Droppin’ $cience, then and now

By Alexandra Kukulka

“Scuba diving!” yells someone in the audience.  A member of Droppin’ $cience, Columbia’s improv troupe, steps onto center stage and acts like a crab at the bottom of the ocean. Another player recognizes this and becomes a scuba diver looking at the deep-sea creature. Others respond as fishermen and other ocean animals.

This was the final scene Droppin’ $cience performed at the National College Improv Tournament held March 10 at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., where they beat 126 competing college teams. The win presents the group with new opportunities and four new members who were brought on after the regional competition.

“I was very pleased with [the team’s] performance,” said Kenny Metroff, one of the team’s coaches. “It was very nice to see them take everything we have been working on and apply it all on a competitive stage.”

According to Metroff, the team was thrilled with the reward, which capped four years of hard work and five months of playoffs.

After beating 16 teams at regionals last November, the 10-member troupe competed against four teams in the semi-final round and won, said co-captain Tyler Davis, junior journalism major.

This is not the first time the team has made it to nationals. According to co-captain Jamie Jirak,  junior film and video major, the team won regionals and placed third in the national tournament last year.

“[During] the past two years, we have really become a stronger team, and what I think it comes down to is we have become a closer team,” Davis said. “A lot of us have been on this team for three or four years, and we have become very close friends. So whenever we go on stage, we are playing with our best friends.”

The hard part is when the team has to say goodbye to graduating members, Davis added. But new members will be brought in to fill the open spots.

According to Jirak, the team normally looks for new recruits in the fall, but this year waited until the spring semester to hold auditions after realizing that four members would be graduating.

“For the first time, we have had the opportunity to really work with a small, dedicated group that we knew would show up,” Metroff said. “We wanted to see how they would develop, given the opportunity for more stage time.”

The new members are freshmen Josh Decker and Terrence Carey, both theatre majors, along with transfer students Nick Jester, music major, and Mike Cullen, television major. According to Jirak, they did not participate in the national tournament because they were not on the team during regionals.

“They have now started doing shows with us,” Davis said. “We are hard to keep up with, but they were really able to jump in.”

With the victory at this year’s tournament and the addition of four new members, the group’s hard work is paying off, Metroff said. However, the team was not always this tenacious.

Jirak became a member of the team during her freshman year in 2008. She said the group was disorganized and unpredictable at the time.

“When I got on the team, anything went, anything [could] go,” she said. “You never knew who was going to show up. It was kind of a mess.”

Davis agreed that Droppin’ $cience was chaotic when it started but said he believes the team has used that challenge to become what it is today, adding that judges have mentioned how the troupe is “controlled chaos.”

Jirak believes the team has grown during the years because of its coaches’ consistency and dedication. She said the team spends time together and are friends, which also helps improve the members’ performances.

Davis said Droppin’ $cience now faces the challenge of re-establishing its voice with four new members.

The team is using the momentum from its recent win to look for more show and festival opportunities, including a slot in the Chicago Improv Festival April 23–29. According to Jirak, the group also plans to perform in other states and suburbs.

Metroff said the team intends to add musical numbers to its sketches because one of the new members is a classically trained piano player.

“From where I started to where we are now, it’s a complete 180,” Jirak said. “It’s really cool to see how far we have come.”

Droppin’ $cience performs Thursdays at Studio BE, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave., at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.