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Eastern Introduces New Improv Club to the Campus

STEFFENS: Welcome to Great Arts at Eastern. I’m David Steffens, Dean of the College of Fine Arts. Today we introduce a new club, a theater improvisation club, and I'm joined today by Leonard Madrid, associate professor of theatre, and two students involved in this club. Jay and Chloe, Leonard, welcome.

MADRID: Hi.

STEFFENS: Why start an improvisation club? What? What's the inspiration?

MADRID: Especially in theater, improvisation is really important, and it’s becoming even more important in theatre and film. Improv is used to create sketch comedy. It’s used to create devised working, devised theater. And a lot of film is actually leaning on Improv a lot more with the directors like Judd Apatow, where they just give you a scenario, and you have to go through it, and if you don't have those chops, they end up being very weak scenes and actually not very creative, the dialogue is bad and not funny if it’s a comedy. Add that to the skill sets that a lot of different professions need: Law, public speaking, politics. All of those people benefit from having being nimble in your way of speaking, in your way of responding to things. So, it ends up being useful for a lot of.

STEFFENS: So, it sounds like it's not just for students of theater; it's for many students, perhaps.

MADRID: Not at all. I used to teach Improv for an improv theater, and 95% of my students were law lawyers, and we would go in and actually do workshops at different businesses that had absolutely nothing to do with theater. It's fun when you do it for performance for audiences, but if you think about how much of your life teaching and politics are bent around performing for people and not being able to have everything scripted, it's super useful to have Improv in your in your wheelhouse.

STEFFENS: And will students present publicly, or is this more of a workshop situation

MADRID: They will. They’re one of the main parts of our mission statement for being chartered is that they will eventually be performing. They performed a couple of weeks ago at the Eastern Got Talent. We lost. And then they- they will be performing next semester definitely at our Drama Fest and. Hopefully more regular shows will be inviting people in.

STEFFENS: And in addition to the film component you mentioned a bit earlier than there are also live improv groups that we might know of Second Cities as a famous one and are there others in this region or that we should know about?

MADRID: Sure, Second City is the most famous, Upright Citizens Brigade, and the Groundlings are probably the next one in this region; the big one is going to be The Box in Albuquerque, and they have had a long-running improv team for going on 20 years now, and there are some really great Albuquerque based teams like the- the- The One Night Stanleys, The Hive that have been running for a while. There was a- a kids team called the Griffin Dorks that started out as a kid's team, and now they're like 30, so a lot of really great teams. I have a- an improv team in my theater company called Cutthroat Improv, It’s out of Albuquerque, and we do shows all the times.

STEFFENS: Great. Thank you. And Chloe, what makes you want to join this group? How does it help you?

CHLOE: Well. Right to pursue acting as I go on, and as Leonard mentioned, it will help me in that area and improves just it really helps you be a more well-rounded person. And for me, sometimes I struggle with public speaking, and so Improv definitely helped me to break out of my shell and just explore new things and be creative.

STEFFENS: Yeah. Thank you. And Jay, tell us about your- your background with this- this activity. What, what makes you interested?

JAY: Oh well, theater has always been like my- my interest, and personally, I've never really felt confident at Improv, so I was more excited to join Improv Club to learn more of these acting skills and also like Chloe said, all of these skills of public speaking and like when being put on the spot, like what can you say, they'll be witty and creative.

STEFFENS: Very good. Thank you. And Leonard, if- if I wanted to join, how would I do that?

MADRID: Walk up to the black box theater in the University Theater Center or Wednesday at 4:00 o'clock, not the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but definitely other Wednesdays. And we have Improv Club from four to six. You don't even have to be there for the whole 2 hours. That's because it's Improv. We just fold you into the works.

STEFFENS: Very good. Consider joining the Improv club, and thank you very much for joining us.

MADRID: Thanks for having us.

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  • Join ENMU College of Fine Arts Dr. David Steffens each week on "Great Arts at Eastern," as he interviews artists, actors, entertainers and musicians about their craft and events they produce at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. "Great Arts at Eastern" airs once a week about 12:35 p.m. MT on Thursdays on KENW–FM.This program also is available online by clicking the title of an individual episode listed below.