By: Bethany Beekly
If you walk into Magnuson Theater late at night, you might just see a group of about 30 people far too energetic for the lateness of the hour watching and engaging in hilarious antics onstage. This eclectic group, made up of students of all ages, majors, and walks of life, is the Gonzaga University Theater Sports team, affectionately known as GUTS. They may not be running lines or lifting weights like a more traditional sports team, but they are certainly dedicated, and they are getting ready to bring some much-needed comic relief to hardworking Zags.
GUTS was founded in the 1980s and is the longest running improv comedy troop in the inland Northwest. Members of the club, or “players,” show up at College Hall at 10pm to practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, often not leaving until 12 or 1 in the morning. Why do they do this? To make you laugh. And they will. Trust me.
The fun actually begins long before the shows even start. Magnuson Theater is a relatively small venue, with seating for just 218 people. With the increasing popularity of GUTS shows, people have begun lining up for tickets earlier and earlier. Now in the hours before a show, excited fans can be found hanging out, talking and playing board and card games while waiting for tickets before the show.
Of the ever-fluctuating total number of GUTS members, eight players are cast for each show, and those players are divided into two groups of four players each. They essentially then “compete” in a wide variety of games (think “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”) in which hilarity inevitably will ensue. For example, in Actor’s Worst Nightmare, the performers are given a scenario, and each receives a script from a different play. They must find a way to enact that scenario using only lines found in their respective scripts. The rules of the various games, called “gags,” may seem absolutely ridiculous, but “it makes it easier to be funny when you have something to be funny with,” GUTS council member Erin Fitzgerald explains.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of a GUTS show, as opposed to any other theater or comedy event, is that everything is being made up on the spot based on suggestions from the audience. It’s a more social atmosphere that is pretty unique within the realm of performing arts. “The thing about [the shows], is that it’s not a typical theater show…It’s really high energy,” Fitzgerald says. “When you come, we keep you guys really involved—keep you guys laughing.”
Junior Corwin Bryan, also a council member, said the same of rehearsals. He noted that he often feels more energized at midnight after a long rehearsal than he does at 10 when he first arrives. It’s a rare chance to just enjoy the company of a very strong, close community and “be utterly silly,” and it’s energizing. “That’s one of the best things about GUTS,” he says, and it’s kept him coming back, ever since he attended his first GUTS show over Orientation Weekend and volunteered to participate—then proceeded to make up a story about his move-in experience. “I was improvising too, they just didn’t know it,” he recalls with a grin.
“I do improv ‘cause it terrifies me,” Fitzgerald admits. Most people would be more than a little intimidated by the idea of standing onstage in a crowded theater knowing nothing about what you are about to do except that everyone is expecting it to be funny. “The thing about GUTS,” she says, “is you can really make anyone funny in the right situation.”
Fitzgerald also emphasizes that new members are never cast until they are ready, and there are two different aspects to that readiness. One side of it is simply whether or not a new member is prepared to perform up to GUTS standards. The other piece is making sure that players have a firm grasp on the “family style” of humor that GUTS embraces. “If somebody’s offended that takes away the fun,” she says. And fun is what GUTS, at its core, is all about.
“Humor is a great way of sending messages, getting to know people,” Fitzgerald says. This philosophy is key to understanding the intimate way that the GUTS crew interacts with its audience. “It’s like those science museums where you actually get to touch the stuff…It’s theater you can touch.”
GUTS will have its first performance of the school year on Friday, September 20th at 9pm in Magnuson Theater. More information can be found at http://www.gonzaga.edu/Academics/Colleges-and-Schools/College-of-Arts-and-Sciences/Majors-Programs/Theatre-and-Dance/Clubs.asp.