Theatre program starts new ComedySportz team

Emma Chiu and Samuel Desré

Senior Will Kast plays with an air balloon during the improv troupe auditions.Photo by Emma Chiu
Senior Will Kast plays with an air balloon during the Improv Troupe auditions. Photo by Emma Chiu

Who knew that the drama could be considered a sport?

For the first year ever, the Palo Alto High School Theatre Department will partake in competitive improvisation as part of its newly-created ComedySportz team, according to Paly Theatre instructor Kathleen Woods.

ComedySportz is a competitive improv comedy organization that exists at the high school, college and professional level .

“The competitions actually have a referee, and one of the teams ends up winning the competition,” Woods said.

Because this is the Paly team’s first year, it will not compete regularly and instead participate in a total of two tournaments over the course of the entire school year, according to junior and two-year Improv Troupe member Zoe Limbrick.

“It’s going to be two events on the weekend [per year], and it’s either going to be competitions … within the troupe or with other schools nearby,” Limbrick said. “We’re going to bring in professionals to teach us and work on our improv.”

According to Woods, one of the competitions the team will likely partake in is a South Bay tournament in April.

Senior Chris Hinstorff, a Voice staff member, created the team after meeting with an adult member from the ComedySportz team in San Jose at the Northern California Thespian Leadership Conference in September.

“As part of his [Hinstorff’s] honors project as head of Paly’s Improv Troupe, he’s decided to take that additional step and have students train in ComedySportz,” Woods said.

Sophomore Jason Pollak, junior Paul Bleich and sophomore Joey Kellison-Linn enjoy comedy sports in the Haymarket theater. Photo by Emma Chiu.
Sophomore Jason Pollak, junior Paul Bleich and sophomore Joey Kellison-Linn enjoy ComedySportz in the Haymarket Theater. Photo by Emma Chiu.

The training that troupe members receive will help them practice for not only ComedySportz competitions, but for other theatre-related competitions as well, such as the California State Thespian Festival, which the Paly Theatre Department attends every year.

According to Woods, the improv competition at the Thespian Festival has a slightly different format from the ComedySportz competitions.

“It’s usually three different students from three different schools [who] have to make up a team,” Woods said. “Then, [they] all compete with other student groups from different schools.”

Last year, all 18 students who went to the festival earned some sort of statewide recognition, according to Woods. This included first and second place in both categories of Lighting and Sound. In addition, two students won statewide scholarships.

“That’s exceptional,” Woods said. “That’s really, really unusual for any one school to have that much.”

With talented resources in the department, Woods is looking forward to the year ahead with regards to ComedySportz.

“Every ComedySportz event that I’ve attended … is just very clever and sharp and quick,” Woods said. “It’s just a lot of fun to watch as an audience member, and it’s really rewarding for the students participating in the improv. I’m really looking forward to the added element of having ComedySportz.”