Toast and Jam brings improv artists together

In the spotlight - PECI Provers improv team member Julie Scott appeared to be the centre of attention during this scene at the Toast and Jam invitational tournament Thursday evening. (Mihal Zada photo)

PECI invites other high school teams to share in evening of play




Unbridled creativity was on display at PECI Thursday evening as improv artists from four schools gathered for the inaugural Toast and Jam tournament.

With two teams now at PECI and growing interest in the art form at high schools across the region, drama teacher Matt Sheahan said there was a desire to reach out and bring people together to share in the fun of creating memorable scenes.

“We have tried to host a friendly event for a while now. It was important for us, now as an established team, to bring some of our improv colleagues to us,” he said. “We are one of the farthest schools away from our region, which is Kingston, so it was awesome to have Kingston and Belleville come to us for a change.”

The PECI Provers and Shadow Squad took turns alongside students from Moira, Bayside, and Loyalist Collegiate to do two four-minute skits in the Canadian Improv Games structure with themes like life, style, them, story, and character. Then, after an intermission, the teams were mixed, allowing the improv artists fresh energy to feed off in their performance.

Lucy Mee, a graduating senior on the Panther Provers team enjoyed having a new audience and accepting peers in an environment that allowed them to engage in silliness.

“Even after competition, our team has met every week to practice, but it was super exciting to have an audience again,” she said. “Additionally, we have so many friends from other teams that we were so pumped to get to hang out with and perform with again.”

Mee said one can learn a lot from improvising on stage.

“We learn to be spontaneous, to live in the moment, to forget ourselves, and to accept things as they happen,” she said. “Improv has done so much for my self confidence and I owe so many friendships to the Canadian Improv Games.”

She said it was exciting to see new performers who were afraid to go on stage at the start of the year giving confident performances in front of people, while making lasting friendships.

Sheahan agreed the games can help students with numerous transferable skills like listening, collaborating, and problem solving. They can also learn from their mistakes to do better.

While referees Sheahan and Jim West, a coach at Moira, didn’t score the events, they certainly spotted moments of achievement.

“One of my favourite moments was when the PECI Shadow Squad, led by Grade 9 student Talia Epstein, performed a character event that had the audience in stitches,” Sheahan recalled. “It was important for that group because they are all Grade 9s and it was a great confidence boost going into the summer.”

Though Mee will be moving on next year, she’s hopeful that PECI will continue to host invitational tournaments in the future.

“I would love to watch it when I come bak from university and see all my friends perform,” she said. “With continually increasing interest in improv, I don’t doubt the PECI team will get involved in all sorts of improv events next year, whether it is at our school or somewhere else.”