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No script, no lines? No problem

Amuse Bouche, a French noun meaning "a small bite before the meal begins" as well as "that which amuses the mouth," has another meaning at the University. It is the name of the improvisational troupe established in spring 2007.

"We thought this would be appropriate since we will be amusing people's mouths by making them laugh," said fourth-year College student Sasheer Moore, one of the founding members of the troupe.

According to Natasha Vaynblat, a third-year College student and troupe member, there was another reason for their decision.

"It was also the word of the day," Vaynblat said.

The troupe currently has seven members: Moore; Vaynblat; third-year College student Kai Chang; fourth-year College students Daniel Coats, Tanya Krimgold and Josh Rachford; and third-year Engineering student Ranjan Khan. Originally friends or friends-of-friends, the group bonded quickly through time spent together both during and outside of practice.

Though brought together by a common interest in performing improv comedy, the troupe's decision to create Amuse Bouche was based on a larger goal.

"We decided to expand the comedic community at U.Va. because there is so much talent and different types of humor that are not being displayed," Moore said. "We want to create another outlet for different performers and audiences."

Engaging and interacting with the audience is an important element in improvisational performances. In a typical performance, the troupe members perform scenes and play games, often based on an audience member's suggestion. Because of the immediacy of this interaction, spontaneity and an ability to think on your feet are most essential for troupe members.

"There's no script, no lines," Rachford said. "Everything is discovered right there."

Because their performances are not scripted, Amuse Bouche members use a variety of methods to improve their comedic talent.

"It's true we don't rehearse specific scenes or dialogue," Rachford said. "Instead, we try to improve our improv techniques, internalize fundamental concepts and improve the group's overall cohesion."

In a typical practice, the group begins with a warm-up and then tackles a particular skill to focus on during that session.

"Our members are incredibly dedicated," Vaynblat said.

So far, Amuse Bouche has held two performances; their first performance was last semester, and their second, sponsored by the University Programs Council comedy committee, was held earlier this semester at the Forum at Observatory Hill.

"The Forum show introduced us to a lot of new students," Rachford said. "The room was packed and everyone had a lot of fun."

Now with a little experience under their belts, the members of Amuse Bouche will continue efforts to hone their skills and reach out to students at their next show, which is scheduled to take place tonight in the Chemistry Auditorium.