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Ordean East team attempts to do the Improvable

Victoria Ball is teased by Andrew Miller and Corbyn Goodermote about her "balloon-sized" hands in a practice improv sketch. The scene was an infomercial to sell cream solution for overly large hands. (Photo still by Teri Cadeau)1 / 2
To keep their energy levels up, members of Mission: Improvable run through several warm up songs and games including "The Llama Song." (Not pictured: Grace Peyer) (Photo still by Teri Cadeau) 2 / 2

Think fast! Can you come up with a two-minute comedy improv routine which involves a courtroom, the end of the line, someone with eyes in the back of their head and a dance-off?

Challenging, right?

Last week a group of seven seventh-graders at Ordean East Middle School was given the exact same set of conditions. They managed to create a TV courtroom drama which involved a case of who cut whom in the pistachio ice cream line. The case was solved through interpretive dance.

This sort of bizarre scenario is an everyday occurrence for the Destination Imagination team "Mission: Improvable." Which is why the improv team is about to compete in Knoxville, Tenn. at the DI Global Finals next week.

Destination Imagination is the world's largest creative problem-solving competition program for children and teenagers. The program encourages teams to have fun, take risks, focus and frame challenges while incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the arts and service learning.

"There are seven different challenges teams can pick to compete in. Every year the teams form in the fall and we ask the kids which area they want. And so far, every year they've wanted to either do the improv or theater categories," Ken Loeffler-Kemp said.

Loeffler-Kemp has been team managing for DI for 15 years. He has had four children go through the program, including his youngest daughter, Mariah Loeffler-Kemp, currently on the team. Other members of the team include Victoria Ball, Corbyn Goodermote, Shayni Gustafson, Mariah Loeffler-Kemp, Andrew Miller, Ellie Patronas and Grace Peyer.

The team researched improvisational games and street performances. They practiced integrating randomly selected situations and settings in order to create improvisational sketches for competition. The competed at both the regional and state levels this spring in the Improv Games category and won first place in both competitions. They have earned the opportunity to compete at the Global Finals competition at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, May 19-23. At the Global Finals, 8,000 students from every U.S. state and over 17 countries around the world.

"I'm so very excited. It's our first time getting to go to globals. We've always made it to state and done very well at state, but not quite done well enough," said team member Shayni Gustafson.

Here's how the competition works: Every year the challenges are determined in early fall. This year, the students must do three two-minute improvisational sketches. The students are given four elements to incorporate somehow into their sketch: a setting, a situation, an improv game and street performance. Once they have their elements, the students go to work preparing their sketch in their one minute of prep time.

"It's super-fun, but also kind of insane. You have to think so fast. And we get the weirdest things like 'the end of the line' for a setting. And you just have to roll with it," Gustafson said.

And the challenges change every year, so while the students have to do three two-minute sketches this year, last year they had to do one five-minute sketch.

"That's part of what makes it so much fun. It's always changing," said team member Andrew Miller.

Both students say they do find the competition challenging at times.

"I think the hardest thing for me personally is that after one skit is done, you have to go to the next one. You can't dwell on it. Let's say something didn't go your way, you still have to go on to the next," Gustafson.

The students practice basic theater and improv skills such as projecting their voices, not upstaging each other and how to cheat to the audience. But Loeffler-Kemp says the most important skill that the teams learn is how to work together.

"Everything they do they decide as a team. And within the challenge, there are a lot of decisions that get made," Loeffler-Kemp said.

The team is currently fundraising to pay for the registration fees and travel expense to make the trip to Tennessee. There is a fundraising campaign for Mission Improvable - DI on www.gofundme.com and an upcoming fundraiser at Chipolte. If you go to Chipotle on 4-8 p.m. Saturday, May 16, you can tell the cashier you're supporting the cause and 50 percent of the proceeds will be donated to Ordean East Destination Imagination Team.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176
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