OutRegis! has experienced a renascence of ridiculous proportions this semester. We’re talking “burn the system to the ground and build anew” proportions. See, the club is still fairly young. It started as sketch comedy, morphed into an improv troupe, and is currently trying to find a balance of both. My freshmen and sophomore year, I watched the former presidents (Angela and then Jennie, God love them) lead all the meetings and do 90% of the administrative work, occasionally calling on other members to pick up pizzas or put up posters or focus for once. The president was always charged with the ridiculous task of keeping a bunch of improv kids unified and focused while scrambling to find new members. They might as well have been trying to convince a flock of chickens to stay put on a hopscotch board.
As we rehearsed our sketch show last year, Jennie transferred leadership to me. It was silently assumed that I was the new chicken herder. So, in August, I met with Janna and Jennie. My side of the conversation sounded more like a panicked kindergartener in a college course than a leader. “I don’t know what I’m doing. Is there paperwork? How are we gonna do sketch and improv? How much do I teach versus play? Do I feed them? Who will watch them when I’m gone?”
During that meeting, we decided to build from the ground up. We would start dividing our rehearsals during the week, one part teaching serious improv theory and one part open playtime. We would have– gasp!– an attendance policy. We would start a new group for sketch comedy. We even developed an actual system of government with actual jobs; Jeff was our senator/secretary, in charge of communications, while Becca was our treasurer/vice president, in charge of money and long-term goals.
Our first meeting was an even mix of old fogies and fresh faces. We chatted, we played, and I even fed them. We had open rehearsal on Fridays and closed, intensive rehearsal on Tuesdays. Jeff and I frequently marveled at this miracle of organization: “Holy cow. This is actually working. The group is talented. They learn from each other. They come to rehearsals. They even focus sometimes. They read the emails.” (Full disclosure: I bribed them with randomly dispersed rewards of candy if they proved they read the emails. LEADERSHIP.)
Mid-semester, we started showing off our newly-structured group to the real world. We visited Jennie’s class at a reform school; improvising with middle school kids who thought we were either really cool, really lame, or badly dressed was as challenging as it was hilarious.
What time we didn’t spend at the middle school was spent learning the Time Warp, which we performed as a flash mob around Halloween. Later in the semester, we started experimenting with other forms of guerilla theatre, becoming living statues and following unsuspecting folk around to our and their amusement. If you see an entire improvised gymnastics routine happen on the roof of the Student Center next semester, OutRegis! is probably to blame. (Or praise. Or high-five.) In November, we had our first show. The Pub was packed. I have nothing to say about it, because only those who were there can have any concept of how absolutely amazing it was.
Next semester, Jeff is studying abroad, so we divided his role into two positions, Secretary and Senator, and appointed them to freshmen. Once Jeff is back, we’ll have a five-person cabinet proper and a full year to solidify that system so it doesn’t revert to the “president does everything and goes slowly mad while the vice president feeds them chocolate” way of doing things.
I’m not going to lie: no matter what anarchists tell you, burning a system to the ground is harder than it looks, as is rebuilding it. Every time I realize the members of OutRegis think I know what I’m doing, I feel like a liar. But something must be working, because the group has held together. The chickens not only stayed on the hopscotch board; they grabbed chalk in their little beaks and started drawing. I firmly believe OutRegis will not go off the rails like that metaphor did. We are moving forward.
Coming soon: Part II: The OutRegis! Expansion Pack!