Friday, Nov. 14, 2008 | midnight
Centennial High School junior Michael Day had no idea what he would have to act out before he started out on stage during a high school improvisational event on Oct. 18.
Suddenly he learned that the act would involve acting like an animal with amazing talent. He was to be an alligator that does an Abraham Lincoln impersonation. He started with a bewildered look, then got down on all fours and crawled out on his stomach while saying "Four score and seven years ago."
It did earn some laughs for Day's seven-member team, consisting of students from around the school district, but the team didn't win first place during the tournament portion of the sixth annual Improv Festival, sponsored by the Nevada State Thespians and hosted by Centennial High School.
Members of Centennial's Improv Club attended the all-day event that consisted of workshops conducted by improv professionals from around the valley and a tournament to showcase what the students had learned.
"Improv is a lot of fun because you bond quickly with people you meet on stage. As you make fools of yourself together, it creates an instant connect," said senior Alicia Luszczyk, co-captain of Centennial's improv club.
One of the workshops focused on musical improvisation technique, taught by Terrence R. Williams, who has been doing improv for years and is the executive producer of "Shear Madness," a comedy show coming to Town Square on Las Vegas Boulevard in December.
"It's daunting to jump and make up a song on the spot," he said. "If you've never done it before, it's almost impossible, but I just taught the basics like start with a familiar or simple song. Don't worry about rhyming at first: that will come later."
This was the fourth year Williams participated in the annual improv event. He said he enjoys teaching high school students because they have less inhibitions.
"The No. 1 rule in musical improvisation is that you will fail," he said. "You just have to get past that. You're not always going to do a great job. Everyone messes up sometimes. "
He also said high school students pick up the concepts quicker because they're more willing to take risks.
Luszczyk said that during the event she learned that confidence is the key to improv.
"It's all about selling it," she said. "If you're confident on stage, the audience will think you're amazing."
Jenny Davis can be reached at 990-8921 or firstname.lastname@example.org.