Raw humor, improvisational skills and outrageous story plots are all it takes for Northwestern’s Black V group to put on a side-splitting show. Black V is a student improv group made up of nine students from all academic classes. It performs for the campus and the community alike.
“I went to the audition workshop my freshman year because I had a small background in improv from high school,” senior member Anna Pitney said. “It simply sounded fun to me.”
Abe Klafter, a sophomore on the team, shares a similar idea: “I decided to go because it sounded fun and I had multiple friends in it at the time. Everyone in the group is my friend now.”
The Black V group seems to be one of the tightest knit groups on campus. “The group really feels like a family,” Pitney said. “We have practices every Sunday night, and I love the relationships we build through doing improv and performing in shows.”
The group puts on shows in the community for events like prom, community fundraisers, class reunions and youth groups.
“Every show is different, depending on the age group,” Pitney elaborated. “We’ve gone on long car rides together to the location, will be served a meal and then usually perform for 45 minutes to an hour. It’s great! Some of our favorites seem to be the youth group shows because every audience is different. Some kids want to participate a lot and get really into it.”
The team prepares for its performances by practicing, but the practice isn’t really like a show. The students simply practice the skills needed for the show.
“We play improv games, warm-up, share the big things going on in our lives and do ‘long-form’ and ‘short-form’ improvisational scenes,” Pitney explained. “’Long-form’ is more drawn out and there are more complex scenes that usually tie together. ‘Short-form’ consists of scenes strung together that don’t necessarily relate to each other to form a longer story. Practices are good preparations for our shows, but they aren’t exactly the same.”
Ideas for the group’s improv games come from popular sources such as Saturday Night Live and from obscure websites and improvisational books. Some of the Black V’s own team members don’t even know what the games are about.
“None of the games we have practiced have been explained to me at all by the team,” Klafter stated. Other ideas come from shows that the Black V has done in the past and have been passed down through the generations of Black V group members.
As for where the name “Black V” came from, Pitney revealed that members have to keep it quiet. “I actually can’t tell you about the origins of the name of the Black V. It’s top secret information that only our team members know.”
So even though audience members won’t know where the group’s name comes from—or even how the members manage to keep each show funny and original—they’ll still enjoy the show. Even more, they’re bound to come away from the show with an achy stomach from all the laughing and a new appreciation for what it takes to be a part of the Black V improv family.