The atmosphere was exactly what one might expect from a student improv performance at the university that boasts the largest number of alumni to have been Saturday Night Live cast members: pure excitement. I immediately sensed that I was in for a good time.
Before the show, the voices of friends greeting one another mixed with the faint smell of alcohol and the anthem of our generation, Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” playing over a speaker in the quickly filling lecture hall. By the time the first group of the Titanic Players’ performers, a team called Grandmother’s Mistress, took the stage, the room was so packed that several people were quite happily sitting on the floor.
Founded in 1994, the Titanic Players is a student improv group. Though the teams have performances once a month in the McCormick Foundation Center, I saw them perform in Harris Hall–a space clearly not big enough for their robust fan base–on Friday night.
The actors were an instant hit among the crowd. It was like a friend group sharing inside jokes, if the group contained over 200 friends and the jokes were well-timed innuendos and meme references. (Remember, kids: the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.) Though I’d felt almost out of place upon my arrival, a solitary freshman in a sea of upperclassmen who all seemed to know and love one another, I immediately lost myself in the creativity and humor of the group.
The two following teams, Quitting Girl Scouts and Four Legs Up, kept up the high energy and the crowd continued to approve. The few shaky moments throughout the three shows were overshadowed by the ingenuity of the various plotlines that were created from vague audience suggestions. A scene about an immortal queen and a bloodlusting princess came from an answer to the cast’s demand to “Name something that starts with the letter P!”
Each performer continually impressed me with their ability to tie in recurring, specific details, the most crucial component of good long-form improv. What started as an apparent mistake after one player whose character in the scene had already been referred to as “Carl” called their scene partner Carl, too, led to a fantastic running joke about aliens from a world where everyone is named Carl.
With nothing but their wit, bodies and a few chairs, the Titanic Players delivered a pitch-perfect show. This was clear when the house lights came back on and the crowd enveloped the cast, as if they were already in Studio 8H.