Office Hours, Bowdoin’s longform improvisation group founded by James Jelin ’16, has been selected for a second time to perform at the Del Close Marathon, a festival hosted by Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (UCB) that brings 72 hours of uninterrupted, nonstop improv to New York City for one weekend in June.
The majority of Office Hours members have not received professional training. The festival will give Office Hours a chance to connect with the broader improv community and work towards accomplishing one of the more technically challenging longform styles, called a “Harold.”
As part of its application for the festival, Office Hours submitted a 15-minute clip from its Valentine Day’s show, “Love Hurts” and wrote a bio of the group.
“It’s so exciting to bring this thing that we do between the eight of us in Brunswick and bring it to the epicenter of improv and just be around all these other nerds who love it as much as we do,” said Sophie de Bruijn ’18, co-leader of Office Hours.
In preparation, Office Hours has been rehearsing “Harolds,” a longform style invented by Del Close and brought from Chicago to New York by UCB. In a “Harold,” there is a suggestion from the audience that becomes the basis for three different scenes upon which the rest of the scenes build. The show ends with the three original scenes connecting in a final scene.
“[‘Harolds’ are] the most fun to watch as an audience member because it’s so fun to see the math of it and it’s very complicated. It’s technically very difficult to do so you have to have a really strong base in other principals of improv in order to do it, but hopefully we’re getting there,” de Bruijn said.
“Doing a ‘Harold’ is like building the plane while it’s flying already in the air,” she added.
Office Hours uses the UCB Comedy Manual as its guide during practices. Only two of the eight members of Office Hours have participated in UCB-run workshops. Office Hours works collaboratively to run practices, though, and individual members take turns coaching.
Justin Weathers ’18 did not have any improv experience when he joined Office Hours last year and does not describe himself as a ‘theater kid.’
“I think [improv] gives me a reason to laugh throughout the week. It has really big life skills that can be derived from it and the third best thing about it is the performance aspect of it,” Weathers said.
De Bruijn encourages students in New York this summer to attend the festival.
“I think that improv is the purest and most fun and cathartic art form and I love to do it and I’m so excited to be around other people who love to do it,” she said.