WALLA WALLA, Wash. – How much money can 12 whacky Whitman College students collect for a good cause by offering the campus and local community 24 hours of non-stop improvisational comedy?

And how long will it take 12 sleep-deprived college students to gradually lose their hold on reality?

For the answers to those questions, mark your calendars for this Friday, April 21. That’s when the Whitman Theatre Sports team fearlessly embarks on its annual 24-hour improvisational comedy marathon. The show, which is open to the public, gets underway in Maxey Auditorium at 7 p.m. Friday and continues unabated until 7 p.m. Saturday.

All proceeds from the show will be donated to Walla Walla’s Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, a private non-profit community-based organization committed to providing HIV/AIDS support services and resources.

There is no admission charge for the show, but donations will be accepted at the door. Also, in exchange for contributions, audience members can have their suggestions acted out on stage, or they can take the stage themselves. Finally, the Theatre Sports team plans to raffle off a number of prizes and gift certificates from local businesses.

Whitman Theatre Sports, a club that auditions for new members at the start of each academic year, specializes in improvisational theater, a performance art in which actors forego scripts and memorized lines in favor of improvising characters, scenes and dialogue off the top of their heads. Suggestions from the audience help keep the shows fresh and original.

This weekend improvisational marathon promises to be a “lot of fun and pretty interesting as the hours pass and the performers start reacting to having not slept,” Theatre Sports captain Stephen Carter says.

Carter, a junior politics major from Kirkland, Wash., says team members aren’t required to participate for the entire 24 hours. “We work out shifts, but many of the members choose to stay the whole time. We also keep a tent in the auditorium for members who need a little nap but don’t want to leave.”

A prize will also be given to the Whitman student or person who spends the most time at the comedy marathon.

In staging this weekend’s marathon, Carter says, the Theatre Sports team will use new skills and materials it learned during a Spring Break trip to Chicago, Ill., which is known at the Improvisational Comedy Capital of the World. Several team members spent four days in Chicago, attending private workshops at The Second City and the i.O Theatre, two of the top improvisational theaters in the world.

“Chicago was an enormous experience,” Carter says. “I don’t think I can really express the value of the trip in words.”

Team members completed about 17 hours of workshop led by a number of improvisational comedy professionals. “They worked to help us ‘get out of our heads’ when we perform,” Carter says. “In addition, there was a lot of emphasis on ‘building a group mind,’ supporting each other audibly and physically, and also learning longer forms of improvisational comedy.”

The team is now focused on including “longer, more meaningful and theatrical scenes and forms that hopefully will tell a story and entertain our audience in a whole new way while still making them laugh,” Carter adds.

While in Chicago, team members also saw several improv and sketch comedy shows at a number of clubs. “That gave us even more ideas and models for good improv and scene work,” Carter says. “We’re eager to try much of what we learned.”

Team members planning to perform this weekend, in addition to Carter, are seniors Aaron Mandel (El Cerrito, Calif.), Will Hyman (Aspen, Colo.), Dan Baxter (Monte Sereno, Calif.), juniors Eric Wehlitz (Greenbrae, Calif.) and Matt Jumago (Tigard, Ore.), sophomores Jeff Wilson (Helena, Mont.), Matt Aliabadi (Bainbridge Island, Wash.), and Kim Wetter (Bothell, Wash.), and first-year students Ben Kegan (Winnetka, Ill.), Sarah Hatheway (Samammish, Wash.) and Caitlin Schoenfelder (La Grande, Ore.).

CONTACT: Dave Holden, Whitman News Service
(509) 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu