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BWW Previews: IMPROVABILITY! SPRING 2020 at UCSB - Now Zoom!

In the time of Covid, not being able to gather in groups has effectively cancelled live performances, but many in the performing arts community are concocting new ways to share their work with an audience. Artists, including UCSB's Improv troupe, Improvability, are presenting work via live stream on Zoom, and are merging the live medium with the availabilities of the application. This group of university performers is bringing their act from the stage to the virtual world to keep this Friday-night attraction alive.

BWW Previews: IMPROVABILITY! SPRING 2020 at UCSB - Now Zoom! While zoom-based play readings have become popular, improvisation is a completely different animal. Without a set script, there's more of a focus on listening and reacting in order to keep the scene afloat; there's no safety net of pre-written words and motivations to fall back on. It's the interaction between the participants that creates the humor, the spur-of-the-moment responses to an open-ended prompt. "The biggest thing is timing," says Improvability member Nathan Kruse. "Comedy is all about timing, and even the tiniest gaps between dialogue or during scene transitions interrupt the cohesiveness of the production. The lag of online shows makes this much harder."

But the group is also finding fun ways to merge their live performance with the availabilities of the Zoom application. They're using the Zoom backgrounds and interacting with the audience via the chat panel, allowing both performers and audiences to explore how improv "works" in this new space. And while the online format allows these students, who are now sheltering in place in their various hometowns, to be "together" to perform (and it allows people from anywhere to watch the show), nothing, says Kruse, beats a live audience.

Another Improvability member, Nikko Garoufalias, describes the improve experience as more than just a fun way to spend a Friday with friends; the skills gained by learning the various games and proficiencies needed for improvisation are valuable for the future. "I can say without a doubt that improv has helped me in my everyday life. It has given me so much more confidence to be exactly who I am, and has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone every time I do it. Nothing quite does the same thing as playing a giant orca whale whilst singing a power ballad in front of people you have never met before." Kruse echoes this sentiment with his own: "Improv is freedom!" he says, and sends a message of inspiration to future performers, "The improv community we have at UC Santa Barbara is small, but strong and bright. Whether it's online or onstage, I hope y'all continue to be a beacon of joy in our community."

BWW Previews: IMPROVABILITY! SPRING 2020 at UCSB - Now Zoom!

Check out the final installments of Improvability, Spring 2020, on Friday nights at 8 p.m. on zoom.

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