The pandemic didn’t stop Montezuma-Cortez High School students from showing off their improv skills at the Colorado State Thespian Conference and winning the Critic’s Choice Award.
The conference, usually held in Denver, was converted to a virtual format in December, and students competed virtually. The Colorado State Thespian Conference is considered one of the top five drama competitions in the nation. This year’s conference included three live events and workshops, and each participating group was invited to submit a 15-minute video to the Improv Showcase. Judges viewed the entries and chose the top five for the finals.
The videos allowed the students to submit any type of improv game or act. They were judged on how well students worked together and the ability to create an entertaining and thought-out scene and characters.
Most of the conference participants come from Denver-area schools, but M-CHS students were ready for the challenge of going up against bigger drama departments. The Impulsive Improvisers troupe was established about 10 years ago and is led each year by three member-elected upperclassmen. With a decade of experience to lean on, these students worked around pandemic restrictions in order to prepare for the conference.
For the troupe, participating in the conference meant overcoming a few pandemic-related challenges. All games and rehearsals were conducted virtually, which meant internet connection problems, video and sound delays, overlapping voices, sound-quality problems and echoing. The troupe was also limited to hosting only one in-person show in the fall instead of performing every four to six weeks as they usually would. This challenged their ability to build cohesiveness and camaraderie, but they persevered.
Although Cortez students come from a small town, the troupe has made it to the Improv Showcase finals for the past several years. This year, their performance video won the top spot of Critic’s Choice, which was announced during a virtual awards ceremony.
Out of the 25-member troupe, eight students competed in the Improve Showcase. Student leaders Jayden Curzan, Zane Clapt and Hope Gamron ran rehearsals, with one sitting out each time to make notes and offer suggestions for improvement. M-CHS drama and theater instructor Nicholaus Sandner said their leadership skills were helpful in guiding the influx of new freshman students this year.
Troupe members plan to continue their training and hope to share their talents this spring with outdoor shows. Some members of the troupe will also perform in a folklore-based musical written by students and staff members. Students have also been lending their talents to radio dramas since October.
For more information about the drama department, visit www.mchsdrama.org.