On This Stage, Anything Goes
By Scott Shurtleff
AYER -- “Quick Wits” will make you laugh, but only if you attend one of their shows.
The Ayer Shirley Regional High School Drama Club’s improv troupe is hoping to surpass last year’s successful performance with another two-night run of slapstick, sketches, puns and pratfalls, on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 4 and 5, at the school’s Laura Leavitt Auditorium.
The 7 p.m. shows will feature the students acting out spontaneous skits based on suggestions from audience members. The 10-member ensemble must “have many talents to master improv -- brains, confidence, creativity ... and excellent comic timing,” said Director JulieAnn Govang.
The shows will again be hosted by David Fisher, of Acme Improv Company in Maynard, who will also guide the performers on stage. Faith Salter will assist during the performances. To witness the wit costs only $10, and the proceeds will go to the ASRHS Drama Club Scholarship Fund.
The roster of clowns in this year’s troupe includes returning jokers and rookie jesters: Carolyn Cooper, Vanessa Delk, Liam Gleason, Nadia Nalesnik, Deran Quinty and Lexi Rock will join newcomers Alexis Blackwell, Alison Houde, Natalie Kalgren, Andy Shelton and Katie Kilcommins on stage. The show was so popular last year that the troupe decided to double the fun, according to Govang.
The hijinx are rated PG-13 as there is no telling what might fall out of the mouths and minds of the Quick Wits. The performers see the gigs of gags as more than an extension of their interest in performing arts.
“I am going to college to become a teacher,” said Nadia Nalesnik, who has been part of the drama club for four years. “This helps build the confidence needed to speak in front of groups of people. Plus, thinking on your feet is just a great life skill to have.”
Newcomer Andy Shelton attends the neighboring Francis Parker Charter School in Devens, and makes the short trip to the Panthers’ stage to workshop with the troupe ahead of the next month’s performances.
“I joined because I have a love of words and like to make people laugh. I prefer ‘thinking on the fly’ over playing a character in a play,” he said.
Improv does not mean disorganization. “There are certain principles that apply,” said Salter of the nuanced guidelines. Like, don’t try to force the funny. Just do the skit and people will laugh. And with so many players on stage at once, without a script, there is a tendency for the audience to expect a level of chaos.
“Not so,” said Salter. “They work as teams sometimes and give each other space to operate. ‘Fish’ (David Fisher) keeps things on track.”