Teens pull comedy out of the air


FARMINGTON – Creativity and humor are in no short supply at Mt. Blue High School.

The Curtain Raisers, Mt. Blue’s in-house improvisational comedy troupe, entertains audiences – and themselves – with a unique brand of seat-of-their-pants, laugh-out-loud sketches, skits and games.

“We just like to perform,” said Curtain Raisers adviser and University of Maine at Farmington professor Dan Ryder.

And perform they do.

The group, comprised entirely of Mt. Blue students, builds on a basic premise, direction or idea. Members then let their creative juices flow until infectious laughter permeates the entire scene.

It’s a little like “Saturday Night Live,” “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” and MTV’s “Wild ‘N Out.”

And it’s a lot of fun for the students.

“We laugh at ourselves,” said Xena Colby. “The shows aren’t the biggest thing.”

Carolyn Magri agreed, saying, “I have as much fun at the practices as at the actual shows.”

But having an audience does add an element of excitement, said Ryan Michael Long, adding: “My first performance in front of a crowd was a rush.”

A typical Curtain Raisers performance consists of two acts. The opening number is a warm-up game, when each member takes a turn pulling a phrase out of his or her pocket and spontaneously acting on it.

The warm-up game is usually followed by a “Big John” – when Ryder gives the entire troupe a word or phrase. Members wait in the wings and take turns stepping in with some spontaneous response to that word or phrase. The scene evolves as new ideas are presented, and when it hits its comedic peak, other members step in and take over.

The second act is most often a group of short games developed at rehearsals, followed by a different ending at each show. The troupe attempts to tie all of the elements of a show into the final scene.

The Curtain Raisers pride themselves in their ability to pull comedy out of the air, and they rehearse rigorously. “People ask, ‘Why do you practice?'” said Zoe Hardy. Improvisation may seem easy, he tells them, but it is actually difficult to pull of successfully.

“It’s so much more involved than people realize,” Emily Potter, another performer echoed. “We have to establish characters and get comfortable with one another.”

The troupe works very well together, said Ryder, who has been its director for six of the last seven years.

“This is the most homogenous group we’ve ever had,” he said.

Go and see

WHO: The Curtain Raisers comedy troupe

WHEN AND WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 27, Lincoln Auditorium, University of Maine at Farmington

TICKETS: Free, but donations gratefully accepted

WHEN AND WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Feb. 1-2, at Mt. Blue High School

TICKETS: $3 for adults, $2 for students

All proceeds will help the Curtain Raisers fund their third annual trip to Improv Boston.