Never a dull moment with the Cantalopes
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Kayana Sweeney grabbed a ball of invisible energy and rolled it between her hands as she explained the rules of the game, “Zoom, Schwartz, Profigliano.”
“This game is about speed,” she said, then went on to define the terms “milk the cow,” “cat in a microwave” and “action legs” as well as the simpler “zoom,” “Schwartz” and “Profligiano,” all phrases that players must use to avoid losing.
Sweeney was speaking to about 30 Grand Canyon University students who were standing in a large circle in the free improv study hall she leads on Monday nights in Building 43-Room 201 on Colter Avenue.
When the game commenced, there was a rush of shouting, pointing, jumping, twirling and laughing as participants’ speed and coordination were tested with hilarious results.
“Zoom!” one shouted and pointed across the circle.
“Profligliano,’’ another yelled, pointing to a person standing to their left or right.
“Cat in a microwave!” shrieked that person, indicating that three participants had to act out a scenario — of a cat in a microwave — before the count of 10.
The idea is to quite literally think quickly on one’s feet and make a rapid-fire decision.
“We always have so much fun,” Sweeney said. “We always attract a lot of people.”
The game is one of many played during the Monday study halls. The sessions are open to all students, but many of the regulars are members of the College of Fine Arts and Production’s resident improvisation troupe, the Cantalopes.
Sweeney is the improv captain, and Brenna Warren, another actor, is the lieutenant.
The Cantalopes perform twice a month. At last week’s show, nearly 200 people attended. The next is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the Thunderground.
“Our attendance is going through the roof,” Sweeney said, but at the same time she and other Cantalope members are putting out the word that they want to attract more attendees from different colleges.
“I am a senior this year and would like to make sure that improv is still a major presence on this campus after I leave,” she added.
For the next exercise, Sweeney acted the role of a host who interviewed a series of “guests” — improv students who invented their “relationships” with one another on the spot.
She advised them to come in with a purpose and a point of view and to pay special attention to their partners so as to swiftly adapt, be on the same page and be even more entertaining.
In one scenario, Hayden Domenico and Becca Owen acted out the roles of newlyweds who decided to marry the minute they met.
Domenico’s character had decided, “I need ring by spring,” and when he met Owen’s character, “the universe handed me my wife,” he said.
In another, Warren and Amber Warner announced, “We are married to the same man.”
“Richard was a big fan of dating sites, but not of making decisions,” said Warren’s character.
The two ‘‘wives’’ began quarreling, with Warner’s character snapping, “You’re going to have to accept the fact that I am the main wife.”
Some situations stretched credibility, but Sweeney said that’s what makes them funny.
“I love taking the super abnormal relationships and treating them as normal,” she said.
Students said the class helps not only their acting skills, but also their listening skills.
“There’s so much listening that has to go into this,” Ben Tietz said. “Every single scene, you have to share. You can’t make it alone. But together you can make it great.”
“It’s so interesting to think about relationships and internalize them,” said Abby McIntyre. “I think about improv as a portrayal of real life.”
“Improv helps me to think on my toes and not be afraid to not know what to do next,” Warner said.
Warren said that improv has enhanced her creativity, given her confidence and removed stage fright.
“Going into a show with rehearsed lines now seems like nothing,” Warren said.
For Sweeney, improv is an enormous passion, and the Cantalopes are one of her most treasured GCU experiences.
“Improv has helped my acting,” Sweeney said. “I’m able to roll with directions and to go with things in the moment.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.