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An "Unusual" Opportunity in the Windy City

Posted by Natalie Johnson '11, Wichita, Kansas on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009

An “Unusual” Opportunity in the Windy City

On November 7, 2009, the University of Minnesota, Morris was proud to send the Unusual Suspects, UMM’s official Improv Troupe, off to Chicago, Illinois, to perform at the regional College Improv Tournament. Jill Bernard, touted as the "Queen of Improv," recommended the Suspects to Johnathan Pitts, College Improv Tournament producer. Although UMM’s first appearance at this special competition ended in the first round, the students appreciated the honor of the invitation and the opportunity to perform in the city where Improv was born.

The tournament was held in rounds with four troupes performing in each round. A winner was declared after each round’s completion. Winners competed in a finals round for the chance to go on to the national tournament in February 2010. The Unusual Suspects were the last performers of the day due to being the troupe traveling from the farthest distance.

Alex McGreavey ’11, Maple Grove, was happy for the opportunity to perform in front a new audience. She states, “Getting the chance to go outside of Morris to audiences who have never seen us and haven't followed our journey as a troupe was an incredible experience. Strangers laughed at us, and that was a great feeling.”

The thrill of performing was only underscored by how welcoming the troupe was made to feel upon arriving in Chicago. Sam Krump-Johnson ’11, Maple Grove, says, “Everyone there was just incredibly supportive and nice, and it was just a really great way to explore and grow in improv in a very accepting setting.”

UMM was an integral part in the trip claims Bennett Smith ’10, Donnelly, who says, “I could not have had this experience at any school other than UMM, because of its size and excellence. Working with a smaller group of students, you really get a chance to show who you are throughout the audition process and in other aspects of the school’s theatre/improv scene. Not only that, but because each student is valued, the other students and faculty really draw your talents out and help you to focus them.”

The troupe as a whole sees the Chicago experience as a learning one, especially the exposure to other forms of “improv universals in other troupes,” McGreavey quips. The Unusual Suspects will be showing off what they’ve learned at future shows. They’ll be hosting their last show of the semester on December 4 and 5, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre. Tickets will be on sale at the door.

Pictured (from left to right): BJ Flynn ’11, Brookings, S.D, Tim Schmidt ’10 Buffalo, Alek Sievert ’12, Burnsville, Jessie Hennen ’11, Shoreview, Michelle Bohacek ’11, Depere, Wis., Alek Kies ’13, St. Paul, Natalie Johnson ’11, Wichita, Kansas, Bennett Smith ’10, Donnelly, Alex McGreavey ’11, Maple Grove, Sam Krump-Johnson ’11, Maple Grove