Making it up as they go along

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The Chatham-Kent Secondary School improv team recently won the top prize at the Tri-city Canadian Improv competition in Kitchener and are headed to Ottawa later this month to compete at the national level.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chatham-Kent Secondary School’s improv team has skills.

So much so, the eight-member club recently clinched the Tri-City Canadian Improv Games title beating the best improv teams from schools across Southwestern Ontario.

The club is the first-ever Lambton Kent District School Board team to win. Now, the CKSS improvisers are getting ready to take the stage at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa March 29 to compete against top teams from across the nation.

Teacher Karen St. Peter-Catton, who has been coaching the improv club for 20 years after school, said the group works well together.

“This team has been dynamic,” she said. “They work collectively, rather than individually.”

When performing improv, students have to be lightning quick. After a referee chooses a topic – which can be anything from an animal to something in Shakespearian style to a musical – the team is given 10 seconds to huddle and hatch a plan before they hit the stage. The performances have certain parameters for content as well, meaning they can’t include bits that demean or are offensive.

The team is comprised of Grade 12 students Spencer Simpson and Riley Lawton; Grade 11 students Kennedy Grant, Alivia Hillman, Nanami Shaw and Emma Wigfield, as well as Grade 9 students Josh White and Finn Andruchow.

When asked by The Voice as to why they joined the extra-curricular club, some said they already loved dramatic arts; others said they wanted to meet new friends; and some said they just wanted to have fun.

Simpson, who is heading to York University next year to study theatre, is already making a name for himself. At the Tri-City competition, he garnered the Spirit of the Games award.

Simpson hails from a theatrical family. After watching professional improv, told himself he could do it too.

“It’s a very niche thing,” Simpson said of improv. “Very few people know about it.”

Lawton said he was attracted to the club as he wanted to be part of C-K theatre since he was a child.

“I was encouraged to do it and I really like it,” Lawton said. “And it’s a really good outlet.”

Team member Grant said she was inspired to join in Grade 9 when she saw a performance by the team.

“I’ve always had an appreciation for performing and it’s what I want to do for a future career,” Grant explained. “It’s live performance and it’s rad.”

Hillman said she didn’t know much about improv before joining, but said she has learned a great deal from being in the club.

“It’s taught me so much more, outside of school and a club,” Hillman said, noting it’s helped her become more open minded and a better listener.

“In improv, you have to be open and willing to change your opinion to make the scene go on,” she added. “It’s the same with life.”

Shaw, who participates in many other extra-curricular activities, said she joined the improv club because it is fun.

“That is something I was looking for and this happened to be the perfect thing,” she said.

Wigfield said she considers improv to be her “second home.

“This is my chosen family,” Wigfield said.

St. Peter-Catton said improv provides a forum for collaboration, while allowing students a “safe space for expression.”

Team members also say they enjoy improv because it’s not competitive in the true sense.

“It’s a very welcoming and happy and good space,” Simpson added. “Which is why it feels like home.”

At the four-day Ottawa competition, the team will also be taking part in various group activities and workshops.

Anyone wishing to donate to the team’s Ottawa trip can email kimberly.jeffrey@lkdsb.net.

 

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