Coming to Tufts with minimal improv experience under her belt, sophomore Isabel Schneider was terrified when she auditioned for Cheap Sox at the beginning of her first year. However, Isabel is now an integral member of the improv troupe and looks forward to its musical performance, “The Sound of Mucus,” which will be presented this Saturday, March 3.
Julian Blatt (JB): What is the key to successful improv?
Isabel Schneider (IS): Contrary to what you might expect, improv is actually much more about listening to each other than actively trying to entertain the audience. An unsupportive scene partner can ruin the entire show.
JB: What never fails to make you laugh?
IS: I’m a sucker for situational humor. Not necessarily jokes (although puns are always appreciated), but situations that are hilarious and bizarre. Subverted power dynamics are my Achilles’ heel.
JB: With all the tragedies that have occurred recently, how do you keep the laughs going?
IS: Last year, our director did something that I thought was powerful. During one rehearsal, we had an open discussion about how to better portray empathy in our scenes and how to create characters that are more empathetic and understanding. So far this year, we’ve continued to focus on scenes that are true and authentic and real and empathetic, which has helped us keep the darkness at bay for both ourselves and the audience.
JB: When you are onstage, is there a goal besides laughter that you hope to achieve?
IS: Again, we find empathy and authenticity incredibly important, and we try to impart that to our audience. Of course we aim to make people laugh, but we also want them to think about their relationships with others and how they might strengthen these connections.
JB: Does Tufts play a role in any of your scenes?
IS: Cheap Sox is a bit different from the other sketch comedy groups on campus in that we don’t often draw directly from experiences either at Tufts or in our lives. Generally our scenes are about two ordinary people, neither of whom is connected to Tufts in any way, which I honestly find very refreshing.
JB: So you enjoy the distraction from reality that improv offers?
IS: I’m also in Traveling Treasure Trunk, which is children’s theater. Acting forces me to mentally travel outside the Tufts bubble. As soon as I enter the rehearsal space, I automatically set aside everything else going on in my life. It’s one of my favorite ways to escape.
JB: Any embarrassing improv goofs you care to share?
IS: We play this game called Alphabet Soup, which is a two-person scene and each line has to start with the next letter of the alphabet. In the most recent show, my scene partner had the letter “Q,” and in my mind I thought “U always comes after Q,” which is of course not how it works, so I totally biffed that.
JB: In 50 words or less, why should people see the show?
IS: You’ll laugh. You might cry. And we’re going to be wearing pink shirts while singing and making outrageous fools of ourselves.