Tuesday and Thursday nights inside the Goodwin Performing Arts Center, chaos is the norm. The sheer sound of the improv comedy show’s practices is as preposterous as their jokes: the noise is so prominent it acts as another character, demanding attention and silencing thought.
The arresting sound, though remarkable, isn’t obtrusive. It’s a warm combination of careless laughter and the chatter of friends. It’s as welcoming as it is intense.
The nine cast members of Waynesburg University’s “WU’s Line is it Anyway” take turns practicing, alternating back and forth from the audience to the stage.
When performing, the cast members portray ludicrous characters in unthinkable situations, a pair of Nike tennis shoes on a dating show, a superhero whose only power is to hop like a rabbit.
Boisterous screams of laughter deafen the director’s shouts: “act like your bones are hardened ramen noodles” or “what’s the most underrated Disney movie?”
Junior history major Tre Thomas , slouches in his seat in the auditorium, laughing at and encouraging the pandemonium. Though he’s technically in charge as the director, it’s not obvious from the manner in which he jokes and lackadaisically allows the hour-long practice to run.
But that’s because he isn’t at practice. He’s home.
Thomas has never known college without his Tuesday and Thursday evenings being booked. Thomas, admittedly obsessed with all things theatre in high school, planned to continue that passion at Waynesburg. After befriending the past director as a freshman, he auditioned for and received the role of assistant director.
“I knew from the moment I learned what WU’s Line is it Anyway was that I wanted to be a part of it,” Thomas said.
Thomas’s seasoned experience with the show and its cast members reveals itself through their relationships and interactions. Following rehearsals, the cast surrounds Thomas and he nonchalantly makes plans, shares jokes and chats about school.
“I hang out with these people inside and outside of practice,” Thomas said. “They’re my friends.”
Though he has to attend every practice as a leader, Thomas doesn’t view the show’s late-night practices as forced.
“I look forward to it, not as an obligation but as the end of my day and as a highlight of my day,” Thomas said.
The practices are open to the public, and Thomas welcomes students of all majors and backgrounds to enjoy and participate in the show. Thomas just insists that those who choose to attend the show or practice, better are prepared to laugh.
“WU’s Line is it Anyway is more than a cast,” Thomas said. “It’s a group of people who meet two times a week to have fun and be together. It’s an inclusive experience.”
Thomas, because of his heavy involvement, says he couldn’t imagine his college experience without the show. He still remembers timidly walking into his first practice as a freshman, and now tries to emphasize the potential for anyone to get involved.
“It’s become a place for everyone,” Thomas said.
Since earning the role of director at the beginning of his junior year, Thomas made minor changes to the infrastructure of the show. In his role, he is the main writer of the prompts that the cast use during rehearsals and the shows, and he also does the administrative tasks required in a leadership position. Recently, Thomas made a slight change to the responsibilities of the director.
Traditionally the director of WU’s Line is it Anyway also acts as the host of the show, sitting behind a desk on stage and leading the cast and audience through the different games. After thought and consideration, Thomas decided to step away from hosting for the upcoming Feb. 21 show for personal reasons.
“It was just never my thing,” Thomas said.
Taking over the role as host will be freshman biology pre-med major James Gallucci. Similar to Thomas, he has been involved with WU’s Line is it Anyway since he arrived on campus, though he acts in overseeing the show rather than participating.
“I was funny until I got on stage,” Gallucci said. “That’s why I stay in the back.”
Gallucci’s involvement in theatre makes him no stranger to an audience. In preparation for his first time hosting, Thomas has been allowing him to practice during rehearsals.
“I have total confidence he will do great,” Thomas said.
Thomas recognizes that it is odd for an improv show to practice since there are no lines to memorize and the scenarios for the games change each time. Instead, the purpose of the practices, says Thomas, is to practice the craft of comedy.
“We have rehearsals because you really do have to practice being funny and talk about things that worked and what didn’t,” Thomas said.
The one thing that the cast can’t practice is one of the show’s best traditions: during each show a cast member goes to the audience and brings them on stage to participate.
“It’s one of my favorite parts,” Thomas said.
Though the audience members pulled to the stage are often tense, the show is strategically timed during midterms and finals to act as a way for students to relax..
“I want them to take a break, when they come here it’s a sigh of relief,” Thomas said.
The audience isn’t just a part of the performance, says Thomas, but the core of the show’s purpose in spreading joy.
“I want people to come here and have a good time and genuinely feel like they’re a part of the show,” Thomas said. “It’s more than laughter. You’re a part of the family that we have.”