It's showtime for the Bluffoons

By The Beacon | February 10, 2010 9:00pm

By Roya Ghorbani-Elizeh

Once a month, visitors will find students walking alongside a giant mascot in the academic quad. And this time it's not Wally Pilot.

Advertisements in hand, "Noddy Boy" hugs and mingles with the students on campus to bring awareness to UP's own improv troupe and its performances on campus.

The Bluffoons, formerly known as ActUP, are busy planning their show for tomorrow night, as well as reformatting their team with the sole purpose of making students laugh.

The Bluffoons, headed by president Stephanie Bayne, consists of 12 to 15 UP students who perform five improv shows every semester.

"Improv helps you in every aspect of your life," Bayne, a senior, said. "People don't have scripts walking around in real life."

The Bluffoons practice once a week.

"Practice consists of learning about different concepts and techniques central to improvised acting, such as creating a character, developing strong relationships, and just learning how to set others up for success in a scene while still having fun," Vice President Matt Vanderlann said. "Then we play a bunch of improv games to practice those skills."

The team, which Bayne took over two years ago changed its name because the improv troupe was unable to receive funds from ASUP because of the original purpose of ActUP.

According to the Student Activities Web site, ActUP is a student club that "creates a base of student support for University of Portland drama department events, thereby increasing the number and scope of the events."

The improv troupe does not receive funding because improv was not part of the previously written constitution for the theater-based group.

"We are only allowed to request funds for anything the theater department is doing," Bayne said. "The only money we get is what we make through the improv shows."

In the coming months, Bayne and the Bluffoons plan to submit a new constitution to ASUP to officially become a university-sanctioned improv group, which would make the group eligible for funding next fall.

Along with the name change, the improv troupe also decided to split the troupe into two sections.

Membership in the first section, known as the core group, is by audition only. Eight to 10 students are in this group.

"A lot of other schools have an audition-only team of a few people," Vanderlaan said. "We decided that we wanted a committed group like that, but that we also had a huge strength in being open to whoever chose to attend practice and learn the skills we practice every week."

The core group is in charge of putting together and performing in three of the shows of the semester.

Also, the core group competes in improv competitions against other colleges from around the area.

Last semester, the core team traveled up to Seattle to compete in the Northwest Improv Competition. The Bluffoons made it to the final round.

The second group, known as the workshop group, is currently being trained by the core group.

Members of the workshop team will plan and perform about two shows a semester.

"Everyone gets to be in a show if you are in the club," Bayne said. "Splitting the groups is a way to be elite, but not to be elite at all."

Asides from all the changes, the Bluffoons also aim to bring the world-renowned improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade to perform and run workshops on The Bluff.

With no budget, the Bluffoons are asking CPB to help fund the performance, which would cost upwards of $5,000.

The Bluffoons have been floating around several petitions that they will present to the CPB board this week.

"This is another form of entertainment that we could bring to the school," Bayne said. "If we let them know how interested we are and that the campus wants them to come, maybe they will fund it."

The Bluffoons kick off the semester with a performance tomorrow at 8:45 p.m. in the Mago Hunt Recital Hall. The cost is $2 per person or $3 for two people.

"The Bluffoons are always open to more membership and more fans," Vanderlaan said. "With more support from the student body, the Bluffoons could get clearance to do wilder and zanier things that will push the limits of their improv skills and bring even more humor to the campus."