SAK Comedy Lab classes and shows foster local interest in improvisation
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 15:09
Most students have bombed a presentation or come into class completely unprepared and been forced to pull something worthy of a passing grade from thin air. Your GPA suffers, your classmates cringe and your professor gives you the dreaded look of disappointment.
However, when you’re onstage in front of a paying audience, it’s the lack of preparation that makes the show worth watching. The improvisers of SAK Comedy Lab, a 35-year-old improvisational company located in downtown Orlando on the second floor of the CityArts Factory, make up their scenes on the spot inspired only by the audience’s suggestions. While some may find this completely hurl-worthy, the cast feeds on the energy.
“You don’t feel like you have to be clever,” said Chris Dinger, managing director and performer. “You have to be inspired by what’s happening in front of you.”
Though some SAK improvisers have come from different troupes, a good majority of them have risen through the ranks of the comedy lab’s improv classes. SAK University consists of four levels of classes and graduation shows for both levels one and four. The classes, which have a minimum age requirement of 16, teach participants how to build scenes and characters through games designed to build confidence and improve listening, according to the company’s website.
Suzanne Faison, a 23-year-old UCF alumna, is on her way to start taking classes at SAK, where pricing starts at $225 for a level-one two-month class.
“I have been volunteering for about a month now doing front-of-house stuff. It’s a lot of fun and if you volunteer enough you can take the classes for free,” said Faison, who graduated with a bachelor’s in theatrical studies. “I definitely recommend volunteering.” Both time and effort play a role in depending on how soon a person can sign up for classes. While they are racking up hours, future students have the option of taking a free introductory workshop, which is open to the public and offered once every eight weeks.
Philip Lupo, a UCF sophomore majoring in theatre studies, also participated in the free workshop and has taught improv classes on the East Coast at the Titusville Playhouse.
“I’ve been out of improv for a little bit because there is not a whole lot to do over there, so being able to come over here, take the free workshops and, once I get enough volunteer hours, take the classes — that’s what I’m excited for,” Lupo said. “I enjoy improv itself just because I always have so much going on in my life, things always running through my head, so improv is sort of a relief or a release from all that.”
The SAK Theatre Company originated in 1977 as a street theatre troupe of only four people called SAK Comedy, which introduced audience participation shows to Disney.
“The SAK players would tell the story and the audience would act it out. It was SAK’s signature style,” said Dave Russell, current president of the company and one of the original founders of SAK Comedy Lab, which opened its doors in 1991 on April Fool’s Day. “Improv is a great and wonderful form of theatre expression. I don’t know what drew me to it, but I love the idea of making it all up as you go along.” Some of the other SAK Comedy Lab Founders have taken their acting careers to new levels. Wayne Brady, who has made appearances on How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock and Whose Line Is It Anyway?, was one of the first performers at SAK Comedy Lab.
SAK will be performing at the UCF Arena on Friday as a part of UCF’s Family Weekend at 7:30 p.m. Anyone interested in volunteering for SAK can call 407-648-0001 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.