Vertigo-go Improv: Growth through the Absurd

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Swarthmore’s campus is full of wonderful little pockets of activity. If you’re politically active, there’s an outlet for that. If you fight for social justice, there are people here who will fight with you. If you write honest, powerful poetry, there is a wonderful community on campus waiting for you.

Vertigo-go is a little different; we don’t fight the fossil fuel industry to save the planet. We try to be socially aware, but we don’t actively pursue causes as a group. We don’t even incorporate much of our personal lives into our shows. We just go onstage for an hour and do our best to make y’all smile.

One game we play is called Space Builder. In Space Builder, everyone in the group uses pantomime to add detail to an invisible location–whether it’s a futuristic spaceship or an abandoned candy-store or something even weirder. One time, everyone took turns adding to a treehouse-hideout thing, and it got super complicated. I had to remember that the invisible chest-of-drawers that Morgan had made was about three feet to the left of a cabinet full of documents that Raven had made; that the middle drawer was full of telescopes, as introduced by Tyler, and that the secret elevator had stopped working. With all these specific details, I had to find a new way into the treehouse. I ended up smashing through the window via rope swing, and using the telescopes with the light from the sun to burn up all of the secret documents. Space Builder taught me to dive headfirst into an unfamiliar environment and make the most of it. Since that practice, I feel less uncomfortable walking into a class full of people I don’t know.

We go to a school that really requires decompression, and it’s immensely rewarding getting to help bring that to the campus. Sometimes we call attention to the weirdness of the world, and sometimes we just end up adding to it. On the spot, we take something ordinary and spin it into something intricate, layered, and truly bizarre. I don’t know if a scene about one of Santa’s elves trapped in an ice machine is gonna fundamentally change people’s lives. But I do know that if you leave one of our shows feeling a little sillier, or maybe a little more open minded, we’ve done our job.

If you want to see us in action, come check out our show, this Friday at 8PM, in SCI 101. If you want to come join the silliness, stop by one of our Playdates on Saturday and Sunday, September 5th and 6th, from 3PM to 5PM, in DanaWell Connector.

If you want to join us for real, come audition! Auditions will be Friday and Saturday, September 11th-12th, 4PM-6PM, location TBD. Email sbloch1@swarthmore.edu with any questions. And whether you’re in the audience or onstage with us, welcome to Swathmore!

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