The Dead Parrots Society, WWU's student improv group is heading to nationals
Regional champs: WWU students Miguel Vila, Rashawn
Scott, Alison Luhrs, Jake Barrow and Noel Wamsley
accept the title of champion of the
Northwest Regional Improv Tournament.
WWU Office of University Communications Intern
Though it's been around since 1998, few people know about Western's Department of Theatre Arts improv comedy team, The Dead Parrots Society.
That may soon change.
The Dead Parrots Society is heading to the national College Improv Tournament in Chicago in February to compete with other students who specialize in improvisational theatre, the fine art of performing comedic scenes at the drop of a hat.
The team won its first invitation to the national competition in November, when they claimed the title of Northwest Regional Champion at the regional qualifier for the College Improv Tournament at the University Theatre in Seattle.
After last year's devastating loss at regionals, the Dead Parrots Society was motivated to win this time.
The championships will be broadcast live, online Feb. 26.
"Everyone was telling me, it's not about winning," remembers performing member Miguel Vila. "But I was anxious to win."
The team wowed the judges with a "long-form" scene of improvisational comedy based on one word: Mongoose. With that, they improvised a 25-minute scene that included a ukulele love song, ninjas breaking into houses, and a 9-year-old girl who killed a cobra.
The other members of the group are Vila, Alison Luhrs, Rashawn Scott, James McGrath, Zach Wymore, Jake Barrow, Austin Bridges, Nathan Streifel, and Noel Wamsley.
Ninety-five other teams participated in regional tournaments around the country, but only the top 10 are invited to nationals, held in Chicago on February 26.
Luckily, the fundraising for travel expenses is complete, thanks to their performances around the Bellingham community every year.
Plus, the Dead Parrots are a frugal bunch.
"Improv doesn't require any costumes, props or sets. It's just us," explains Luhrs the group's business director.
"A couple of times during rehearsals we would think, 'Hey, let's get a pizza,' but it never happened," Barrow says.
The Dead Parrots Society will take along the five performing members and the four other members to Chicago.
On top of adding an extra practice during the week to prepare, the actors received a workshop from the Los Angeles-based Upright Citizens Brigade, whose alumni include performers and writers for Saturday Night Live, The Office, 30 Rock, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and writers for David Letterman and Conan O'Brien. The team also hopes to participate in more workshops presented by groups like Seattle's Jet City Improv and Bellingham's Upfront Theatre.
In addition, they are measuring up the competition, finding out why other teams made nationals and learning about their strengths and their shortcomings. They'll face teams from New York University and University of Minnesota - Morris in the first-round playoffs.
Even before their turn in the national spotlight, members of the troupe have recently gained local fame on and off campus. "Hey, you're a Dead Parrot, right?" team members have heard.