What do T-rexes, Pimp my Ride, and the National Arts Centre (NAC) have in common? All were re-imagined onstage at the final of the Ottawa Regional Improv Championship, which took place last Saturday, February 25. High school students from across the city met up at the National Arts Centre to show who had the chops to represent the city at the national finals. The five teams that made the finals were All Saints, Lisgar, Glebe, Cairine Wilson, and wild-card winners, Canterbury High School.
Since the audience was mainly made up of parents, teachers, and class peers, there was an improv culture that any newbies in the house had to be privy to, such as counting down with hand gestures, jazz hands, and shouting out skit suggestions loudly. Each shout was met with a smile or burst of laughter from the teen actors who all donned matching t-shirts (or even matching pajama bottoms) while attempting to develop skits of humour or tragedy within four minutes.
It was surprising to see the caliber of their performances in the musical component, where a team had to mime Buster-Keaton style to a chosen live-music genre. A standout was ‘Thriller in a museum’ performed by a young violinist from Lisgar who had perfected the Psycho-soundtrack.
Having been part of a team way back in high school myself, the hours of method training and creative exercises were obvious as All Saints High School’s team expertly demonstrated in their manner of jumping between ideas yet keeping them connected. Their assigned theme of “old and new” was hilarious to watch and they had used a “channel-changing” method where new ideas were presented for about 10 seconds until “flipped” to the next. No coaches or teachers were onstage, so the teams’ approach styles were truly chosen independently.
The show sort of lagged during the serious “life event” theme, though you could have heard a pin drop when Carine Wilson’s skit of “not-getting-your-driver’s-license,” because of the emotional intense mood it built. The light-hearted sketches were definitely a crowd-favourite.
Kudos to all of the teams in working together to create background objects like two-people snakes on a ‘lost island’ or team members becoming an elevator. The energy and total commitment to these scenes was very admirable and to anyone who has struggled to think on their feet, the clever wit of these teens would put you to shame. The close-knit team dynamic from each group has come from hours of exercise practice after school.
One note: this was a very family-friendly event so to anyone who enjoys stand-up comedy or traditional improv a la Second City or Groundlings-style, it was very wholesome. No jokes of a sexual nature, no cursing and only one fart joke marked the evening. The teams were very supportive of one another high-fiving everyone after each sketch.
Overall, All Saints took the night with 1128 points, beating runner-up Canterbury by almost 40 points. The two schools, along with third-place Lisgar, will go on to the Canadian finals in April, which is also taking place at the NAC. Find out more at www.improv.ca.