Carnegie Mellon University

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May 02, 2011

Improv Troupe Helps Students Build Skills for Life

By Maria Zayas

Quick and creative thinking is important during a job interview. It’s also important on stage.

Carnegie Mellon’s student improv troupe, the No Parking Players, are using what they’ve learned through a hobby and applying it to their work.

“Improv is a great thing to talk about during interviews,” said Molly Samuels, director of No Parking Players and a junior in H&SS majoring in interdisciplinary and human-computer interaction. “It’s all about being a massive team player, supporting your members and thinking on your feet.”

The basic philosophy of improv is “yes, and,” which means to never deny a partner’s input and always add or contribute to their idea or initiation. Improvisers rely on the rules and techniques of improv for players to perform short scenes or acts spontaneously. They typically use a suggestion by the audience to guide their performance through extrapolation as they create dialogue, setting and plot on the spot.

“A huge component to my education at Carnegie Mellon was learning how to communicate clearly and confidently,” said CMU alumnus Greg Gillotti.  
“I can’t overstate how much my time doing improv has helped me on the job.”

Gillotti is a consultant and an in-house team member at The Steel City Improv Theater, 808-B Tripoli St. on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

“By doing improv, I’ve honed my listening skills and found ways to diffuse the counterproductive defensiveness that is often natural when working in a large group,” he said.

Sanders said no experience is necessary to do improv.

For the past four semesters, the No Parking Players have offered a Student College (StuCo) course called “Fundamentals of Improv Comedy” in addition to weekly improv workshops.

“We’ve integrated the StuCo with the workshop. It’s a great atmosphere and a lot of people are interested and excited about the class,” said Evan Walden, the teaching assistant for the StuCo class. Walden is a sophomore in physics and mechanical engineering.

“The class is diverse and full of people who want to have fun. It is also a great way to get acclimated to the No Parking Player’s community.”

The workshops are free and open to all CMU students and are held twice a week during the academic year.

“One of our goals has been to get introduced to improv in the city of Pittsburgh. We’ve accomplished this by performing at the Steel City Improv and are planning on stopping by the CLO Cabaret as well,” Walden said. “The scene in Pittsburgh is up and coming.”

To join the No Parking Players performing team, which has shows on campus every other Friday during the school year and offers free milk and cereal for the audience, students must first attend workshops and work their way in. They also have started performing in the city. The process avoids auditions and keeps the atmosphere friendly and relaxed.

For more information about No Parking Players and their show schedule visit