Creek’s LExI puts on show for 10th anniversary

Lisa Nhan, Managing Editor

For ten years now, the League of Extraordinary Improvisers, LExI, has been crafting the art of storytelling for the audiences here at Creek. With multiple shows a year, these improvisers have been entertaining others with solely their own ideas and no script since 2005. Ever since then, according to Mr. Bradley Hewlett, theatre and improv director, the troop has been a signature part of the theatre family. On December 13, the LExI members will have a show to honor the history of LExI and the impact it has had on its alumni.

“The LExI class was my first theatre class ever. It’s really what sparked my interest in theatrical performance and it’s what lead to my involvement in the productions at Creek,” Justin Gibbons, alumni from last year’s graduating class, said. Gibbons is now pursuing his theatrical passion at University of Houston.

The troop, named after a combination of League City and 2005 film The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, was started the year before Hewlett started teaching at Creek. During that time, there were four other theatre directors. However, as time went on Hewlett was given the responsibility last year of the LExI troop and teaching the improv classes.

“What I’ve always told my students a few years ago is that I’ve always felt like the uncle of LExI. I wasn’t the director in charge of it. I was a source of feedback and support over the years, but never the director. It’s been an honor and privilege to be able to take over,” Hewlett said.

In order to be chosen for the troop, performers must audition. To gain the skills needed in the audition, students often take the yearlong class in which Hewlett teaches improv. It begins with playing improv games with strict forms and rules to help assist the performers in creating a story.  As time moves on students learn to perform long form, which is the height of the art of improv. It is a type of improv to start with one word or phase suggestion to create a 30 minute long story stemming from seemingly random stories and events. The players have to create a story out of that.

“A lot of people think that what we do in improv is making things up and think, ‘Oh how hard can that be.’ But if you’ve ever tried to come up with a story or sentence to an audience on the spot, it can be pretty tough. It’s a skill. A lot of famous improvers have compared it to playing an instrument or singing in a choir. Just like music, it requires practice to build up skills needed for performances,” Hewlett said.

The skills required in performing improv that are developed in the class are mostly about listening and understanding about how to create a story that will interest an audience. The performer must learn to connect ideas from other people as they create a story. Many times it’s about developing what seems like unconnected ideas into a cohesive story.

“It’s really about a class about creative problem solving and team work. That’s what has to happen on stage. Each time you get on stage, there’s a problem. And that problem is how to tell a story,” Hewlett said.

To problem solve, the improv members are instructed to follow the number one rule in improv which is, “yes, and…” The performed have to learn to “trust each other on stage and accept what each person gives each other,” according to Hewlett. It requires for the players to learn how each other think and build a chemistry based off that.

“Even if they never do anything else in their life with comedy, the things you have to do to get that good at improvising, especially in long form, can be used throughout life. Problem solving and taking other people’s ideas to merge with your own are lifestyles that anyone can use. It’s not a solo act. It’s a collaborative art form. Life is about making choices and solving problems just like improv,” Hewlett said.

Over the years, LExI has developed an unique tradition that only the members of the troop are allowed to know. According to Hewlett, it was started before the first LExI show ever and has remained relatively the same since. This reflects the close-knit bond that LExI has created within the troop.

“I have LExI to thank for making me the actress I am, giving me an amazing group of some of the closest friends I’ve ever had and giving me an outlet for all the crazy energy everyone on the troope and I had,” Ashley Haas, alumni  from the previous graduating class, said.

For Hewlett, LExI has been a reflection of the hard work that past directors and LExI members put into creating a distinctive program to Creek.

“I have seen better improvisation and understanding of the theories of comedy by these students than some college shows I’ve seen, because of how seriously we take it. We talk about all the time how special and fragile it is to have that kind of history and leadership. For me as a director it’s a beautiful thing to have a program that runs itself through the hard work and commitment of students,” Hewlett said.

For those interested in watching the show and its recognition of the past of LExI, the show starts at 7p.m. and tickets will be five dollars at the door