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'Zach & Willie' presents long-form improv

Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 7-9, 2010, various times Class of 1970 Theater, Whitman College

"Zach & Willie," a long-form improvisational performance featuring senior Zach Zimmerman and junior Willie Myers, will be presented at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, and 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 8-9, in the Class of 1970 Theater in Whitman College.

The performance, a senior thesis production, is sponsored by the Program in Theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts.

Although he had never done improv before his freshman year in college, Zimmerman accompanied a friend to an audition for Princeton's improv group Quipfire! and thought he would try it. Now in his fourth year with the comedy troupe, Zimmerman serves as its artistic director. (Myers currently is the managing director.)

On a tour with Quipfire!, Zimmerman first encountered the magic of long-form in Chicago, the mecca of improv. Zimmerman already had some writing experience through playwriting courses in the Lewis Center and as a writer and actor in Princeton's Triangle Club, where he met Myers, but his desire to pursue improvisational training would take him back to Chicago.

With funding from the Lewis Center and the Fred Fox '39 Fund, Zimmerman and Myers participated in a summer intensive program at Chicago’s legendary iO theater (formerly ImprovOlympic), where many well-known comedians -- including Mike Myers, Chris Farley and Tina Fey -- have trained and performed. Through taking the course, seeing improv shows almost nightly (including the well-known two-person show "TJ and Dave," from which their title takes its form), and living together in a one-bedroom apartment, Zimmerman and Myers said they learned more about how to improvise and, more importantly, how to do so as a team. Zimmerman and Myers are using additional funding from the Fred Fox '39 Fund to return to Chicago over winter break to study in two-on-one workshops with expert performers and teachers Craig Uhlir and Rachael Mason.

Zimmerman, a religion major from Roanoke, Va., said he believes in the "improv gods": "They are the ones responsible for the verbal slip-up that becomes the game of a scene, and they are the ones in charge of how our bodies and chairs get randomly thrown on stage like the dice in a Yahtzee games. They give gifts to our scenes -- we just have to learn how to accept them."

Tickets for "Zach & Willie" are $5. They are available online through University Ticketing or by calling (609) 258-9220.

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