Absolunacy (ABSO), a student improvisation group, will perform in two 25th reunion shows on Sept. 17 in Pruis Hall featuring current members and roughly 30 alumni. The group performs all forms of improv comedy, including short form, long form, sketch comedy and improv games. Brian Gentrup // Photo Provided
ABSO Improv group alumni, current members come together for 25th reunion show
Editor's Note: Nick Siano writes opinion for the Daily News.
ABSO, Ball State's student improv group, will perform their 25th reunion show on Sept. 17 in Pruis Hall. The show isn’t just about the comedy being performed — it’s about the years of friendship, performance and fun shared between alumni and current members.
ABSO started out as Absolunacy 25 years ago. The group performs all forms of improv comedy, including short form, long form, sketch comedy and improv games. They have performed in venues as small as residence halls and as large as comedy festivals around the nation.
This weekend will include current members and roughly 30 alumni performing two shows: a 7 p.m. "clean" performance for families, and a late night 9 p.m. show. Both are free to the public.
“We will be doing a plethora of styles and highlighting what Absolunacy prioritized in the past. There will also be a lot of unity — seeing freshmen in college performing and working with members who graduated a dozen years ago. Everyone coming together will be really special,” said Andy Raab, a sophomore member of the group.
While the strong alumni interaction may surprise some, the bond created between student members has always been the troupe’s strength.
“To say we’re close would be an understatement. Before joining the troupe, I knew nobody on campus. These people are my family now and I see them every day. They’re who I spend the most time with at BSU,” Raab said.
Nick Siano, the current president of ABSO, said the bond between ABSO members new and old is often so strong because of the foundation of all good improv performances: teamwork.
“I think the biggest thing I took away from the first [ABSO] practice I ever had was that you’re not on there to look like the best person. You should be making your partner look great, because they’re doing the same for you. Teamwork is arguably one of the most important things to a successful performance,” Siano said.
These bonds aren’t just college friendships either. Brian Gentrup, a graduate of the Class of 1997 and current reunion organizer for ABSO, still keeps in touch with his ABSO classmates.
“I’ve been at weddings and in weddings for fellow ABSO performers," Gentrup said. "We’ve been friends for 23 years, since 1993."
Gentrup said he also believes the close bond comes from the nature of improv performing.
“Improv builds relationships. You have to trust [your partner], if there’s no trust then the scene isn’t going to progress very far,” he said.
While alumni enjoy coming back to see how the group has grown and to meet the current kids, students enjoy the wider possibilities available to them through alumni connections.
“Networking is such a huge thing, especially for those of us who would like to pursue careers in comedy. ABSO has a lot of great talent over the years so there are a ton of opportunities for connections,” said Lexy Madrid, a senior member of the group.
Gentrup echoed the value of alumni connections for students.
“We have people performing in Chicago and New York, running improvisation training centers, appearing in national commercials, movies and TV shows," he said. "If a current member is looking for ways to continue performing, or ways to use what they’ve learned and done in their ABSO careers, they have an existing network of people who are still doing it.”
While many members past and present pursue comedy after graduation, every member agreed improv teaches skills that are useful no matter what field you pursue.
“So much of improv helps on every interpersonal level,” Siano said. He explained that the pillars of improv performing, such as always agreeing with your partner, listening to different viewpoints and building off of another’s ideas are helpful in any social or group situation.
Madrid also said there are transferable skills from practicing improv.
“I’ve learned to adapt, listen, gain confidence and be funnier. I continue to grow every time I get on stage too, and that is such a good feeling,” she said.
Audiences can expect current members to show up at future reunions too. As Siano put it, “You aren’t just a Ball State alum when you graduate; you’re an ABSO alum.”