Comedic relief

Members of UB Improv use their weekly workshops as an escape from ‘real’ life

On January 28, 2014

  • UB Improv club members Corey Reisman (right) and Alex Race strike their best yoga poses as a part of an improvisational performance. Reisman, the club’s treasurer, is especially looking forward to the group’s Murder Mystery Dinner Feb. 8. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum

Corey Reisman, a junior political science major, dreams of becoming the president of the United States one day, though he would settle for a senatorial seat.

Alex Race, a senior philosophy major, just received a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Minnesota Law School.

Ben Balderman, a sophomore biological sciences major, studies intensely and hopes to eventually work as a pediatric oncologist.

Reisman, Race and Balderman are three of 26 students who have found a way to escape the pressure of pursuing a rigorous career. Each Monday night at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Theater, members of UB Improv transform into completely different characters. The club focuses on practicing comedy and improvisational acting and serves as a family and getaway for many of its members, Race said.

Reisman is treasurer of UB's improv club, and he hopes to see the club and its audience grow throughout this semester. The club offers four free two-hour shows each semester to UB students. Reisman described the shows as "unique" and said it's hard to find the same type of comedy and interaction by simply watching an improv show on television.

This year, the club is hosting a Murder Mystery Dinner, which will be on Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in Harriman Hall. Members said it will be the "coolest" and "funniest" UB Improv event to date.

Though the club practices for its shows to entertain the UB community, members are in it for their own pleasure just as much as for their audience's.

"When I'm acting, I feel a lot of things," Reisman said. "I think the biggest thing that I feel, though, is a sense of freedom - the kind of freedom that allows you to be anything you want."

Balderman has always loved watching improv shows, like Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Improvaganza, so he decided to try UB Improv. But Balderman never expected the club to play such a pivotal role in his desire to become a pediatric oncologist.

"Improv has taught me how to react in strange situations, how to think like somebody you're not and to go forward. If I can think like a child, I may be able to encourage their emotional wellbeing during treatment," Balderman said.

Each week, the group undergoes a different type of improvisation workshop. With each workshop new memories and laughs are created, according to Balderman.

UB's improv club always begins its sessions with a warm-up game in order to ensure participants are in the "right state of mind," Reisman said. The group then practices certain skills, such as active listening - by playing games like "yes and," "red ball" and "seven things." Activities including "story, story, die," "chain murder" and "press conference" are also improvisational games, which help club members practice and improve their skills. After each workshop, members participate in a game to warm down and wrap up the session.

Members of the club utilize their time on stage as a stress reliever. Acting helps them "ignore academics, work and all other stresses for the few moments spent in character," according to Balderman. 

The group serves as the only theater and comedy club for students on UB's campus. Reisman encourages students who feel a need to perform to attend a workshop and see what the club is all about.

Chris Tanski, a senior pharmacy major, believes the spontaneity and unpredictability of each workshop and improv show keeps the club lively and entertaining. He considers UB Improv to be a "small, talented and funny family with a ton of inside jokes." 

Reisman knows that improv will always remain a part of his life.

"The important skills that you learn in improv, like being spontaneous and witty on the spot, can easily be applied to the job [of the President of the United States]," Reisman said. "Especially in regard to press conferences and interacting with people. You know, Ronald Reagan was a former actor and he's still remembered today for his infinite wit as president."

Members of the club said they know improv will always influence their lives and look forward to sharing their passion and comedy with the rest of the UB community.



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