Gimme a place! An occupation! An event!

On Thursday night, the only choices are "Pasquale’s," "improv troupe member," and "comedy show."

The Squirrel Association, Rochester’s newest (and raddest) improv troupe, has played to hundreds of people in their shows at Pasquale’s neighborhood Pizzeria. And tonight is a great time to jump on the wagon.

We talked to Laurel Podulke-Smith, one of the group’s members, about their origin story, the benefits of improv (adaptability!), and what to expect from the group (good, clean humor – or a hilarious apology).

{{tncms-inline content="<p>At the Squirrel Association’s Shows, the “captain” or “emcee” introduces the concept of improv, and asks the audience to yell out suggestions as needed. The show itself consists of several games, “scenes,” and vignettes, which are completely unscripted, based entirely on the audience’s suggestions. There may also be some improvised music – the troupe recently added a keyboardist/sound artist. Don’t worry, though – no audience members will be dragged up on stage or put on the spot. Participation is strictly on your own terms.</p> <p>It’s also clean! Podulke-Smith says the players all work hard to make the shows suitable for older children and young teens (but still fun for adults). “We have structures in place where we don’t swear, we don’t have anything crass, we have an understanding that we won’t say anything that you wouldn’t say to your own grandma, or you wouldn’t want her to say to you,” she said. “If anyone says anything approaching crass, they get a flag thrown at them, and they have to sincerely apologize to the audience in a monologue, which is usually very funny.”</p>" id="695fa339-611c-46c1-9c09-9184a0a10b56" style-type="question" title="Never been to an improv show?" type="relcontent"}}

Why are you guys called the Squirrel Association?

We realized that we needed a name, so we went through a few months of gathering every name that we could think of for a theatre troupe or an improv comedy troupe. We must have had 200 possible names. And then through through a system of elimination, we had about ten. One of those was just "The Squirrel" and another was "The Free Association." And through much discussion and a vote, we mashed up our two favorites and created "The Squirrel Association.

What goes into naming an improv group? is it like finding a band name?

I’ve been in bands, too, and I’ve been part of naming bands. I would say there’s a unique criteria for naming a theatre troupe. First, it should be memorable and funny, but not corny or cheesy. And it should be strange, but not so strange that nobody knows what it means. It’s actually quite a fine balance. Something that’s clever, but not overly clever.

How would you characterize your performances at Pasquale’s?

Because we perform in a relatively intimate setting, as far as improv goes, we can fit about 100 people in that space, and it’s very cozy. The whole feeling is connected, like the troupe is connected to the audience, the audience feels close to us, and the whole feeling is warm and joyful. We know a lot of our audience members – at least half of the people are out family, our friends, or our close colleagues. … As a troupe, we tend toward the abstract, the wacky, the eclectic, the eccentric, the supernatural or just strange and bizarre storylines. We’re very comfortable navigating through strange hilarity.

{{tncms-inline content="<p>The Squirrel Association is growing! As members of the troupe look to move on from Rochester, Podulke-Smith said they’re actively recruiting actors, musicians, and more!</p> <p>There are also currently two weekly improv nights at the Rochester Public Library, but look for those to be pared down in the near future. The Monday “Improv for Actors” nights are likely to be rolled into the Thursday improv workshops, which are run by the Squirrel Association. Head to the library’s Meeting Room B (upstairs) from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays to try out some improv games with a mix of novices and experts. “It’s really equalizing, and everyone has fun,” Podulke-Smith said.</p>" id="9f107238-006a-44ed-a03d-049209141e4c" style-type="highlights" title="How can I get involved?" type="relcontent"}}

What

The Squirrel Association Improv

When

7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 (doors at 6 p.m.)

Where

Pasquale’s Neighborhood Pizzeria,

130 5th St. SW, Rochester

Cost

$15 (pays for your dinner and the show)

The Squirrel Association is growing! As members of the troupe look to move on from Rochester, Podulke-Smith said they’re actively recruiting actors, musicians, and more!

There are also currently two weekly improv nights at the Rochester Public Library, but look for those to be pared down in the near future. The Monday "Improv for Actors" nights are likely to be rolled into the Thursday improv workshops, which are run by the Squirrel Association. Head to the library’s Meeting Room B (upstairs) from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays to try out some improv games with a mix of novices and experts. "It’s really equalizing, and everyone has fun," Podulke-Smith said.

At the Squirrel Association’s Shows, the "captain" or "emcee" introduces the concept of improv, and asks the audience to yell out suggestions as needed. The show itself consists of several games, "scenes," and vignettes, which are completely unscripted, based entirely on the audience’s suggestions. There may also be some improvised music – the troupe recently added a keyboardist/sound artist. Don’t worry, though – no audience members will be dragged up on stage or put on the spot. Participation is strictly on your own terms.

It’s also clean! Podulke-Smith says the players all work hard to make the shows suitable for older children and young teens (but still fun for adults). "We have structures in place where we don’t swear, we don’t have anything crass, we have an understanding that we won’t say anything that you wouldn’t say to your own grandma, or you wouldn’t want her to say to you," she said. "If anyone says anything approaching crass, they get a flag thrown at them, and they have to sincerely apologize to the audience in a monologue, which is usually very funny."