Fairfield University's improvisational comedy troupe of Theatre Fairfield wins second place at ImprovBoston's 2010 College Comedy Beanpot Tournament


Image: BeanpotIn February, Theatre Fairfield, Fairfield University's resident student performing group, sent "On the Spot," (OTS) its improvisational comedy troupe directed by adjunct professor Yvonne Conybeare, to ImprovBoston's 2010 College Comedy Beanpot Tournament for three days of mouth to mouth competition with nine northeastern colleges. "On the Spot" came home with a second place win and a special award for OTS member Andrew O'Shaughnessy '11 (Princeton Junction, N.J.).

One of the basic tenets of Improv is to always accept what another person onstage or in the audience gives a performer in terms of information and to work with whatever that might be. Making exemplary use of his Improv training, O'Shaughnessy, winner of an award for good sportsmanship, turned a potential liability into a comedic opportunity when he used the crutches he has been forced to depend upon because of a broken leg to his favor: "I had a lot of fun turning this disadvantage into an advantage. The judges and the crowd loved when I used my crutches to hold myself in the air and pretended to 'fly.' I just tried my best to make something good out of a bad situation."

OTS is a group of eight students that include O'Shaughnessy, Jennifer Martin '10 (Reading, Mass.), Zachary Tesoriero '11 (New York, N.Y.) Christina Dunne '13 (Princeton Junction, N.J.), Alexandra Burke '11 (Fairfield, Conn.), Thomas Saporito '12 (Larchmont, N.Y.), Kyle Duggin '11 (Westfield, Mass.) and Amanda Zeller, '11 (Houston, Texas).

The competition is stiff with nine other colleges and universities in play: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, Brandeis University, Boston College, Northeastern University, Gordon College, University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Clark University, which won the tournament.

Conybeare, also a professional director and performer (www.conybeare.net), was thrilled with the OTS troupe, "Our students are wonderful ambassadors for Fairfield. Not only are they a disciplined and funny troupe who work together well onstage, individually they are all gracious and considerate travelers. I was proud to be with them."

It was, however, the troupe's outstanding onstage skills and adaptability that garnered her exuberant praise, "I give my students lots of credit. We have devoted this year in celebration of The R&J Project, to improvising full-length wildly funny plays in the style of Shakespeare. The improvisations have been traditionally structured plays along contemporary themes using Shakespearean techniques such as rhetorical devices, Elizabethan pronouns, and Shakespearean plot devices and archetypes. After developing characters and narratives that play for 60-90 minutes, the students were able to capture the audience within the 60-90 seconds required to score high at the Beanpot competition."

According to the OTS troupe, the adventure was a wonderful experience. Dunne was quick to note that "it was tons of fun to gather with other people who shared my passion for Improv and to see what other troupes are doing." And Saporito dubbed the tournament, " a great chance to see how other people view the expansive world of improvised theater." 

The students were treated to a Saturday afternoon workshop that Conybeare said was a highlight of the three-day experience. "ImprovBoston is wonderful to do this for the Improv community. With the cream of New England college improvisers participating, it was a terrific opportunity for students to see the level of play and creativity at other colleges and," she added, "it was great to see this stand-out group of performers raise the bar for each other, live."

Perhaps, Tesoriero said it best; "The Beanpot challenged us as performers in a way that is crucial for the growth of any improviser. All I can say is I can't wait to go back next year with even more energy and experience. Look out Beanpot, "On the Spot" is on its way."

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 18, 2010

Vol. 42, No. 231