Interview with Improvisers Elliot Connors and Harry Wendorff


Interview with Improvisers Elliot Connors and Harry Wendorff

By Margaret Collias, ‘16


The day before the premiere of Freeplay! A Night of Improv Comedy, I had the privilege of sitting down with the WHS’s own Elliot Connors and Harry Wendorff, a fun and witty comedy duo, who were instrumental in the introduction of improv to our high school’s theater scene. The show opens Thursday, February 5th and continues through Sunday. Tickets are on sale during lunches and at the door, $10 for students and $15 for adults.


Tell us about your background in theater and specifically with improvisation.


Harry: Both Elliot and I have been doing shows since middle school with Wilton Children’s Theater. Then we got to the high school and did the underclassmen show, Snapshot, and musicals like Les Mis and Peter Pan. With improv, freshman year, I had Mrs. Delude as my Freshman English teacher. She had a lot of background with Second City and Chicago-based improv, and so we thought it would be really fun to start an improv club. So Elliot and I and a couple of other guys would hang out after school and do improv with her.  Luckily, last year, we had the opportunity to actually put on a show with Freeplay! A Night of Improv Comedy, which debuted last year and is coming back this year.


Elliot: It was really born from an appreciation of shows such as SNL and many of the comedies that are big on TV such as The Office. All of those comedians have a background in improvisation, and that’s really where our initial appreciation of improv came from.


You mentioned that Freeplay! a Night of Improv Comedy stems from a Chicago-based improv style. Could you explain the premise of these shows—what might these Chicago-style performances be like?


Harry: Its deep dish! No, no…

Elliot: Basically Chicago-based improvisation revolves around long-form improvisation. It’s basically scene work—one-on-one scenes where you use objects and dialogue to create an environment on stage with nothing else—no props, no set, just the performers working to create an environment and create a relationship with the audience.


How have you guys been preparing these past couple weeks?


Harry: Basically in our rehearsal process, we go over different techniques and different skill sets that help bolster our improv prowess. We work on, like Elliot mentioned, object work and one-on-one scenes. We run all sorts of scenarios to become better versed on the art of improv. We learn a lot of different types of games and styles to perform on stage.


Elliot: And we practice about seven hours a week with Ms. Delude and the rest of the cast, as well as our secondary cast, which meets once a week.


Harry:  Elliot and I have been coaching what we call the “ETC cast” on Monday, and they will also be featured in the show. It’s really great because we’re able to include a lot more people in the show, as opposed to last year when we couldn’t get as many people in.


Now, as performers, when you’re on stage and it’s opening night, what sort of emotions are you experiencing? How does the audience involvement factor in?


Elliot: It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s incredible. Ms. Delude always says that the week before the show, performances aren’t as great, but actual shows are usually really good. Everyone’s nervous leading up to opening night.   But once you get out there, the audience is usually really riled up because we do a lot of games to get the audience everyone warmed up. They get really excited, and that makes us excited.  That really improves the improv.  The audience is just as big a factor as we are. Their suggestions fuel the scenes. Their energy really inspires us to put out a great show.


Harry: There’s definitely a strong relationship between the audience and the performer—in the improv show more than in something like Romeo and Juliet or Oklahoma!. We’re taking suggestions and interacting with some of the audience members on the stage. It really breaks down the fourth wall—the audience is part of the performance. As a performer, it’s a lot of excitement and adrenaline because everything is brand new—a combination of whatever you put on stage and whatever the audience gives you.


Thank you guys for taking the time to talk with The Forum. I know there’s a lot of excitement in the school about these upcoming performances. We’ll all be looking for you on stage! .