Yes, and… BHS Improv Team Takes Ottawa by Storm
by Dan Mullins
On Friday, April 7th, Beaconsfield High School’s Senior Improv Team, known as “Write About This,” took the stage in the beautiful Babs Asper Theater at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to compete at the national level, having won the provincial title. But the road to the competition was much longer than the mere 170 kilometers from Beaconsfield to the nation’s capital.
To qualify, they would first have to win the provincials, and that required practice. Along with the other two BHS improv teams, they would hone their skills every Wednesday from 3:45 until 5:30 pm, guided by their coach, BHS drama teacher Jeff Pinsky.
The Write About This team is made up of eight students: Sidney Kaiser, Parker Kislingbury, Abigail Marsh, Jordan Powell, Olivia Price, Alex Regina, Kim Rivest, and Zach Tadmor. Most of the students on the team were also in BHS’ show choir (which placed third in their category nationally,) and the school’s presentation of the play “Murder Most Fowl.” Mr. Pinsky was responsible for both, and laughingly states that he deals well with stress and is good at scheduling. “I just try to keep the plates spinning,” he says. Rehearsals for the play took place on Wednesdays, so the very busy but equally committed improv team started practicing during lunch. It paid off.
The provincial competition was held at Lower Canada College in January, where Write About This were up against 7 other teams. At first, Ms. Price said, “we were really nervous,” but once they got underway, she described the team’s participation as “very high-energy.”
One scene during the provincial competition stood out. The team was asked to perform in the style of a romantic comedy, and the audience provided “a Beekeeper” as a required character. The resulting skit involved Ms. Rivest being deeply in love with a bee, in what Mr. Pinsky described as “one of the best improv scenes I’ve ever seen.” Although the team consistently received high marks, this was the highest scoring scene of the competition, and helped propel them to victory and a trip to Ottawa.
Months later, on the morning of the national competition, Montreal was still largely without power after a major ice storm. The team managed to get organized and leave for Ottawa nonetheless, largely without incident. All 14 participating teams, hailing from as far away as Newfoundland and Vancouver Island, stayed at Les Suites, accommodations which were provided by event organizers the Canadian Improv Games. Once they arrived, the students, Mr. Pinsky, and assistant coach Lisa Crowhurst (a resource and English teacher) didn’t have much time to check in before scheduled events began.
There were numerous workshops and demonstrations on offer for students from the 14 qualifying teams from across Canada. Then the five teams performing on Friday night, including Write About This, went to the theatre for the 6 pm call time. Doors were at 7 pm, and the curtain was raised at 7:30.
The event itself was a dynamic, colourful, boisterous and joyful affair. The “fan bus” that had arrived from Montreal that afternoon carrying BHS supporters contributed to the highly enthusiastic and participatory, but very respectful crowd. Over two and a half hours, the various teams were challenged to work within various skit formats, creating work based on audience suggestions, and drawing laughter, cheers, and applause.
“It still felt like we were on the drama room stage, in a way,” Ms. Rivest said of performing.
“It went by in such a blur. I would like to go back and relive it!”
Though the team did not advance to the final round, all considered their year a great success. “It was a bucket list item for me,” explained Pinsky.
In the audience during the last night of competition, team Write About This enjoyed the opportunity to take in the performances of the mostly older students from other provinces and “watch without stressing,” as Ms. Price described it.
“We got a chance to be around other people like us, too,” explained Ms. Price. They spent some time with “The Mavs,” and really liked them, so they were cheering for them. And, in the end, they were not disappointed, as the Mayfield Mavericks of Brampton, Ontario won the finals and the tournament that Saturday night.
For its part, the team from Beaconsfield, Quebec took home memories to last a lifetime.