Mission Improvable does the impossible

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Alex Gomes

JJ Laake is on Amelia’s Saravia’s back, practicing an improv scene in the quad.

Tejas Mahesh, Staff Writer

Being highly energizing, rich with creativity, and absolutely hilarious are the hallmarks of Cal High’s Mission Improvable.
The 11-member improv team is headed by Shea Daly, the acting captain, Wren Pinkela, the spirit captain, and Noah Shallcross, the logistics captain.
There are two types of improv: short-form and long-form. Short-form improv is multiple standalone games where inspiration or challenges come from the audiences. Long-form improv is a continuous improvised piece which is inspired from a suggestion at the start of a show.
Mission Improvable specializes in short-form improv.
“There are forms of improv that can be serious and stuff like that, but we like to think of ourselves as a comedic improv troupe,” Daly said. “Our goal is to make the audience laugh, playing games and stuff like that.”
As acting captain, Daly is responsible for creating the games on the set list with Pinkela. He also provides team members with notes on how they can improve for shows.
“We have to try to switch our games, which also comes with some challenges in that we usually try games and then they fail,” Pinkela said. “It’s a lot of trial and error, which is why we have to have practice. There’s a lot of time and effort that still goes into it.”
The team spends time at every rehearsal picking games they not only think the audience would enjoy but also that they are comfortable with performing on stage. They match improvisers’ strengths with the game and then run through the rules of the different games that would be on the set.
“You’re really building a community and [are] just able to sprint up on stage [with] friends and scream at them and do silly acts together,” Pinkela said.
Becoming a cohesive identity with many moving parts requires a lot of talent, something that Mission Improvable has a lot of.
“My favorite thing about every show is how much chemistry there is,” said teacher Hannah Cheng, who serves as adviser for Mission Improvable. “Sometimes people think that it is easy to come up with things on the spot, but in reality it is difficult. You are working with people every single moment.
“It is fun to see how people react with each and build on each other,” Cheng continued. “Collaboration and community are the key.”
Daly, Pinkela and Shallcross have been performing improv for at least five years. Both Daly and Shallcross were introduced to improv as warm-up games for their theater classes during middle school. Pinkela, however, had a different route to improv than the other captains.
“My parents signed me up for dance,” Pinkela said. “And then from there, I kept taking classes through the city and eventually they signed me up for an improv class. I just immediately fell in love with it.”
The 11 students who make up this year’s improv team were chosen from a pool of 25 who auditioned in the first preliminaries during the spring. There was another round of preliminaries for incoming freshmen once the school year began.
“It was very stressful, but we’re very happy with the choices we made,” Daly said. “We’ve got some really strong seniors, some really strong juniors, and some really strong underclassmen. We think we are a very well rounded team this year.”
Mission Improvable’s shows, including their most recent on last Thursday, have generally packed the theater. Despite people from all age demographics – from young kids to grandparents – attending the show, they generally have one thing in common: They all leave the show laughing.
“I love going to the improv show because they are so fun and a good way to spend the Friday night,” senior Emma Kollo said. “I am a theater kid myself and I am just attracted to it just because it is funny.“
During shows, the team asks an audience member for a suggestion about a place, problem, and relationships between the characters in their games. The team takes these suggestions and proceed to improvise a comedic drama with no script.
Some previous short-form games include Hitchhikers, Half-life, and 1-to-5, which is how they always end their shows. One game they have played before is Genre Switch, where they went from depicting a horror film to lyrical musical.
The audience can also look forward to possibly winning some exotic prizes. One previous prize was a card signed by the entire team that said “Husband, you are my hot tamale.” Other prizes included “Breaking Bad” Season Five on DVD and an Elmo toy.

Mission Improvable will have an upcoming show on Thursday, December 16th, from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the theater. Tickets are free.