Improv Club takes the stage in debut showcase

Joey DiMaso, Julia Dingman and Jane DiMaso (l-r) opening the Improv Club’s showcase.

The Little Theater was filled with laughter and applause as Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Improv Club performed their first shows on May 18. The Improv Club is new to OPRF as of this school year, and it is off to a great start.

The club is student-led by seniors Jane DiMaso, Joey DiMaso and Julia Dingman, with the support of teachers Andrew Brown and Kate Hawley. This spring, it became an official school-sponsored club, according to Hawley and Brown.

Membership in the club has grown significantly since the beginning of the year. “We were worried we weren’t going to have any people, and now we’re dealing with the problem of having too many people for one group [of performers],” said Dingman. “We’re so excited about how many people have come who are genuinely so excited.”

To accommodate the number of students who have joined the club, the show featured two different improv teams, one named “Magic Eight Ball” and the other “In This Economy.”

The teams performed a type of improv show called the Harold, named for famed comedian and movie director Harold Ramis. A troupe of performers comes on stage, gets a single suggestion from the audience and uses that suggestion to create a 20-30 minute show.

Some of the suggestions shouted out at the May 18 performance included “middle school dance” and “Chat GPT.” The performers used those suggestions as a springboard for a series of scenes and group activities that tied together thematically.

“I had fun,” said junior Miles Toppen after the show.

“I think my favorite part was where they were supposed to move boxes but they ended up having some romantic relationship of some sort,” said junior Tamera Erving. “I couldn’t stop laughing at that part.”

In the days leading up to the show, Dingman said she was “excited to watch all the members of the club finally get to show how good they are. I’m just so excited for them to get the entire audience laughing like they deserve.”

She was also excited that the club will go on next year. “This is part of the community here. It’s part of OPRF,” said Dingman. “That’s a really incredible thing to have accessible to so many students here.”

An essential element of improv is that it is accessible to everyone, according to the club’s leaders. The club is and will remain available to all, with no auditions, cuts or fees for tickets. Jane DiMaso believes that accessibility is “very in line with the idea of improv, because anyone can do it.”

Improv is about your team, it’s about knowing when you need help and when to jump in and help others. “In theater, if you are on stage and you forget your line, it kind of sucks,” said Joey DiMaso. “But in improv, if you forget what to say next, that’s improv, so someone will come up and help you.”

“I think the biggest thing we tried to reiterate is like A, you’re not alone. We’re here, we’re gonna jump in,” said Dingman, and, “B, go save your teammates.”

The club also tries to eliminate the hierarchy based on age and experience. Jane DiMaso has found in theater, “There’s definitely a higher theme in the older kids getting the lead roles,” but in improv it’s not like that. Everyone is “encouraged to walk out on stage and be in the scene, and everyone has their own chance to lead.” In Improv Club, “there’s just such a level of camaraderie and trust. You’re gonna go out there and make a strong choice, and then we’re all making and expanding that choice,” said Jane DiMaso.

Kiara Behensky, a sophomore member of Improv Club, said, “It’s a very non-judgmental space, which people say a lot but don’t always mean. But I feel like you can’t be super judgmental in improv because everyone’s ridiculous at times and that’s what’s fun about it.”

Improv is entirely a group effort. No one knows what is going to happen next, but throughout the year Dingman and the DiMasos have been able to foster an environment where everyone feels safe enough to take risks. “It’s nice to know we provided this space that makes a big school feel smaller,” said Joey DiMaso.

“I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress being more confident in myself and my acting,” said Behensky, “also with listening to what other people are doing or saying.”

“I would say as a group, we’re all very comfortable with working together. So even though we don’t know what’s going to happen, we know it’s gonna be fun,” said Jane DiMaso.

Although Dingman and the DiMasos are all graduating, they are confident that Improv Club will continue to thrive without them. “We really wanted to make a club that would be able to carry on next year, and through our hard work and Mr. Brown’s and Ms. Hawley’s dedication to the club, we already have two shows scheduled for next year,” said Joey DiMaso.

With the support of the OPRF community, the Improv Club hopes to continue to grow even more.