Chicago is known as the home of prominent improvisational comedy teams such as Second City and the ComedySportz Theatre, and Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy can lay claim to one of its own.
PMSA has had an improv team since 2008, when Ms. Mary Scherer-Emunds, a fine arts teacher at PMSA, wanted to bring comedy improv to the school for another drama option besides the spring play. Not having much improvisational comedy experience herself, she contacted ComedySportz Theatre in Chicago, which she learned had a student program called the "High School League."
"They sent trainers out to us several times a year, and we attended events at ComedySportz several times a year," Ms. Scherer-Emunds said. "We competed in the High School League tournament several times against teams from schools like John Hersey High School and Loyola Academy, and we brought home the championship trophy twice."
PMSA’s program eventually struck out on its own, and now performs during PMSA’s open houses for prospective students and their parents in the fall, and in two shows in November. She said that the fun of doing comedy improv is an attraction for the students.
"It’s just fun," Ms. Scherer-Emunds said. "I think the kids also like that it’s very student-centered. I think that a lot of learning occurs among all this fun: listening, working together, thinking on their feet, and problem-solving, as well as basic performance skills."
At the team’s November shows, 19 students divided into two teams, "competing" against each other in a series of improv skits. They included New Choice, where they would be acting out a scene, and at different times, they would have to redo a line or action differently upon command; Book on Head, where the players have to restart the scene if one of the players who has a book on their head drops it; and Four Corners, where four players rotate between four scenes at different intervals.
The randomness of improv appeals to students.
"It’s something different," said Rachael Calcote, a PMSA sophomore. "It’s always something new every day."
Oscar Sanchez, a PMSA sophomore, said that he likes how improv is "freely flowing."
"You can express yourself on the stage," he said. "It’s a lot more fun than anything else."
Ms. Scherer-Emunds said that the team hopes to perform in the community in the spring.
For a video of highlights from the PMSA improv team's November performance, please click here
For photos from their performance, please click here