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Stepping outside of yourself: CMU's improv scene


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After Hours members perform at the After Hours Alumni Show on April 9. (Courtesy Photo)

For many, improv is a creative outlet that allows drama-loving students to release their energy and passion through storytelling.

“[Improv] is so free and yet so intellectual,” Manistee junior Avery Kiefer said. “It’s really interesting to be able to create these complex games on the spot.”

Many schools have one improv group. Central Michigan University is a little different, sporting three: Trap Door, After Hours and Hypothetical Fistfight.

Trap Door Improv, of which Kiefer is a co-leader, has existed in various iterations since its founding in 2005. In that time, the audition-based group has focused on short-form improv games lasting less than fifteen minutes. 

Not long after the original group’s establishment, Trap Door member Dan Nikotis split from the group and started After Hours, a short-form focused improv RSO that allows anyone to participate.

“[Students can] get as involved as they want to,” Plymouth junior and After Hours President Serafine Hinz said. “We have people who just come for fun to watch and we have people who want to get involved and be on stage. It’s sort of a build-your-own experience type of group.”

In 2018, Mount Pleasant senior Walter Mueller saw a vacuum in CMU’s improv scene and decided to fill it with the third group on campus. Hypothetical Fistfight Improv or HypeFight differs from the other groups in its focus on long-form improv, which focuses on scene building. The group’s scenes can last anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour.

“It’s basically like a play without a script,” Mueller said. “It can be very difficult, but it is also very rewarding when done right.”

Improvising may seem difficult, but the leaders of all three groups think that just about anyone can do it.

“Literally anyone can just come in there and have fun and be creative,” Kiefer said. “It’s a great way to kind of step outside of yourself. When you’re out there, you’re not self-conscious. You’re connecting with people.”

While the three groups are separate, they tend to share some members and, for the first time since 2015, the stage.

All three groups will be taking the stage for H.A.T.S., a free show at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 in Pearce Hall 128. The show will feature all of the groups separately, followed by combined performances.

There are plenty of reasons that people participate in improv groups, but Mueller highlighted the simplest of all: “Making people laugh is just fun.”

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