On The Fly steps up games at Midwest’s largest improv festival

By: Scott Peterson – Staff Writer

The University of Dayton’s improvisational club On the Fly left the UD bubble to perform in its first improv festival at Ohio State University this month.

On Valentine’s Day weekend, On the Fly traveled to the Bellwether Improvisational Comedy festival. The festival was put on by OSU and its improv group, 8th Floor Improv. The festival was open to both college and professional comedy groups.

Since 2010, the festival, formerly known as “Improvfest,” has worked to inspire collaboration among collegiate improv performers. It is currently the largest improv festival in the Midwest—and one of the largest in the United States.

“Ever since I was a freshmen, On the Fly has wanted to get into this festival, but there was confusion about contacts,” On the Fly President Anthony Dalpiaz said. “So I looked at OSU improv group called 8th Floor Improv. I emailed them late in summer and this August. The president emailed me around December and said a spot opened.”

This festival provided new challenges for On the Fly because it involved long form improv. This is a change for the group because members are used to performing short form improv during their Dayton shows.

“[Long form improv is] a series of comedic scenes generated normally by a one word suggestion from the audience,” On the Fly Vice President Norb Wessels said.  “There is no gimmick or game to play. It’s just the performers creating a scene. It differs from short form in that short form is more like games.”

Short form games are typically played in On the Fly performances. An example of short form is a game called “Sit, Stand, Lean.” In the game the actors create a scene, but as they do it one actor must be standing, one must be sitting and one must be leaning at all times. As the scene continues, the participants switch these roles.

The group spent time practicing long form in the weeks before their performance. The new long form improv game that they learned was called “The Village.”

“It’s a game where every scene that you see takes place in one village. Everyone starts with a suggestion and makes a two-person scene. We go down the line until the entire group has done the scene. We then stop and ask how much time as passed then do the scene again,” Dalpiaz said. This game was debuted at their Valentine’s Day show prior to the festival.

The Bellwether Festival lasted two days.  During the day, the performers could do workshops to better their improvisational skills. The workshops included ways to develop a character in a scene, as well as the building of a scene itself.

“The best scenes are those that really delve deep into the relationship of the characters,” Dalpiaz said.

For the festival performances, each group was assigned a time slot. The collegiate groups performed early in the night, and the professionals followed them later on. On the Fly had the first time slot on the first day.  After their show, the team was able to learn from the professionals.

“They are very polished and very confident. They know when to cut a scene that isn’t working. That way, you completely forget about the last scene,” Dalpiaz said.

On the Fly hopes to return to the Bellwether Festival in the years to come. This short drive to Columbus has helped the group better their performance skills.

“We will use the whole experience at Bellwether to launch ourselves to become better, smarter performers,” Dalpiaz said.

Follow On the Fly on Twitter at @OnTheFlyImprov and like the On the Fly Improv Facebook page to stay up-to-date on the hilarious and exciting news of UD’s improv group.

Members of On the Fly (L to R): Elizabeth Todia, Michael Painter, Anthony Dalpiaz, Caleb Williamson, Matt Beebe, Johnny Antonini, Annie Scott, Bobby Swanson, Norb Wessels and Chad Mroczka pose with OSU’s buckeye mascot on campus. Photo courtesy of On the Fly.