By Eva Barrows
Improvisational comedic acting generates lots of laughs when performed in an intimate setting by actors who “play well with others.” Austin’s Improv Party, a new Midpen Media Center show produced and hosted by Austin S. Lu, and co-producer Andrew Chen gives a nightclub vibe setting the stage for a fun evening of entertainment. Lu explains that the show has three goals. The first goal is for everyone on set to have a good time – actors and crew. Secondly, the show will introduce people to the media center showcasing what it is capable of technically. Lastly, the show will stretch and challenge cast and crew within new roles and tasks.
As a first time producer, Lu created an improv show because he thought it would entail less work than other types of shows, but he discovered improv does actually require a lot of planning. Lu plans what games the cast will be able to do during the show. The majority of cast members have minimal experience in improv. Lu looks for games that will engage the cast and give the seasoned actors a chance to shine. He also encourages crew to work positions they haven’t tried before.
Lu says, “It’s really cool to be in charge and be able to solicit ideas, synthesize them together and make the choice of where the show goes.” Lu and co-producer Andrew Chen enjoy working together and swapping ideas on how to make the show better. Karen Adams, staff production manager, suggested ideas for the set design and helped Lu turn his goals for the show into a working production.
The first two episodes released in October have been generating fresh interest for the show. At first, it took three weeks to get enough actors to sign up to be on the show, but for round two it only took three days to get the new cast list set. Each time Lu films a new round of shows he will feature different media center technology capabilities. During the December 16 production he will use the studio’s green screen, the round after that he’ll focus on music and audio, and after that, his goal is to record the “perfect” show utilizing various technology resources.
Although the show is called “Austin’s Improv Party” it’s a community show at heart with a “by us for us” feel. Lu says, “What makes the show work is the audience. It wouldn’t be as fun without them.” The audience provides the joyous laughter that accompanies every punchline gone right and gone wrong. They are also the energetic actors who stand up to make the improv happen. The shows are a series of fun moments strung together, one instance that stands out for Lu is when the show was over, and he called everyone on stage to dance through the credits. The actors found themselves dancing energetically to very quiet music because the music wasn’t turned on in the studio.
If you’re interested in being cast or crew for an upcoming episode of Austin’s Improv Party, send Austin S. Lu an email with your request to ASL45@cornell.edu.