Special Assignments Reporter
Chicago-based improv comedy group The Improvised Shakespeare Company performed in the Pierce theatre in the Arts and Allied Health Building on Feb. 27.
TISC consists of 13 performers and multiple understudies. The performers rotate which actors will be in each show. The performers who took the stage for the Pierce performance were Ross Bryant, Greg Hess and Blaine Swen, who is the creator and director of TISC.
Every performance by the TISC starts off in a similar way, by asking the audience to shout out the title of a play that has never been written before. The performers then create an original storyline and characters. Nothing has been prepared beforehand.
“We do this all in the style of Shakespeare, although it quickly starts to look something more like Monty Python,” Swen said.
The title that was chosen at Pierce was Laser Sharks. The performance then took on a mind of its own.
The play’s storyline consisted of multiple men fighting for the affections of a maiden, with a few aquatic twists. TISC created many characters during the play including a prince, a fisherman named Antonio, and Cacious, the town pervert with a drooling problem. Other characters included an old Spaniard man, an assistant who pines after the affections of the prince and a shark who makes appearances randomly throughout the play.
Toward the end of the performance, the maiden created a poetry challenge between the prince and Cacious, which eventually turned into a rap battle. Cacious won the battle, which angered the prince and he tried to kill Cacious. The maiden agreed to marry the prince if he’d spare Cacious’ life.
The prince agreed, and suddenly Cacious transforms in a way that resembled The Little Mermaid. It turns out that Cacious had been under a spell and was actually the ruler of the mer-people. In his glee, he jumps into the sea where he’s immediately devoured by an awaiting shark.
The prince and Antonio then fight each other for the maidens heart and end up killing her in the process.
The play ends with the shark coming to life and revealing that he’s actually Poseidon. He chose the prince to be his lover. The prince hopped on Poseidon’s back and he carried the prince off into the night.
The audience was erupting in laughter throughout the entire performance and the performers received a standing ovation at the end of the night.
A catered reception was held after the show and TISC came out to meet audience members and take photos.
Before the group took the stage, they held an improv workshop in the blackbox theatre. TISC spent an hour with workshop participants doing exercises to improve their improv skills. The exercises included having the students create a story where everyone said one sentence at a time, and having someone say a sentence and then having another person re-say it using Shakespearean style language.
The idea to have TISC perform at Pierce was suggested by Office of Student Life employee Cooper Costello who says he once saw the group perform at the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle and thought they were hysterical.
TISC has been performing together since 2005. Swen came up with the idea for TISC after doing a Shakespeare themed improv skit while he was performing with a different improv group. Swen then moved to Chicago, which he says is the improv comedy capital of the world, and decided to turn his hobby for improv into TISC.
The group originally intended to perform five shows, but Swen says TISC caught on quickly in the community. The group was approached by the owner of the iO theatre in Chicago and asked to hold improv sessions there. TISC has been performing there ever since.
Swen says that the group has gotten some unique and interesting audience suggestions for play titles over the years including The Rocky Hamlet Picture Show and The Taming of the Poo.
“Once somebody just shouted out Justin Bieber,” Swen said. “In the end of our Shakespearean play about the tale of Justin Bieber he was killed by the Brothers Jonas.”
Tickets for the Pierce show originally cost $2 for students, but Student Life Coordinator Sonja Morgan later decided to make the event free to allow students to bring more friends and family members. Students who purchased tickets before the switch had their money refunded.
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