The Rubber Chickens Improv group is one of the university’s improv-centered Registered Student Organizations, and it recently had its auditions for the fall semester on Sept. 7th and 9th. This semester, as in-person events are becoming more frequent, the group is planning for a year full of improv shows and workshops.
The Rubber Chickens were formed at the university in 1997, making them the oldest running improv group on campus. Caroline Berger, a senior art history and art conservation major and vice president of the Rubber Chickens, explained what the group’s approach to improv is.
“We largely consider ourselves short-form improv … it’s shorter, as the name suggests, but it’s usually games with set rules,” Berger said. “It’s very chaotic and very fun, but there’s these very strict rules for how the scenes are set up and how they work.”
According to Berger, Rubber Chickens rehearsals are typically two times a week for three hours, and they consist of three parts. First are warm-ups, which help the group to get into the improv mindset for rehearsal and may consist of short rhythm games.
Then they do some exercises, which consist of improv games that they wouldn’t normally do in shows but are good for practice nonetheless. They like to use this time for experimentation and trying out new characters.
Finally, they rehearse games that they will be performing in upcoming shows to strengthen their skills within those specific games and to be well-practiced for performances. Additionally, the group usually likes to pick a theme or a subject to focus on for that week of practice so they can develop different skills, such as character development.
According to Berger, another important aspect of being a Rubber Chicken is the connection between members.
“It’s really impossible to do improv if you’re not super close with the people you’re doing improv with,” Berger said. “You have to be able to read their minds on stage; you have to know what to expect from them, and to be honest, you’re spending six hours a week with these people. It’s so much more fun to be best friends with them than it is to even just be acquaintances.”
Other such traditions that encourage bonding between group members include getting dinner together and hanging out outside of rehearsal time. During non-pandemic times, that additionally took the form of day trips to professional improv theaters to see shows. The group also has a tradition of spending spring break in Chicago and seeing many improv performances whilst exploring other attractions in the city.
An audition is required to join the Rubber Chickens. They hold auditions every year, and although they have an eight-to-ten member cast, they try to put people on the group that are intuitive and energetic. Both auditions and all rehearsals are currently fully masked events, as safety is important to the group.
“At the end of the day we want to perform live and we want to hang out with people live,” Berger said. “Improv does not work if you can’t have an audience [or] if you can’t be there physically in-person.”
The Rubber Chickens do shows once a month, usually with different themes and games for each. Additionally, throughout the year they do special shows such as Rook Show, which features all its new members, Senior Show, which showcases its graduating members and King of the Hill, which is an improv competition. Furthermore, the group occasionally holds improv workshops and their improv festival called DISCO (Delaware Improv and Sketch Comedy O-Festival), where they invite professional improv groups as well as groups from other schools.
This year, the Rubber Chickens hope to hold all of these events and get the university community involved with improv again.
Berger expressed that the Rubber Chickens wants students to volunteer and be a lively audience because “there’s nothing better than a really obnoxious audience for improv.”