By Sarah Smith
Viva Loudoun High School Intern
Ashburn (March 11, 2014) – Stone Bridge High School’s drama department, Running Dog Productions, works hard all year with two major productions, including “Too Much Light” which was just awarded the VHSL 5A state championship. In between all the hard work, the young actors look for ways to relax including a group that make up the Sunshine Squad, the school’s comedic improv troupe.
“Being on stage for improv is a lot less stressful than our regular performances,” senior Aliya Qureshi said. “There’s no stress over forgetting things or messing up a line. It’s a lot a lot more casual because of interactions with the audience. Once you get the hang of improv you gain experience with what does and doesn’t work.”
The Sunshine Squad takes the stage every couple of weeks, hoping to entertain the audience in a unique, laid back way. Senior Cameron Robinson, the leader of the troupe, is responsible for organizing and starting each of the improv games they play during the shows.
“It’s my job to moderate the games and keep things in check,” Robinson said. “I choose the games and which members will participate in each of them. I basically have an ultimate say over how each show turns out.”
These games include everything from writing and acting out a short story on the spot or recreating a popular fairy tale. Each show a different combination of games is featured, and with the help of the audience, each game is completely different from the others.
“Most of the games we play have been handed down from year to year,” Robinson said. “Many of the games we play fall into two categories: guessing and scene creation. Within the categories are a number of things that affect how each game runs. Something like the game ‘Film Noir’ develops the scene primarily through asides to the audience, whereas ‘Space Jam’ is a straight scene development with time elapsing even when the actors aren’t playing.”
Regardless of which games the Sunshine Squad performs, audience members agree that it’s always entertaining to see just what will happen next at the shows. Knowing that humor isn’t scripted adds a whole new level of comedy.
“I enjoy seeing Sunshine Squad perform because it’s nice seeing the actors and actresses in a different light,” junior Hannah Parker said. “I love games like ‘Meanwhile’ which is a game where two actors get a suggestion from the audience and start a random scene, and throughout, different actors can pause the scene to start a new one loosely based off of the previous one. But even when they don’t do ‘Meanwhile,’ I love seeing what each of the cast members will come up with next.”
The troupe consists of just a few thespians, who were chosen after an audition process. For many members, being with their friends in such a comedic environment is why they chosen to audition.
“A lot of my friends were on the team and I wanted to spend time with them,” senior Aaron Parker said. “Plus, one of my passions in life is making people laugh. When they laugh, they get to forget about all the things going on in their life and enjoy the moment. I wanted a chance to get to make a whole room of people laugh.”
The tricky part of an improv show is that the actors on stage never know what they’re going to say next, creating what many might think is a stressful situation for them. However, members of the troupe argue that that unknown is what makes it fun.
“Everyone has a different way of approaching the improv process,” Parker said. “Personally, I try to think what the audience is expecting me to say, and then I’ll say the exact opposite. The best part of improv is that you never know what’s coming next, and the fact that the scenes never go where you think they will. Because of this, I try to surprise people with what I say, and that typically creates a successful scene.”
The audience learns never to expect just what will happen on stage, as everything from a one person rendition of the movie Frozen to a group of blind wizards predicting the future has filled the room with laughter. A love for spontaneity is what holds the shows together for both the cast, and the audience.
“The best part is when there’s an awesome audience,” Qureshi said. “The audience is so important when it comes to giving us suggestions for scenes. When we get bizarre things to work with, the show goes smoothly. Plus, a positive response from the audience is great energy for us to play off of.”
Sarah Smith is a junior at Stone Bridge High School.