Improv with all-star alumni
November 19, 2015
An average person would find the idea of being on stage without a script a daunting prospect, but Cerritos College alumna Oralia Urias doesn’t only perform improv, she uses her nervousness to fuel her performances.
She said, “As a performer I believe you never overcome the nervous, instead you channel that into your performance. The interesting and scary part about improv is that you don’t have a script to fall back on, it is all on you and your partner to create the space and the scene.”
Urias is performing in the Theatre Department’s Bring Them Back Alive event, which celebrates the campus’s 30th Anniversary of the Generic Improvisational Peep Show (GIPS) on Dec. 4, 5, 10-12 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 13 at 2 p.m.
Urias said she is looking forward to working alongside different generations from GIPS.
She has been doing improv for five years.
She said, “Growing up I would watch the show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway,’ so that was my first taste of improv.”
Urias has one piece of advice for nervous improv students, “Whatever [the students] do on stage, commit to it. The audience would much rather see performers get something completely wrong with confidence than see performers constantly second guess themselves.”
GIPS was started in 1985 by Kevin Hoggard, a now retired Cerritos College theatre professor.
Hoggard started GIPS as an outreach program to help recruit local high schools and to increase the visibility of the Cerritos College theatre program.
“When we began, few people knew what improv was. Now, it is an essential part of every actor training program in the country. Almost every comic actor in current movies and TV has a strong background in improv,” Hoggard said.
This show is a way to bring alumni back to Cerritos, and to have different generations of actors perform together on the stage where they learned their skills.
One famous alum was Steve Carrell, who made an appearance in the 2006 Bring Them Back Alive performance.
He performed on stage with codirector Forrest Hartl.
“As to whether Steve Carell will again drop in unannounced on a performance at this year’s Bring Them Back Alive…well, you’ll have to ask Forrest.” Hoggard added.
The GIPS has been performing in several high schools in the area, including Gahr, Downey and El Rancho for decades, according to director Hartl.
“Many of our alumni were once high school students that saw improvisation for the first time because of the GIPS. The shows motivated them to attend Cerritos and study improv. And the GIPS touring class is still offered every spring semester,” Hartl said.
He believes that students are drawn to improv because of the thrill of making something up on the spot.
Hartl said, “Improv has a live, unpredictable quality that always surprises both the actor and audience. [The members] of our cast have their own unique sense of humor, but the challenge of improv is cooperating with other improvisers.”
According to Hartl, the event will have many of its classic improvised games. Each night will have different GIPS alumni performing.
He said, “Each night will be different with little surprises and twists that will make you want to see it more than once.”