Students create collaboration

By Haley Galvin

DeKALB — A combination of music and acting improvisation, Double Duty: An Improv Experience showcases comedic skits improvised before the audience, providing a new experience each night for the participants as well as the audience.

Leah Harvey, senior acting major, brings together the School of Theater and Dance and the School of Music with her project, Double Duty. The show fuses two separate performance groups into one with jazz musicians and actors in short comedic skits.

In the spring, the Student Advisory Committee of the College of Visual and Performing Arts announced their ISPAR award. The ISPAR award is a $1,000 grant to support interdisciplinary programs across the individual colleges and encourages creativity and collaboration, according to the award website. Students were called to present a proposal to the student-run committee, which decides who the grant goes to.

Paul Kassel, Dean of the College of Performing and Visual Arts, is the staff advisor of the grant, and he awards it to the student deemed most deserving based on the creativity and cross-curriculum provided by students’ presentations. Kassel said the goal of the grant is to encourage students to work across boundaries and create an interdisciplinary environment.

“We honor tradition, but we set our sights on the future,” Kassel said. “The future is collaboration in all its various forms.”

Harvey applied for the grant in order to create Double Duty and said she thought it would be an interesting opportunity to collaborate and have two schools work together. Harvey was part of jazz band in high school and said she saw this as an opportunity to take two arts which she cares very much about and bring them together.

Since receiving the grant, Harvey has been working with students to create a cohesive performance offering the best of both worlds of music and theater. Both the music and acting will be improvised throughout the entire performance. This means there is no script, and the show will be a surprise until it is performed, providing a different show each time.

Matthew Romriell, Harvey’s faculty mentor, said the group practices improvisation exercises and warm-ups during rehearsals to get ready for the performance.

“I’ll come in with an idea and everyone gives feedback,” Harvey said. “We work as an ensemble.”

Since the program is student-lead, Harvey said she tries to incorporate all the castmates’ input to make the rehearsal and the show run as smoothly as possible.

“There has never been a show like this at NIU,” Harvey said. “It has jazz musicians and actors working together to create together, [and] it’s the first of its kind.”