For many years we’ve relied on media and strangers visiting school assemblies to teach us valuable lessons.
You probably think I’m talking about hiring BIG to visit your school. You might even expect me to plug that we’re a rostered artist with Young Audiences of Maryland. And yes you're right, we total will do a true and actual educational program that visits your school and does an actual assembly. Sure, you could totally hire us!
However!! That’s not what this post is about. This time we're presenting a comedy show in response to all of the adults who taught us valuable lessons as kids. Producer Alexa Sciuto tells us about the show After School Special and the performers of improv team Ready, Set, NO in the below interview transcript.
Tell us all about After School Special. How might you describe your show to someone who knows nothing about improv?
For someone new to improv I wild describe Ready, Set, NO as a parody of a typical middle school say-no-to-drugs assembly. Even an audience that isn't familiar with improv should be able to recognize the social commentary regarding the exaggerations used in those presentations.
For the more knowledgeable improv crowd, what do you hope they’ll take away from the show.
I think the experienced improviser will notice that the format is reminiscent to the Harold with an opening, two group games, and three scenes in between each. The game is built into the set already, so most of the focus in the scenes goes into hitting the game as well as well as character work.
What’s the story of how you entered into improv? (Why/When/How etc)
I started improv in high school and since then I've been doing it for five years. In high school, the improv club was very clique-y and I didn't like it. Basically, if you weren't friends with the student who was in charge of it all, you didn't get to do all that much.
In college, I started my own troupe, which was better because I was in charge of it. I made it a priority to be inclusive since that's where I felt my previous experience was lacking. Inclusivity is still something I value years later. Even with that as my number one priority, there were still people involved in the troupe who were not supportive of the idea. Everyone became very confrontational and the troupe eventually collapsed in on itself, which is a shame.
Next, I got involved with Charm City Comedy Project, and then BIG. I am still very active in both theatres as well as a member of many indie troupes. All of the improv communities I'm part of now are everything I wanted and more from the beginning. I absolutely love the improv community throughout all of Baltimore. It's so supportive and I'm so happy to be producing my own show. Overall, I'm glad that even though my experience with improv was negative at first I kept looking for the right experience. I didn't compromise on what I wanted until I found it. I hope to carry that same determination with me on all walks of life.
What brought you into coaching? Is there anything you’d like to share about your style, how you work to get the most out of teams, or your experience coaching?
I have only coached casually. I currently coach an improv team at the middle school where I teach. My students are amazing and they catch on very quickly. They impress me just about every time they perform. They also google me incessantly and are probably reading this. (Hi, guys! Go do your homework!) I hope that as I get better at both improv and teaching, one day I could join the BIG education program as a teacher.
What brought you to Baltimore and Maryland?
I grew up in White Marsh. I moved to Hampden this past October to be closer to my friends, the improv scene, and things in general. The mall, avenue, and the Ikea are only entertaining so many times.
If you had to change your name, what would new name would you pick? Why would you choose that name?
Anything that is likely to not be named after some kind of AI.
Often things we liked as a kid reflect in our adult lives? How is that true for you?
Yes! When I was a kid I loved playing dress up and pretending to be different characters of any gender. I think that reflects in my choice in characters now. I'm just as likely to play a male character as I am a female character. It's actually a big pet peeve of mine when improvisers aren't paying attention and they use the wrong pronoun for a character. I think it shows that they weren't listening.
What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to?
I have been scared in the past of cutting my hair short and getting tattoos, but I've done both now so yay!
What fictional place would you most like to go?
Hogwarts. I think I would be sorted into Slytherin, but like, not one of the ones that got locked in the basement.
Describe your ideal way to spend the weekend?
I like to be very busy on the weekends. I get stir crazy if I stay inside too long. My weekends are usually pretty occupied with practices and shows, and that's the way I like it. :)
If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning a medal for?
Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
Ellen DeGeneres. I admire her so much for everything she does and all that she has achieved. I especially look up to her for coming out at a time where being gay was not as accepted as it is now. I think she was very brave and she helped pave the way for other lgbtq+ people to embrace who they are.
What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
Weezer, and why Pork and Beans is the best song, and totally own Blue/Pinkerton purists using logic and reason.
What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten around to it?
Sketch comedy. It's the one facet of live comedy that I haven't tried yet. It seems like a lot of fun, but also a lot of work!
Outside of improv, what do you spend time doing that you enjoy?
In addition to improv, I do stand up comedy. I have about 15 minutes of material that I think is very strong and I'm really proud of it.
What’s a story you’d like to share that doesn’t necessarily have a connection to improv?
When I was in high school, I made commercials for clubs. One day the anime club leader approached me asking for a commercial. They didn't write a script, so I just started telling them to do/say random things while I recorded it. I put the commercial on youtube and the internet decided that it was so bad that it needed 113,000 views. (And counting!)
What kind of work do you do? How does your work or career influence you as a performer?
I am a teacher. As such, I get lots of practice at being a voice of reason in what seems like a 30 person group scene where everyone but me are the absurd characters.
"No, you can't stand on the desk."
"Okay, but why did you swallow the eraser?"
"No, you can't hit him just because he took your marker without asking."
Again, my students are probably reading this and YES that is what you sound like!
Do you have a story about an improv practice session that got weird?
Once in an improv practice with my students, they decided to do a scene in the oval office. One 11-year-old decided to play current president Donald Trump, and another decided to play former president Donald Duck. It was very funny and they made some creative choices. They also kept it very tasteful. (Until they blew up North Korea at least)
What advice do you have for people looking to do improv?
Do it. It will change your whole life.
Describe a memorable improv scene from a show that you were in?
In our most recent Ready Set No set, we were all pretty synced. We had a very smooth set, the whole audience was with us the whole time and as players, we were even calling back to conversations from earlier that day. I was really happy with the set and with the group mind! I was very proud of the whole troupe!
What was a memorable show that you were in the audience for? What made it memorable and what did you take away from it?
A really memorable show that I got to watch was when my students performed for the first time. Half of the kids did "A Day in the Life" and the other half did a game of "World's Worst." It was so much fun to watch them, and it's a different feeling when you're the one who taught them. I was super proud of them because BOTH sets ran very smoothly.
Some students in the second group even gracefully dealt with some rather rude audience members. My favorite part of the whole thing was in "A Day in the Life" when part of their input was "Eighth graders talking about body parts on the bus." They could have decided to exclude that part, but instead, a student changed it and initiated with "Hey guys, have you heard about so-and-so's belly button?" I thought it was a clever and creative way to get around what could have been an awkward moment. They are a talented group!
What is the most random thing you’ve ever watched all the way through on Netflix?
Alexa and Katie. I started watching it because the title had my name in it. It ended up being about a teenager with cancer and now I'm crying how did this happen??
After School Special with Ready, Set, NO has its BIG premiere on Wednesday, January 16 at 7:30pm. View our calendar for more show times.
Behind the scenes of Baltimore Improv Group's workshops, classes, and FREE comedy shows. Learn more about the teachers, students, and staff that create improv comedy magic every day.
Various BIG members and friends contribute to the blog. Enjoy!