The following article was written by Sophie Panzer
The Columbia High School Improv Club made its first performance of the year at the All Air-Cooled Gathering, a car show in Flanders, NJ featuring vintage Volkswagens. Six members of the club, also known as “The Russian Embassy” (the irony of a Russian-named comedy club riffing off cars designed by Adolf Hitler is difficult to miss), spent the day as a traveling Improv troupe, making their way around the show and performing in front of spectators. This particular group included seniors Sophia Eller, the club’s founding member and leader, as well as Nash Collings-Miller, who is also a member of the Central Jersey Volkswagen society and was responsible for booking the club’s performance.
Despite the fact that this was the first time many of the actors had worked with a car theme, the Embassy managed to pull off several witty performances based on knowledge they had accumulated after a quick introduction and tour around the grounds. Making note of certain Volkswagen features such as small engines, slow speed, and a tendency to break down, the Embassy performed a series of improvised comedic skits. One act consisted of a “wholesome American family” stuck behind a hippie in a junky VW bus during a road trip, and another involved a pupil visiting a sensei to learn how to meditate while in actuality receiving a driving lesson. Also included was a satirical act about a person who refused to stop leaving handprints on an owner’s car at a car show, as well as an impressive rap number about Volkswagen Beetles.
“I’ve never worked with a theme before,” said Embassy member Holly Lehren, a sophomore. “We usually take one-word suggestions from an audience, and since it’s a car show we were really trying to gather information in order to incorporate the cars into our comedy.”
Themes are beginning to play an increasingly prominent role in the club’s activities; upcoming performances may include an appearance at the Maplewood Library for a Star Wars theme. Improv member Zeke Maben also hinted that the club might consider branching into sketch comedy if the first few performances went well.
The club is off to a strong start this year, consisting of over thirty members who span all grade levels. Last year, however, things were running less smoothly (not unlike a poorly tuned VW, perhaps?) “I’m really excited about the Russian Embassy this year,” said club leader and founder Sophia Eller. “Last year we were having a lot of trouble. Things were just getting started, we had trouble getting performance space, and we weren’t verified as an official club. But this year we’re starting off as an official club, and we’ve got a bunch of freshman coming in and lots of people coming back.”
In regard to future performances, Eller stated, “We’re going to start performing pretty regularly, I hope, and practices are happening, so I’m really excited about what we’re going to be able to accomplish this year.”