While there were no spectacular dunks or buzzer-beating shots, Seriously Bent, Suffolk University’s student comedy troupe, experienced its own version of March Madness by making it to the Final Four of the sixth annual College Improv Tournament National Championship at Chicago’s Athenaeum Theatre.
Suffolk is the only school in North America to have reached the College Improv nationals five times in six years.
Competing on a national stage as actors, Seriously Bent’s game plan worked to perfection.
“I thought we executed our structure very well and we had some really funny scenes,” said coach Anthony Passafiume. “I feel great for this group of students and for Suffolk University.”
Just one look ... and they're off
“We work really well together,” said junior Amanda Stone. “We’re more like a family than an improv group. There are times when we just give each other a look and play off of that. The entire experience in Chicago was well organized and a lot of fun. Every team brought a different style and energy level.”
Back in October, 123 college teams across North America began a five-month series of competitions, all looking to win a regional title and a chance to compete for the national crown in Chicago, the birthplace of improv.
Seriously Bent captured the New England Regional championship in November, earning a trip to the Windy City.
The Sweet Sixteen -- North America’s top-ranked and funniest college improv teams -- 12 regional winners and four wild cards -- faced off in a pulsating, one-day tournament. Each school performed for 20 minutes before a live audience and a national panel of professional referees, er, judges.
When the spotlight shone on Suffolk, eight pairs of students took turns performing lightning-fast scenes. They portrayed artists talking about selling a painting, hoarders discussing why they love junk, a conversation between a mafia boss and a hit man afraid of using guns, and a confrontation between a crossing guard with a power complex and a student who is challenging his power.
“I felt our scenes were well grounded and had some nice character development,” said Passafiume, a 2007 Suffolk and Seriously Bent alumnus.
Familiarity breeds success
The troupe’s group scenes drew on the strong bond among the actors.
“We are extremely comfortable with each other all the time,” said co-captain Joseph Talluto, a senior. “We have a lot of confidence as a group.”
In the opening playoff round, Suffolk defeated Arizona State University, the University of Missouri and Wheaton College to advance to the championship round. The University of Houston finished in first place, followed by the University of British Columbia, the University of Iowa and Suffolk.
"We left everything we had on stage"
“This is my third trip to the national tournament, and I am very proud of how we have evolved over the years,” said co-captain Ethan Bukowiec, a senior. “We all know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we encourage one another all the time. I felt we left everything we had on stage, and that’s a great feeling.”
In addition to Bukowiec, Talluto and Sousa, Seriously Bent cast members competing in Chicago were sophomores Zachary Barker, Stephania Kay, John MacGregor and Tatijana von Rosen, and freshman Erin Farrington. Senior Andy Cataluna also made the trip, serving as the group’s manager.
Joseph Talluto and Amanda Sousa improvise a scene.
Physicality informs the humor as John MacGregor and Stephania Kay perform.