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Anything but ‘silence’
Just asking the members of Quinnipiac’s male improv troupe, “The Right Amount of Silence,” what year of school they’re in is highly entertaining.
“I don’t know what I am,” member Dave Piselli said.
“He doesn’t go here,” senior Zach Rich adds.
“He’s a graduate,” Gerard Lisella said. “He’s an alumni.”
“Alumnus?” sophomore Justin Cloutier questions.
“Alumnus! Yeah, that’s right that would be what he is,” Lisella concludes.
“He’s a student of learning,” Cloutier deduces.
Sophomore Justin Cloutier, junior Gerard Lisella, seniors Zach Rich, Sean McLaughlin, and Alec Farquharson and alumni Dave Piselli and Tom Palumbo make up the improv group, which was started when the members took an improvisational class at Quinnipiac last fall.
“That was the first time improv was here at Quinnipiac at all, and so we were just like, ‘this is fun, we want to keep doing this,’” Lisella said.
Piselli was originally approached by the former president of the student-run theater group, Fourth Wall, to put a group together for a fundraiser, and the beginnings of an improv troupe were formed.
Approximately 20 people came together in March of last year for the fundraiser, calling themselves “Too Big to Fail.”
“I wasn’t too, too into it once we had the big group,” Cloutier said. “It wasn’t like the same people that you were constantly making the jokes with and constantly trying to make each other better.”
From there, Lisella, Farquharson, and Piselli decided to create a smaller troupe for a better dynamic.
“We were like you know what, let’s try making a close-knit group of people we thought…we personally work best with, and let’s just form our own group,” Lisella said.
“It’s basically just playing pretend with your friends,” Piselli added.
Besides rehearsing together once a week, the group performs at fundraisers for Fourth Wall, philanthropy events for Greek life or as entertainment for QU After Dark. However, making plans to perform isn’t always easy.
“We have an idea that we want to do a comedy festival over in Buckman,” Piselli said. “We’ve been prepping for that and we have comedians… and musicians that would come and do a free show, and we’d make it like a weekend long event, it’s just we would need a host for that show.”
“We can’t do anything until we either get approached or approach a group who can do it,” Lisella said.
Besides trying to get their name out there, “The Right Amount of Silence” has been an important part of the lives of its members.
“There’s days where I’m having a crappy day,” Rich said, “and I’m just like ‘I can’t wait to go to improv because this is going to pick up the day right away.’ This is a relationship that’s going to go on for the rest of my life. These are my closest friends and I wouldn’t want to do anything else without these guys.”
That rapport is apparent as the members retell a story of one of their first shows back from winter break.
“We try and do nice, clean humor, like stuff that your grandma could see,” Piselli said. “And for some reason [when we went out there] I was like ‘Yeah, I can be Jesus on a cross right?’”
“So Justin was like, concerned for Jesus Christ,” Rich remembers, “and he’s like, ‘Oh my god, Jesus let me take this sword out of your back.”
“Literally everyone in the audience was like, ‘a sword?’” Lisella said.
“So I broke the fourth wall and was like, ‘yeah, Jesus had a sword,’” Cloutier said. “And apparently I was very wrong.”
Though the guys have fun with one another, they’re serious about the art of improvisation.
“Your brain is trained for efficiency and improv isn’t about efficiency,” Rich said. “It’s about building. It’s not about, ‘alright, I need to go A to B.’ It’s like, ‘I want to go A to B, but I’m going to take all of these routes and hit a joke here and a joke there.’”
“I’m gonna go Z, Y, Q, and L,” Cloutier adds.
“You have to train your brain, your brain has to work for you, which is like a weird thing…but it’s a real thing that needs to happen,” Rich explains.
“It’s all about trust,” Piselli said. “If you can’t trust someone, you can’t do the show. [For example] my job is to make Gerard look good, Gerard’s job is to make me look good…”
“And all their jobs is to make me look like a girl,” Cloutier interjects.
“Which is 100 percent true!” Rich said.
“If you come to a show, you will see Justin as a girl,” Piselli said. “He just has very feminine hips, like when he walks its like, ‘that’s a lady!’”
You can check out “The Right Amount of Silence” at its show on April 7th in the Black Box Theatre at 9 p.m. and follow the group on Twitter and Facebook for more details.