GREENFIELD — The members of the Greenfield-Central team are warming up for practice. But these athletes aren’t stretching out, running in place or shooting free throws; they’re warming up their brains to be as quick-witted as they can be for two hours of off-the-cuff comedy.
The Greenfield-Central High School ComedySportz team, a group of live theater aficionados with a flair for improv comedy, is one of 15 groups throughout the Indianapolis area participating in the high school program organized by the ComedySportz Indianapolis.
Opened in 1993 by New Palestine High School graduate Ed Trout and his business partners Lynn Burger and Mia Lee Roberts, ComedySportz is part of a international chain with locations in 25 U.S. cities and in England and Germany. Following the lead of other improv clubs with high school leagues, Trout and crew thought bringing a ComedySportz high school league to the Indianapolis area would be a great way to instill improv skills in the next generation.
Improv, or improvisational comedy, is a form of theatrical entertainment where most or all of what is performed is created in the moment without the use of a script. The actors are given guidelines, ideas or story starters from a referee or the audience, and from then on, it’s comedic mayhem.
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ComedySportz matches one high school team of fast-thinking comedians against another. Each team, as a group or player-against-player, matches wits against the opponent in a series of games to determine which is the fastest-thinking team in the room.
The referee is on hand to keep the action moving and call the occasional foul.
One may wonder what kind of fouls can be called in battle of wits, where there is no chance of a false start or pass interference.
On stage, guilty parties commit the groaner foul (making such a bad joke or pun that it elicits the audience reaction for which the foul is named) or the brown bag foul, by crossing the line in terms of taste or profanity.
“It’s about entertainment for everybody,” Trout said. “We don’t want the audience to feel uncomfortable.”
Trout spends 60 to 70 hours in training with the young actors over the course of a season. That’s because improv skills are life skills, Trout said.
“ComedySportz teaches you to pay attention to what’s going on around you, acceptance of other people and their ideas, teamwork, commitment and to find the fun and joy in what we’re doing,” Trout said.
The Greenfield-Central High School drama department has been a part of the high school ComedySportz league since 2001. Players on the local team meet once a week to hone their skills.
Co-captains Harrison Kern and Chase Klenotic and the 14-member Greenfield-Central team spend two hours keeping skills sharp with improv games and activities that frequently come up in matches.
Although the match is technically a competition, it is, first and foremost, a performance, one all about engaging the audience.
Individual audience members are often called on for input, which adds to the unpredictability of the show.
The match schedule has not yet been finalized, but the Comedy- Sportz meets at Greenfield-Central are open to the public. They’re not well-known in the community, but those who attend always have a positive experience, drama director Ted Jacobs said.
“We’ve never had an audience member walk away unhappy,” he said.
Improv training isn’t just fun; it makes the students stronger actors, Jacobs said.
“Improv teaches you to deal with unexpected things on the spur of the moment,” Jacobs said. “Our ComedySportz team is a hidden gem in our theater department, and I wish more people knew about it.”
All meets are at 7 p.m. in the Cougar Meeting Room at Greenfield-Central High School, 810 N. Broadway. Admission fee is $5. Call 317-462-9211 ex. 34121 for more information