The Stage Monkeys, Southern Miss’s student-led improv group, held its first performance Thursday.
Harrison Cunningham, junior advertising major and vice president of the Stage Monkeys, hosted the show, which had a zoo theme. Each ‘Monkey’ came to the show dressed in animal-themed garb. The Stage Monkeys have had themed shows in the past, but the group is currently aiming to have themed shows be more common moving forward.
At shows, the Stage Monkeys play many improv games that often involve audience participation. They often ask audience members for suggestions for scene locations, character traits and more during the games, and audience members get a kick from seeing their suggestions realized on stage.
For Thursday’s show, the Stage Monkeys premiered two new games: Objection and Time Machine. In Objection, the Monkeys split into two groups arguing opposing points. In Time Machine, the Monkeys establish a scenario wherein they would begin to act and then suddenly pretend to jump forward or backward in time and continue the scene.
Senior biology major and Stage Monkey President Andrew Robertson said, “I think the show Thursday was a big success. Everyone had a good time participating, and it kicked off the new semester very well. We had a lot of audience participation, which is always a great way to interact with our fans.”
One game called Freeze Tag, allows anyone, including audience members, to actually participate and perform with the Stage Monkeys. The game starts with some Monkeys engaging in a scene. At any point, someone can say “Freeze!” and tag someone out of the scene and replace him or her and continue the scene.
When this game was played Thursday, freshman polymer science major Jaren Jones took the stage a couple of times during the skit. Keeping up with the Monkeys, he elicited laughs from the audience as well.
Jones said, “[Participating on stage] was fun. At first, I thought, ‘Should I?’ but I am glad I went up.”
The next Stage Monkey show will be on Thursday, Feb. 15, at Wilbur Stout Hall from 7 pm to 9 pm. Tryouts for the Stage Monkeys will be held the day after, Friday, Feb. 16. Students are encouraged to attend Thursday’s show and see if the Stage Monkeys may be a good fit, whether as a regular audience member or potentially as a member of the troupe.
Jones, who had not attended a Stage Monkeys show before this one, found the experience enthralling. “I will definitely be trying out [for the Stage Monkeys],” Jones said.
Cunningham, who had done theater all throughout his schooling and holds a love for acting, encouraged those who have an interest but are nervous to come. “Improv is an inclusive place for all kinds of people. If you’re shy, the best way to not be is to come out and try [performing with the Stage Monkeys],” he said.
Robertson said, “[The Stage Monkeys] are a student-based comedy organization made up of students from all majors and classifications. We want to welcome anyone interested in comedy or looking for fun to come to auditions to have a good time and see what we’re all about.”