PNG Power

Improv Troupe Returns for Another Year of Performances


Anthony Luparello

From left to right, junior Aidan Cox, freshmen Jaime Corson, Mia Morneault and Ben Akers and senior Bryelle Swift perform in their first PNG production in the Black Box. Playing the game Freeze Tag, performers get to pause the scene in order to swap out with another performer, changing the outcome of the scene in a variety of ways. “I think I did good,” Morneault said. “I was scared, because there weren’t a lot of people, but there were still people there, and I think it’s a lot more worrying to me when there’s less people in an audience than a lot, because you can see who’s there specifically- that makes me tense up.”

Anthony Luparello, Reporter

Wizards engaging in a kitchen duel, a romantic shark attack and a museum heist gone wrong: These are some of the many scenarios that theater’s improvisational troupe, PNG, has recently acted out.

Led by seniors and co-captains Brady Allen and Benjamin McDanald, PNG is a performance group consisting of both under and upperclassmen that solely focuses on improvisational acting to provide humorous productions for student enjoyment. In order to do this, the performers play a series of improv-centric games that test their conversational and performance skills.  

“I would describe [PNG] as something as a way to keep doing theater, but you can also just enjoy yourself,” senior Aidan Johnson said. “The key to doing good improv is to enjoy yourself, like, that’s the whole point of it, and if you just want to do something where you just get to mess around and still have a performance value to it, then it’s perfect.” 

As PNG enters another school year, McDanald and Allen have a number of responsibilities at hand, including organizing rehearsals, working on schedules, marketing and preparing for competitions. 

“I always remember playing improv games in middle school,” Allen said. “I remember really enjoying them, so I thought, hey, a group all about improv couldn’t be too bad, and I wasn’t wrong. I really enjoy it. We meet up every Monday and Friday, and it’s some of the most fun I have at school.”

With a group consisting of 17 members and counting, Allen said a detail the co-captains have to work on is ensuring the team aspect to make sure everyone is getting along and maintaining an overall positive attitude. 

“Sometimes, it can be pretty difficult because a lot of [the members] are new,” Allen said. “We have four freshmen, which can be hard because they’re coming from a very different environment, but we want to make them feel welcome, so we’ve tried our absolute best to make sure that everything kind of goes smoothly, because the theater program can, as a whole, be pretty unorganized and hard to follow. Me and Ben have tried our best with what power we have to make it as easy as possible to understand this year.”

I always remember playing improv games in middle school. I remember really enjoying them, so I thought, hey, a group all about improv couldn’t be too bad, and I wasn’t wrong. I really enjoy it. We meet up every Monday and Friday, and it’s some of the most fun I have at school.”

— Brady Allen

With a handful of fresh faces joining the theater initiative, PNG is a way for underclassmen to try and get involved within the theater community at the school.  

“I think that [Brady and Ben] do a really good job as improvisers; they really know the ropes,” freshman Mia Morneault said. “I think that they are good with describing games and helping us stay on track and help us focus on, you know, rehearsing for shows and really just building up our strengths in terms of improv.”

From playing Snoopy in the musical production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” to starring as Nick Bottom in the comedy musical “Something Rotten,” Allen has been acting for most of his life, with his title as co-president of PNG being one of his first leadership roles. 

“I just kind of try to lead people in the right direction by example,” Allen said. “I think a lot of people going into industries like this can quit pretty early on especially, like once you get to your senior year, thinking of the future can be pretty scary. A lot of people want to quit and just go for an easier major, but I’ve helped a lot of people younger than me and a lot of people in my grade stick to it since they’ve seen that I’m gonna pursue it no matter what. They’ve also been inclined to not give up and I think that’s been cool that I don’t really need to force any of it and that I’ve been able to have such an impact where people just follow me, it’s cool.”

Alongside leading a group of student actors and actresses, other responsibilities of the co-captains are to lead their team in the Improv competition at the Texas Thespians Festival hosted in Gaylord, Texas. 

“Thespians is just a really cool place to meet other people who are interested in doing what you’re doing,” Allen said. “It’s a really good place to bond with your fellow crew members and it’s just a really cool experience.”

An assortment of improvisational skills are tested at the convention, such as clear scene development, strong ensemble and character work, energy, attitude and reactions. Coming off a semi-successful run in 2021, Johnson said he is optimistic about their chances. 

“They made it through multiple rounds last year,” Johnson said. “They lost just because they didn’t know the games that they were playing, but this year, we have been told every single game that we could possibly be playing, so I really want to make it as far as we possibly can in Thespians. I think that could be awesome.”

With one performance already under their belt, PNG has been rehearsing weekly to prepare for future competitions and productions, with their upcoming performance Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Black Box.

“I want me and Ben to leave it in good hands, considering a good amount of the members are leaving,” Allen said. “We want to make sure that everyone knows what they’re doing and that we make sure that this is a very inclusive space, and we’re not trying to make it any sort of elitist group and we want to make sure that everyone can enjoy themselves, there’s no separation. If you’re an upperclassmen or underclassmen, it’s just if you want to be there, then you can be there, and if you are good enough to be there, then just have fun.”