The sound of Taylor Swift songs led curious viewers of the 5C Without a Box improv show to the lecture hall at the Scripps Humanities Auditorium on Oct. 21 As people headed to their seats and anticipated the start, the show offered audience members a chance to foster community together. For an hour of spontaneity, the audience was full of laughter, joy and, most importantly, Taylor Swift.
Through a series of mini games, the Without A Box Improv troupe brought the audience on a journey of laughs. With jokes about cover bands, Carly Rae Jepsen, long-lost sisters and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” the performance jumped from one joke to the next.
JJ Pendo PO ’24, a member of the nine-person troupe, explained that improv is “acting without a script.” The troupe often takes suggestions from the audience, which allows for an interactive experience for both viewers and performers. This style of performance allows the stage to expand and include the entire auditorium.
This transformation turns the improv space into a whole new world.
“This is a really good way to be goofy and silly,” Emily Stoutjesdyk PO ’25, another member of the troupe, said. “I think it’s a nice way to get out creative energy and … let go of your fear of looking weird.”
“It’s a space where we can de-stress every single time we practice, and it’s an outlet that is unlike many other outlets available. We work really hard to make our group a safe space.”
Both Pendo and Stoutjesdyk joined the troupe in the fall semester of 2021. Since then, they described the community they have found and their joy each time they get together with the troupe.
“It’s a space where we can de-stress every single time we practice, and it’s an outlet that is unlike many other outlets available,” Pendo said. “We work really hard to make our group a safe space.”
This comfort was seen on stage as the performers let their walls down and gave the audience a fun show.
“I kind of thought this was their best show,” said Elias Tiwan PO ’25, an audience member and frequent viewer of Without A Box Improv shows.
Meanwhile, Zariah Folkes PO ’25 watched Without a Box perform for the first time.
“They had really good comedic timing,” Folkes said. “I thought it was really funny.”
Following the theme of the show, the jokes had a fun focus. After the release of Swift’s new album “Midnights” on Oct. 21, the improv troupe felt it fitting to devote the show to this release.
“I know that there is a large Swiftie population at the Claremont Colleges, and myself and other members of the troupe are big Swifties,” Pendo said. “We’re very excited because we haven’t really done a theme like this before.”
Viewers were also excited to see the show in action.
The theme “thickened up the show [and] gave something to tie back to,” Folkes said.
Another viewer of the show, Shirley Toribio PO ’25, agreed.
“The jokes were really accessible to people who aren’t Swifties,” Toribio said.
Whatever the theme, Without a Box explores a vast range of experiences and emotions.
“Improv is a really nice space to be able to escape some of the things that are happening in the world,” Stoutjesdyk said. “I do think it is important to give people the space to be able to laugh about things that are going on in more of a light-hearted way.”
This temporary, light-hearted escape can be a source of relief with the many complicated and stressful factors students face.
“I think [improv] is like a tool for talking about different issues but doing it while uplifting everyone involved because it’s a joyous art form,” Pendo said.
This mindset can be seen beyond performances, as Stoutjesdyk said that an important lesson from improv has been “learning how to go with what you’ve been given and think on your feet.” A lighthearted, go with the flow mentality can be extremely helpful in any situation in our constantly changing world.
By giving people the space and time to relax, laugh and listen to Taylor Swift, Without A Box Improv continues to impress audiences. Within an hour of spontaneous jokes, this troupe is able to help their audience focus on the more nonchalant — but still just as potentially fulfilling — aspects of life.
Without A Box’s next performance will take place Oct. 29 on Marston Quad for Pomona’s Parents’ Weekend at 5:00 p.m.