Each time before Colleen Maguire steps on stage with her improv team, it’s one of the happiest moments of her life.
“We say to each other, ‘We’re going to have fun’ and ‘I love you,’” the Grade 12 Victoria High School student gushes. “It’s in the spirit of love and competition and I try to impart that to the other students as much as possible.”
It should come as no surprise that Maguire’s enthusiasm for improv earned her a Spirit of the Games award at the Vancouver Island regional championships, held Feb. 4 and 5 at Vic High. She was one of nine students from Vic High Improv who became the first Victoria students to place No. 1 in the region and qualify for the Canadian Improv Games since the Island joined the competition 10 years ago.
“It was such a surreal moment,” Maguire said. “I bawled my eyes out and I’m not a screamer, but I definitely squealed. I didn’t even think about the audience or the judges or the scores at that point. We were hugging and there were trophies and it was overwhelming.”
“I don’t think I’ve cried that much publicly in a long time,” added teammate Kathryn Taddei, also in Grade 12. “It’s probably one of the only times I’ve cried out of sheer joy. … The whole team was (exuding) a mixture of disbelief and joy, but now we just need to make it happen.”
To make it happen – a.k.a get to Ottawa for the finals April 3 through 7 – the group needs to fundraise $12,000 to cover the cost of their travel and accommodations. The team, along with coach and veteran improvisor Alan Penty, are hosting an evening of entertainment on March 8 to follow through with what has so far been a monumental experience for all those involved.
“If I were a religious man, I’d say it’s a miracle (we won regionals),” he said. “We’ve never even come close to that before.”
Penty, a regular on Sin City improv, was impressed by the team’s ability to thrive under the pressure and come out strong in every game.
Part of their winning performance included a character event, a game where teams are asked to develop characters based on inanimate objects suggested by the audience. Building off the suggestion of a barbecue, the students created a big, strong, fiery character – a piece that had their veteran improvisor of a coach impressed.
“I wish I was as clever, but I’m not,” said Penty. “Their level of commitment is amazing. I would send them out on stage with a senior improviser.”
While Penty practises with his students year-round, he says anyone can pick up the first rule of improv instantly.
“Don’t say ‘no,’” Penty said. “Say ‘yes, and …’”
It’s advice that can be applied to more than just the stage.
“Improv helps me be more comfortable with the way that I am because once you’ve been as ridiculous as you are in improv, you’re less self-conscious during the regular day,” Taddei said. “I’m way less aware of how crazy I’m being.”
Support the team
Join Vic High Improv in the school’s theatre (1260 Grant St.) on March 8 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. for an evening of student performances, as well as entertainment by Dave Morris and Aleisha Kalina. The event includes a silent auction. Admission is by donation.