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No script? No problem: Third Hand Improv creates one-of-a-kind scenes
Emily Wemhoff
Antelope Staff
Photo by Emily Wemhoff
JT Jelkin (left), a senior organizational communications major from Kearney, and Mark Messner (right), a freshman music education major from Ogallala, help each other through a scene during improv rehearsal. "The best part about improv is that I can do whatever I want and be whoever I want to be," said Jelkin.

Lights, camera, action! It’s opening night for the big show, but unlike most performances, this one doesn’t have a script. Neither the performers nor the audience will know what is going to happen next. The performance doesn’t include memorized dialogues, choreographed dance routines or directed stage cues. Instead, the performers make it up as they go along.

For many actors and actresses, forgetting lines can be their greatest fear on stage, but for the UNK Third Hand Improv (THI) group, forgetting lines just doesn’t exist.

“There are a million things going on in my head, thinking of ways to add to the scene and to help my partner or something that will make it interesting,” said Ryan Hruza, a senior theatre major from Ord.

Third Hand Improv was created last spring by Hruza, in an attempt to bring a unique theatre group to campus. “Most people, even advanced theatre people, aren't exposed to improv very much in Nebraska,” Hruza said. “It's a very good tool for actors and a lot of fun for an audience.”

Although there aren’t any scripts to memorize, the group does meet every week on Monday and Wednesday nights in the Fine Arts Building to learn the fundamentals of improv. Everyone is welcome to attend a workshop night. Basic techniques are taught: word association, listening to your partner and how a scene works. 

JT Jelkin, a senior organizational communications major from Kearney said that improv gives him the chance to play like a kid again.

“I can do whatever I want and be whoever I want to be.”

The performers then learn the fundamentals of improv, which include, always say, “yes” and don’t deny someone. While being clever and funny are included in most improv scenes, performers must first learn how to build a scene and make it come to life, rather than focusing on making the scene comical.

“It’s a natural occurrence for human beings to make stuff up,” Jelkin said. “If you just relax and breathe, improv can happen. If you start to think about it too much or try to think about what to say next, that’s when it can get hard.”

Hannah Om, a freshman musical theatre major from Auburn, said that the other members have great chemistry with each during rehearsals.

“We all get along really well and just have a lot of fun,” Om said.

One of her favorite games is called “Freeze.” The game begins by having two performers act out a random given situation.  At any moment during the scene, someone can yell out “freeze!” Both performers on stage must then freeze in their position. Whoever yelled “freeze” must “tag” one of the two players and assume the same physical position as the person he or she tagged out. A new scene then begins and the process repeats. 

“The best part about improv is when you make something really awesome happen on stage, and it feels natural, when in all actuality it’s just random stuff made up,” Hruza said. “I love bringing the audience into a world that we get to create ourselves onstage.”

Third Hand Improv will make a public performance Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. in the Black Box studio theatre in the Fine Arts Building on campus.

Video by Eric Reitcheck

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