Improv troupe spent spring break training at The Second City


Article by Linda Relyea

twelve lost and found troupe members including director pose in front of the second city marquee all dressed in black tshirts forming three rows

The Adams State Lost and Found troupe includes left to right, back row: Michael Ricci, Class of 2018, Jennifer Perez, Class of 2019, Brandon Duran, Class of 2018, and Jenna Neilsen, director; middle row: Kaitlyn Willhite, Class of 2019, TJ Spangler, Class of 2018, Justin Bodry-Hall, Class of 2019, and Kaleb Burris, Class of 2020; front row: Anakay Hanold, Class of 2019, Mason Harvey, Class of 2018, Brandon Billings, Class of 2020, and Violet Ramsey, Class of 2018.

The members of the Adams State University Lost and Found Improv troupe along with their director Jenna Neilsen, associate professor of theatre, gather round in a half circle eager to answer a few questions about their experience at The Second City in Chicago over spring break, March 19 through March 23. "We realized our strength as a troupe and our need to support each other for our art," said Anakay Hanold.

The Second City, billed as "the world's premier comedy club/theatre and school of improvisation," specializes in sketch comedy and improv and has been delighting audiences for over 50 years. "The Second City definitely has name recognition outside the improvisation community," Neilsen said. "The students are always really excited about attending the same training center that taught so many comedians whom they look up to, including Tina Fey and Steve Carell."

This is the third time Neilsen has accompanied students to the Windy City. "Each time we go the group grows. The current troupe learned skills from those before them and then they internalize their training and return with a whole new skill set to pass on. It is exciting to me to watch this legacy of passing along skills and the troupe continuing to grow and improve."

The troupe attended improvisation classes three hours a day Monday through Friday. The Second City instructor watched video footage of the troupe and had prepared training especially geared toward their needs. "It was nice to get back to the basics and perform before fresh eyes," said TJ Spangler.

Mason Harvey appreciated the troupe leaving behind personal drama and focusing on the troupe's "goals and strengths." Class time went "really fast" according to Brandon Billings. "We also saw an awesome improv show every night. It was great to see how a professional troupe performs." Violet Ramsey agreed: "I realized I still have an incredible amount still to learn."

Along with attending 11 improv performances in the evening, Neilsen made sure to include a visit to the Chicago Institute of Art and they stayed at a downtown hostel. "This experience really benefits the students who attend as well as those who get to absorb the energy and knowledge they bring back. I stress the importance of this opportunity for our students, many who have seldom been on a plane, never navigated a public transportation system, nor have the chance to see live theatre any night of the week."

The trip has inspired Brandon Duran to return to Chicago after graduation in May. Michael Ricci appreciated exploring the city and meeting "many interesting" people from around the world at the hostel.

Her first summer at Adams State, Neilsen received a teaching scholarship to attend an improv intensive with Keith Johnstone at the Celebration Barn Theatre in Maine. Part of the stipulation for the award was teaching a one-credit course. The students wanted more. The improv class became part of the theatre curriculum and an improv troupe of students has been performing on campus and off ever since.

Lost and Found Comedy Improv Troupe will perform at 10 p.m. Saturday, April 14, in the Theatre Building Xperimental Theatre.