APU’s first official improvisational comedy troupe “ZuKeepers” took to the stage on Nov. 3 in Munson Chapel, exhibiting the boisterous antics of its craft in a night of laughter and fun.
Featuring a series of improvisational skits, the ensemble searched for inspiration and guidance from the audience. An announcer polled the audience for suggestions, and the cast integrated those suggestions into a scene.
Seemingly endless shenanigans ensued, including a sitcom-like interaction between the family members of the “King of the Sea,” a dating game featuring wrestler John Cena and a die-hard President Obama fan, and several other hilariously absurd displays.
“It’s hard to take improv and make it a performance, because it’s really a training tool,” said junior acting for the stage and screen major Allie Roberti, who is also first-time improv comedian. “It’s different, but in a weird way, it takes the pressure off because you’re up there without a script. The only thing you have to rely on is your teammates.”
Junior acting for the stage and screen major Casey Hebert, an actor who has been doing improv for seven years, enjoys the camaraderie and connection he feels with his fellow actors. “It’s nice to form that bond with the jokes you’re doing and the speed of the show,” Hebert said.
Roberti added that the teamwork is a confidence booster.
“Whatever anyone says, goes,” Roberti said. “If someone throws in a new idea on stage, that person just created the greatest idea we’ve ever heard, and we run with it.”
Hebert said the team’s connection helped get them through challenging practices.
“A lot of people were new to improv, but everyone really banded together and got into it,” Hebert said. “I’m so happy with the way it turned out.”
Cast leader and senior acting for the stage and screen major Kristina Meyering said that the diversity of the cast helped build a fluid team. The ZuKeepers have been intentional about not limiting their actors to theater majors.
“People coming from different areas and majors is so cool, because you get these completely different mindsets,” Meyering said. “Improv doesn’t have to be a theater thing, improv is an everyone thing.”
Throughout the show, the cast also relentlessly parodied APU culture, such as through a re-enactment of a “ring by spring” proposal gone wrong in the Rose Garden. The night also included a crowd-requested impersonation of APU alumna and YouTube star Miranda Sings by Roberti.
“That was a throwback to freshman year [when] I watched her videos all the time,” Roberti said. “I’ve come full circle.”
The troupe surprised the audience by sitting amongst the spectators and impersonating a town hall meeting, speaking out either for or against the presence of tornadoes in their small town.
The troupe was fortunate to find seats, as Munson Chapel was filled nearly to capacity. According to Meyering, attendance exceeded all expectations.
“I would’ve been happy if we had five people, and we ended up having a hundred,” Meyering said.
“At first, I was really nervous. I didn’t know how the turn-out would be,” Hebert said. “I’m happy with the reception we got; [there were] a lot of people, [a] very good audience.”
Meyering said that the group had been two years in the making. With their first show a success, the ZuKeepers are optimistic for the future.
“I hope this can continue, and that when we graduate, people can pick it up and keep it going,” Roberti said. “I think it started something really cool.”
The ZuKeepers are looking to expand their cast, and following the show, several students have immediately expressed interest in becoming involved.
“We had people asking us when auditions were,” Meyering said. “There’s nowhere to go but up. I think only good things can come from this.”
The show ended with a standing ovation.
“Hopefully [people] tell their friends, and those friends tell their friends,” Meyering said, confident in the future of the team. “We got a big turnout [tonight]. Pretty soon, [it’ll be] Felix Event Center—let’s fill it!”