Tom Cruise was paid a visit by his dead daughter on Halloween night.
It’s a page right out of the National Enquirer, but the West Florida Improvonauts made the scene come to life when one of their cast members stepped onto stage dressed in a white button-down shirt, boxers, ankle socks and sunglasses while another cast member with bows in her hair and blood-stained clothes made her presence known to him during last year’s Halloween improv show.
The Improvonauts came to be in fall of 2010 with the idea that improv shows would be free, fun and something to do. Cast members were inspired by TV shows “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “Saturday Night Live.”
The scene was from a game of “genres,” where a scene is played in its original genre and then turned into other genres, such as telenovela, romance, horror or action. Improv comedy consists of short scenes or games acted out by a group of people with specific ideas in mind suggested by a theme or the audience. The Improvonauts usually include games played from “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” in their lineup, like “scenes from a hat” and “impressions.”
Cruise’s dead daughter was played by Ashlee Ballew, a sophomore theater major. She joined the Improvonauts last fall when Justin Norris, one of the originals of the group and now a graduate student of strategic communication and leadership, approached Ballew as a camp counselor for Argo Camp and told her she’d be a great fit.
Ballew was overcome with stage fright during her first show last September.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Ballew said. “I wasn’t funny at all, but the group was really welcoming.”
Ballew said Jonathan Carp, president of the Improvonauts, is the funny man of the current cast.
Carp’s goals for the Improvonauts this year are to create more of a following and to do more shows. He said he always hopes to make people laugh everywhere he goes.
“Laughter is contagious,” Carp, a senior archaeology major, said. “When you have one person laughing in a room of 20 people, the odds are the whole room will end up bursting into laughter.”
He has been with the Improvonauts since its start. At every show, Carp is known to act out killing a cat during a scene, which is odd because he actually owns a cat.
Norris and Carp are the only members left from the original cast. Eight members were in the original cast.
So far, the Improvonauts have performed during Welcome Week and have collaborated with the African American Student Association. Norris said he would love to see the Improvonauts performing for and working with more campus organizations on a regular basis.
“We are here to do shows and make people laugh at UWF, and we always are looking for more ways to perform on campus,” Norris said.
The Improvonauts will be hosting shows at the University Commons Auditorium on Oct. 15 and Nov. 5. Both shows will begin at 7 p.m.. Admission is free and open to the public.
Currently, the Improvonauts have ten members on board. They are looking for more members this fall. If interested in becoming an Improvonaut, contact Jonathan Carp at email@example.com. No experience is needed, just a willingness to learn and laugh.