Kennesaw Improv Society heats up the Metro Atlanta comedy scene

By EMILY WOLFE

For those seeking to step foot into the world of comedic entertainment, Atlanta is a city of incredible opportunities. Comedians from all over the world travel to Atlanta to perform stand-up, improvisational comedy and audition for film and stage acting. What some may not know is that our own home of Kennesaw State University is dishing out some very serious talent to the comedy universe.

Kennesaw Improv Society Stupid, better known as “KISS”, is an improvisational comedy ensemble that began in 2007 as a small campus group, teaching and rehearsing weekly. Since its launch, the ensemble has grown to become not only one of the more recognized clubs on campus, but also one of Metro Atlanta’s most promising comedy forces.

Left to Right: Avery Sharpe and Rachel Wansker rehearse for their show “Rocktober Laff-Fest” on October 3rd and 4th. Photo by Emily Wolfe.
Left to Right: Avery Sharpe and Rachel Wansker rehearse for their show “Rocktober Laff-Fest” on October 3rd and 4th. Photo by Emily Wolfe.

KISS, now with an eight member ensemble of men and women, focuses on educating students about the art of comedy and emphasizes the importance of honesty, story telling, and selflessness.

Each Tuesday, rehearsals known as “All Skates” take place in the Wilson Building on KSU’s campus. All current and alumni students are welcome to join in free workshops taught by the group.

These open rehearsals have become increasingly popular throughout the KSU community and now boast an average weekly attendance of 50 students. Here, the leaders of KISS teach games and methods inspired by famous comedic instructors, such as Del Close and Keith Johnstone.

“We like to focus on the power of ‘Yes, And,’” said Rachel Wansker, one of three co-presidents of KISS. “You enter a scene with an offer and your scene partner agrees with whatever you have said. Then together you build a story, layer by layer. ”

This technique of ‘Yes, And’ seems to also melt into the personal lives of the performers.

Several members say they face life with a more positive outlook, taking their negative experiences and morphing them into honest scenes for their audiences to relate to. Together, audiences and performers overcome these obstacles through shared laughter.

Wansker also said that she has started to say “yes” to more opportunities to teach.

One of these more recent opportunities was assisting the Georgia Theatre Ensemble in Roswell with their improvisational classes for middle school and high school students.

“We travel to schools and theaters throughout the Metro Atlanta area, providing workshops to students of all ages at no cost,” said Jamie Bullins, KISS’s faculty advisor.

KISS is not only traveling and teaching the community about comedy performance, but also welcomes the opportunity to learn from others.

The KISS Ensemble works closely with cast members from Atlanta’s Dad’s Garage Theatre, who are great inspirations to KSU improv students.

For the past several years, Dad’s Garage and KSU have had a mutually beneficial relationship of workshops and performances. KISS has had the opportunity to learn from Dad’s Garage greats, such as Kevin Gillese, Randy Havens and Amber Nash, who plays “Pam” on FX’s popular series, Archer.

Currently, the ensemble is working with Dad’s own Travis Sharp for all of their fall performances. Sharp is teaching workshops and will guest star in all of KISS’ fall and winter shows.

KISS Ensemble members are also part of a working documentary entitled, “Laughter is a Global Event,” which focuses on the experiences of improvisational actors in Atlanta and promotes global laughter and involvement with the art.

In the summer of 2012, KISS traveled to New York City and performed at Upright Citizen’s Brigade, a famed theatre where actors like Amy Poehler, Donald Glover, and Aziz Ansari began their careers.

Many former members of KISS graduated and now have careers in comedy and theatre not only in Atlanta, but also all over the U.S.

Not only students of KSU’s Theater Department audition for KISS.

“What’s great about improv is that anyone can benefit from it!” said Nathan Brosy,  KISS co-president. “Improv teaches you to think and respond quickly, improve listening and story telling skills and grow to be a more empathetic person. I think this helps every profession, from health to business to international communication.”

KISS is making a positive impact on KSU’s campus, as well as surrounding Atlanta communities. The members of this unique ensemble are teaching the student body important skills not only for career building, but for personal happiness as well.

KISS shows no signs of stopping with more free workshops to high school students in the near future, as well as collaborative shows in Atlanta with Dad’s Garage.

KSU students can attend the weekly workshops and free, campus shows at the Onyx Theatre.

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