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News and Media

Campus Improv Group Focuses on Team-Building

Dec. 10, 2012

Madeleine O'Meara

Yvette Chen

“A werewolf ate my baby!”

“You think you’ve seen all the dingoes you can see!”

“Orange jewels of Paraguay!”

To an outsider these may seem like nonsensical phrases, but for the nine members of Kid Business, exclamations like this are a standard part of rehearsal.

Kid Business was borne out of an improvisational Experimental College (ExCo) class first taught in the fall of 2009. At the end of that semester, the members of the class were so intrigued by improv that they decided to form their own shortform troupe. Before the formation of Kid Business, only longform improv existed at Oberlin. Shortform improvisation is based on quick scenes, some composed of games that incorporate audience participation. Kid Business experiments with these games during their rehearsals by creating different rules or gimmicks that can be incorporated into their performances.

Until recently, the group went by the name Obehave; even though they decided to switch up their title, the group has retained its original enthusiasm.

“We’ve been going through a lot of changes recently, and talking about goals to evolve our form,” says junior Rachel Iba. “Obehave has been primarily shortform, but we’re looking into experimenting with elements of longform. We decided it was time for a new name. We wanted something with some sass. We all feel like a bunch of sassy kids, but also feel serious about our craft.”

Iba has been a member of Kid Business since her sophomore year. During her first year, she took the Obehave Improv ExCo. In the fall, the coursework focuses on core improvisation skills, moving to more advanced techniques in the spring. While the class isn’t a requirement or guarantee to be a part of Kid Business, it piques interest and develops the talents required for successful improvisation performance.

Unlike most student organizations on campus, Kid Business is group-led. Instead of electing captains or officers, the members rotate various responsibilities on a weekly basis. This allows them to highlight different improv methods depending on the focus and individual style of the leader each week. 

“There’s no hierarchy,” says Iba. “Every week, we’ll have a different person lead rehearsals. We have such a diverse group of people from such different backgrounds — theater majors, science majors, I’m in the Conservatory — so everyone brings a really different skill set. Our mission as a troupe is to constantly evolve our style. It gives a sense of joint responsibility and joint leadership.”

Iba’s classmate, junior Ben Garfinkel, agrees. “Since we have a new leader driving the rehearsals and goals for the week, we keep a fresh perspective.”

This arrangement provides more opportunities for Kid Business to develop a collaborative dynamic, allowing the troupe members to become comfortable with different styles of humor and transfer them to the stage.

“Someone will do a scene and then we’ll talk about what worked, and what didn’t,” says Iba. “Rehearsals are mix of skill building and feedback.”

Last year, Kid Business participated in the College Improv Regional Tournament in Indianapolis. The competition, which is open to all collegiate improv groups, allows each troupe a 20-minute set. Although Kid Business didn’t advance beyond the first round, they “looked at it more as a team building activity and a chance to be together as a troupe,” says Iba.

Understandably, team building is extremely important for improv troupes. The spontaneous nature of improv forces the troupe members to be in tune with each other, and a high level of communication is necessary for a successful show.

“The fundamental idea of improv is giving and receiving gifts. A gift can be an idea or a character. You never reject someone’s offer,” says Iba.

Developing this trust can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a member of an improv group, but it seems that Kid Business has achieved this goal.

“For me it started out as fun hobby, but the more deeply I started to delve into it, the more I realized it’s such a way of life,” Iba says. “Our group is a support system on campus.”

“The core of Kid Business is a desire to keep learning and growing,” notes Garfinkel. “It’s a couple hours every week where you just laugh.”

Kid Business will be breaking for the holidays, but you can catch them again after winter term on Feb. 16. To watch a video of one of the group's recent perforances, click here.

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