Harvey Mudd Improv Group Performs Outdoors, Saves Trees

Where can you find tree zombies, a turkey named Winston and
famed Hollywood director Michael Bay?

Harvey Mudd College on a Saturday afternoon, of course.

The Center for Environmental Studies and ESW/MOSS presented Off the
Grid: An Improv/A Cappella Extravaganza on Feb. 21 in
HMC’s Shakespeare Theater. Because the event aimed to promote the 5C
Powerdown Challenge, none of the performing acts used electricity of any
kind. That meant no lights, no cell phones and most importantly, no
microphones—decisions befitting a theater named after the Elizabethan-era Bard.

The acts
included Harvey Mudd’s improvisational comedy group DUCK! and four a cappella
groups: the After School Specials, Men’s Blue and White, Midnight Echo and
K*Chords.

DUCK!’s performance took up a large portion of the
event. Comprised of roughly ten Harvey Mudd students, the group was given the
challenge of creating an environmentally-themed show.

They began
by asking an audience member to share a time she helped the environment.
Her answer—planting trees in a nature preserve—would be the topic of many
of their subsequent skits. 

The first
game involved three people and three audience-selected phrases: a turkey
sandwich, paradise and famed action movie director, Michael Bay. Given those
three idiosyncratic subjects, the group devised some creative storylines,
including the aforementioned turkey named Winston and an ill-fated island movie.

“It’s a
great way to de-stress and stay in touch with your inner child,” DUCK! member Kirk Lao HM ’16 said. “I’ve been doing it since freshman year, and I love
it.”

The
next game was Action Replay, in which two participants enacted a scene while
another pair watched from far above, unable to hear but still able to see what
was going on. When the second pair replaced the first, they had to pick up
where they thought it had left off—with hilarious results. For example, the
first group’s voyage over Hawaiian lava translated into a scared man
confronting his fear of water.

In between games, the group improvised scenes about an actress preparing for her role as a tree zombie. The idea of the tree came from the beginning of the show, when the student volunteer mentioned planting trees in a nature preserve.  

David Tenorio HM ’17, another group member, was pleased with the direction of the show. 

“We usually don’t perform outdoors, and it’s not often you get to hold a
funeral for a tree,” he said. “That’s certainly something special.”

In “Director,” Jacob Rosenbloom HM ’15 played a director
watching his actors rehearse a scene for an audience-titled movie, Everybody Dies. The basic premise was
that the family’s grandma had recently died, and her son had served her
remains to the other family members.

However,
Rosenbloom offered comic advice to his ‘actors’ throughout the run.

“Hmm, I’m
not sure I’m feeling this,” he said at one point, turning to the audience. “How
about the grandfather is a reincarnation of Tom Cruise and can breathe underwater?”

Overall,
the group was satisfied with the performance. Rosenbloom explained that the group chooses their skits based on previous experience or a simple
desire to try something out, then tries to balance the number of scenes per
person.

Aside from
the vocal sounds of the a cappella groups, the event had yet another sweet
feature: ice cream sold by Natasha Allen HM ’16 and Aleena Ali CM ’17. The
profits went to the Coalition for the Empowerment of Education,
Leadership and Independence (CEELI). 

According to Allen, “CEELI members work with communities to break their cycle with poverty and harness the resources they already have available.”

CEELI was founded by a CMC student in 2013 and works with communities in developing nations to form sustainable, locally-powered educational programs. 

“The point is that these communities won’t be reliant on external aid,” Ali said. “We want
them to be invested in education. That’s why the program goes to specific
villages and interviews residents so they can craft educational programs
tailored to the town’s needs.”

Editor’s note: The article originally indicated that David Tenorio HM ’17’s last name was spelled Senario.

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