BTS has grown in size and has become more active performing within the community, said Frank Rineck, a second-year English education student and the group’s vice president.

“Last year we started to branch out into the community, and it really paid off,” Rineck said. “We have people from all different backgrounds, and that shows in our comedy.”

Even though it was their first time collaborating with another group, both BTS and RunnerUp were able to benefit from the experience, Rosemurgy said.

“It was challenging working with a new group and getting comfortable, but the most important thing is that we shouldn’t be intimidated … we all love what we do,” Rosemurgy said.