As the winter semester starts back up, bulletin boards around campus have begun to fill with a plethora of events that societies and clubs are hosting all over U of T. Club executives collectively breathe a sigh of relief as the university continues opening its doors to more and more in-person activities post pandemic. 

For the drama societies all over campus, the online realm was particularly difficult to traverse, given that theatre as a medium depends on intercommunication between the actors, the sets, and the audience. A significant portion of this interaction is lost when students are confined to a Zoom window on someone’s laptop. But some clubs, like the U of T Improv Club, managed to thrive during the pandemic and come out the other end stronger, further building their community and routine as they shift to in person.

From the screen to the stage

The U of T Improv Club’s growth throughout and after the pandemic has been a marked example of how to successfully traverse through and adapt to changing conditions.

In an interview with The Varsity, club president Will Ramsay, a fourth-year linguistics specialist, and executive Joshua Zimmerman, a third-year student studying robotics engineering, spoke about their experiences with the club and hopes for its growth in 2023.

Ramsay joined the club in 2019, at the precipice of the pandemic, and got to experience the club activities prior to the move to the online realm. He now hands the reins to his capable successor, Zimmerman, who joined after the online transition, and hopes to see the club continue to expand in size but grow tighter in its community.

Ramsay and Zimmerman are united by a love for improv, having been active members of the club throughout their U of T journeys. As they explained, the improv club is a home for anyone who wants a chance to explore their creativity and try a hand at performing. 

Improv is unique from traditional performance and theatre since actors create the script as they go. This chance to bring your own voice and perspective to the performance and to interact with others in a novel setting is attractive to many. As Joshua explained, “Even after their first improv scene… they want to keep coming back.” 

An added plus is the freedom in the degree of participation. “Some people, they love to perform, but for others, they’re a bit more shy,” Ramsay said. But he added that this is not an impediment; even if you’re not center stage, you can still be involved in building the story as an audience member. 

It is no surprise then that the club gained traction, boasting a diverse group of members, all eager for a good laugh. Even during the online days of ‘Zoom-prov,’ they had a great turnout, with people eager to come back. Consequently, the community remained active and was able to thrive during and in the aftermath of the pandemic. With the club’s first in person show in April 2022, its members continue to work diligently to create an atmosphere that is fun for all. 

In this no-pressure environment, everyone is able to take a respite from the hectic pursuit of academia for a fun-filled time. “There’s not much opportunity to play or be silly… the improv club is a place where you can do that without being judged,” Ramsay said.  

From the introvert to the theatre kid, all are welcome to step into the world of performing — the monthly performances continue, as well as weekly drop-in events for any and all to join. These weekly events take place on Thursdays from 6:00–8:00 pm.

In the coming year, the Improv Club hopes to keep the core community of regulars that are the backbone of the club while continuing to expand into various forms of improv, improving upon its art and expanding into novel avenues of creative expression. 

Events, events, and more events!

This winter, the arts scene at U of T continues to be vibrant with new shows in the works.

The chambers of Hart House echo with the sound of music as the Hart House Choir tirelessly prepares for its upcoming winter concert on February 16. Thankfully, the stage is now set for the drama societies around campus all over U of T to begin their performances. 

In terms of plays, the Hart House UofT Drama Festival from February 15–18 will showcase the work of up-and-coming playwrights from U of T with three student-written plays. Additionally, the Trinity College Drama Society hosted Trin Theatre week from January 16 to January 21. The week was filled to the brim with workshops, movie nights, games and more. 

For those inclined to poetry, The Cat’s Eye, located in the heart of Victoria College, is your one stop shop for smaller scale, but fun-filled events. The Muslim Voice, a student-run organization highlighting the creative Muslim minds at U of T, hosts its first event of the year: Spoken Word night on February 10 from 5:00–8:00 pm. The event will feature poetry and performances from Muslim students and artists from across the GTA.

There are  myriad forms of artistic expression that thrive at U of T, eager to begin — in person — with the dawn of the new year and hope to continue growing.