The Ladysmith Secondary School improv program has planned two weeks of shows for the community.
Students from Grade 8 to Grade 12 will take part in performances. The improv teams have been rehearsing since the beginning of the school year. These shows have taken place annually in Ladysmith over the years, and have become an event that many look forward to.
“They’ve become one our most sought after tickets in town,” LSS drama teacher William Taylor said. “The two weekends of shows — we rarely have empty seats at them.”
Taylor said the group was started 22 years ago. The group started by participating in the Canadian Improv Games (CIG) in Vancouver. They still compete at CIG, however the group started integrating local shows early on. The local show run has helped LSS students succeed at the games.
“Last year we had quite a few teams in at the games, and one of our teams came top six in Canada for the wildcard competition,” Taylor said.
The program took 62 kids to Thetis Island for a weekend improv camp in early November. That trip is an annual retreat for the improv program that features workshops with teachers, and improv alumni.
Something new this year is that for the very first time, the improv group has been invited to perform on Penelakut Island.
“November 29 we’re going over,” Taylor said. “One of our senior improvisors has family that lives on Penelakut. She expressed her wish that we would go, and we made a connection through our elder, Mandy Jones, who works at our school, and she was able to contact the school and make it happen.”
Taylor said that the students form close bonds through improv. And it’s not just Taylor who says so, the students do as well.
Twin sisters Ally and Michaela Segreto are Grade 11 students at LSS, and have been involved in the improv program since Grade 8. They grew up watching the LSS improv program — two of their cousins were involved in the program. For Ally, she knew she wanted to join the improv program right away.
“It’s been such a great growth experience. When I started out in Grade 8 I was a bit shy on stage, I wasn’t exactly sure of myself, and now I’m so much more confident on stage, and in real life. There are no downsides to improv at all,” Ally said.
Ally said the skills she’s learned from improv are transferable to situations like job interviews, and communicating with others. It’s also taught her how to solve problems and think on the fly.
For Michaela, the decision to join the improv program wasn’t as clear.
“I was leery to join improv at first because I’m a bit more shy than my sister,” Michaela said. “But I decided why not try it, because it’s such a welcoming, friendly environment… I tried it out and the first day I loved it, and here we are.”
Michaela said she’s much less shy now than she was before joining the improv program.
Ally and Michaela often talk about improv structures together, and have even performed side-by-side at the Upper Island Music Festival.
Neither Michaela or Ally plan to pursue a career in acting or theatre, however they are grateful for everything they’ve learned through improv, and look forward to being in the program again next year.
A student who won’t be in the program next year is Aedan Geiger. Geiger is a Grade 12 student at LSS, and has taken on a leadership role in the improv program for his graduating year. He is one of the students responsible for setting up improv structures, and being proactive in the design of performances.
Improv is something Geiger has loved since Grade 7.
“I am an attention hog, so I really love the performance aspect of it,” Geiger joked. “It’s really open — that’s what is nice about it. I often feel like when we’re in classes and whatnot, we have to put up a front for everyone to sit in and not be judged. With improv the goal is to be as whacky as you can be, so it’s a lot more of an accepting environment I think.”
Geiger said that his time in improv has helped him develop valuable relationships that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. With graduation on the horizon, Geiger is hoping to make the most of his final year in the improv program.
“I’m not normally someone to notice things like that… I don’t really realize it’s done until afterwards. This year it’s hitting a little harder because I’m realizing it’s my last year to perform as a student in the improv group,” Geiger said.
When asked if he would come back to the camps as an alumni, Geiger said ‘definitely’.
This year’s show run will take place over two weekends. The first run of shows is November 14, 15, 16. The second run is November 21, 22, 23. Tickets are available at Salamander Books and the LSS box office — $12 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Doors open at 6:30 pm, and the show starts at 7:00 pm All tickets include coffee and pie.