Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
HOLDREGE, Neb. (AP) — On a typical day after the bell rings, the halls of Holdrege High School are quiet.
But lately, laughter erupts from the school's choir room on Thursdays after school because a group of about 15 students have gathered to entertain, create, learn and get to know each other in a new student improv comedy group, the Kearney Hub (http://bit.ly/1AnqaSG ) reported.
At a recent meeting, three students pretend to kayak down Niagara Falls. With no script and just a simple assignment, three random participants act out the scene. The result fills the room with laughter as one student pretends to throw up on the other two during their kayak adventure.
The group was the idea of sophomore Jonathan Edwards, who recently moved to Holdrege from Hastings where he was involved in an improv club at Hastings High School.
"I just love it," Edwards said of improv. "They are just sitting there, and their faces are lit up with smiles."
Rather than sulk over not having an improv club in Holdrege, Edwards decided to start one this spring. He approached Principal Robert Drews, who gave him permission to proceed if he could secure a sponsor. At Edwards' urging, art teacher Shane Haley agreed to supervise the new group.
Edwards recruited three other "captains" to help him form and lead the club: freshman Riley Stehl, sophomore David Campbell and sophomore Austin Perez. The captains help recruit and organize and then lead smaller groups of students during the meetings to ensure that everyone gets a chance to perform.
The requirements to be in the group are simple.
"You must have a human body," Edwards said. "And, you just have to get up there and be willing to make a fool of yourself. That's it. It's just something that everyone can do. It's not like only speech kids or only drama kids can do this. Tennis players, football players or anyone can come out and do this as well."
Edwards hopes to see the group grow as it did in Hastings, where the group now has between 40 and 50 students.
Some students who participate, such as freshman Shelby Altwine, love to talk in front of a group.
"I like talking, like a lot," Altwine said. "I like being really loud."
The club gives her an outlet for her passion to talk, and she hopes it helps build skills for her career, which she said probably will involve speaking in front of groups.
But, Edwards said, some students are not sure about acting yet and come to just watch and laugh.
"This is a place that you can express yourself and have other people create something with you," he said. "It's an amazing way to get together and get to know your classmates. It's an easy way to leave an impression on someone just by making them smile."
During an improv session or performance, the captains present a "handle," or situation to the audience. For example, the captain may ask the audience about something one does on summer vacation. The audience may answer, "swimming."
Swimming becomes the handle for the actors who volunteer to perform based on that scenario. What results usually is unpredictable and funny.
Edwards got a taste of having an audience roar with laughter during his Hasting improv experience, and he loved it.
"I love making people laugh," he said. "I love entertaining people. It makes me really happy to create something out of practically nothing."
He would consider himself lucky to have a career in improv, acting or comedy.
"That feeling that I get making people laugh is just something that I love," he said "If I could do something like this, I would drop everything in a heartbeat and try to achieve it."
Edwards described himself as a class clown and enjoys doing things that "are random and out of the ordinary."
Campbell also enjoys humor and acting.
"I've never really been against making a fool of myself," he said.
He encourages fellow students to get involved because it's "a good chance for people to come in and hang out and have a good time and laugh at each other."
Stehl, who performed with Edwards in speech competitions this year, said the improv group may help in other areas of life, such as social skills.
"I think it's nice because it transfers over to real life," Stehl said. "You are kind of on the spot trying to think of where to go with this scene and how to make it funny."
During the summer, Edwards said he envisioned the improv group could include the entire community — young and old alike who want to have fun and get to know each other.
And, eventually, he would like the group to schedule public performances to share laughter and comedy with all.
Information from: Kearney Hub, http://www.kearneyhub.com/
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