At the side of the stage is a plastic fishbowl. People gather around to put in topics such as, “things overheard in the bathroom” and “the weirdest pillow talk.” These are the audience’s ideas, and they’re going to be performed on the spot.
The result is a theater work with spontaneous comedic scenes created by eight Ohio State students. They are collectively known as Fishbowl Improv.
They are a new improv group directly affiliated with OSU. Fishbowl has only performed five shows since its first in the winter 2010.
The shows are high-energy and fast-paced. There is little time for performers to think about what and how to perform. Each player takes an idea from the audience and tries to make it work as quickly as possible.
Darius Mousavi, a third-year in theater and co-founder of the group, described his enjoyment with the shows.
“It’s fun and creative,” he said. “I look forward to rehearsal because it’s different every time. And then you look back on it and you realize you were wrestling with a mermaid in a whale’s stomach. It’s the craziest stuff, and you feel like a kid again.”
There is no set or props. Scenes quickly change from scenarios such as an adulterer trying to kick out a sexual partner to another scenario where a man is being hunted by dinosaurs.
Shows consist of multiple short games with rules the players follow while taking a scene set from the audience. Every show has a different list of games.
One game, Half Life, has the players perform a scene in one minute. Then, the group performs the same scene the best they can in 30 seconds, then 15 seconds, then seven seconds, then three seconds.
Their first four shows were in Morrill Tower and their latest show was in the Royer Student Activities Center. Fishbowl’s last show had about 80 people attend. More than half the audience was seeing the group for the first time.
Alex Lefeld, a third-year in theater and co-founder and president of Fishbowl Improv, said the group has made connections outside OSU. Superfly Productions, in charge of events such as Bonnaroo, a music and arts festival in Tennessee, contacted Lefeld. The performers were asked to advertise the Adult Swim Block Party that occurred in Columbus on Saturday.
Both Mousavi and Lefeld said they were surprised by the progress of the group, especially when they were interested in another group before.
About half of Fishbowl originally auditioned for 8th Floor Improv in the fall of 2009, but after not getting in, they created Fishbowl. Lefeld said by the end of winter 2010, Fishbowl was the group everyone involved wanted it to be.
Eighth Floor Improv was formed in 2004. The group performs a large show every other Friday at Woody’s Tavern, and smaller shows periodically at OSU residence halls.
Brittany Belland, a second-year in psychology and theatre and member of 8th Floor, said many members from both improv groups see the other’s works. She said there was an “unspoken support” between the groups, which are the only two improv groups on campus.
“I think they’re a bunch of incredibly talented people, and I wish I could join their team and play with them,” Belland said about Fishbowl Improv.
Belland and Lefeld said both groups are in talks about a collaborated show next year. However, Lefeld is more interested in strengthening Fishbowl first.
“Right now we’re trying to expand with our OSU audience,” Lefeld said.