Los Al Live closes out the year

The Los Alamitos High School Improv team hosted their seniors vs. teachers show, the last one of the year, on May 5 in the black box theater


Jason Khan

The Los Al Live show closes out with an epic slow-motion battle among the members.

Jason Khan, Staff Writer

LOS ALAMITOS, CA — The shows, which were sold-out at both premieres, started with a Los Al Live member coaching the audience through singing the lyrics to “Sweet Caroline.”

Afterward, the 4 p.m. show commenced with the drama department head and host of the show, Mrs. Castiglione, who frequently takes opportunities to participate in Los Al Live shows when they include teachers because she appreciates the different social dynamic that performing with colleagues creates.

The teacher members included Mrs. Fox, Mr. Barker, Ms. Shanaker, and Mr. Brown.

The student team, which was the same across both shows, consisted of seniors Grace Dejongh, Landon Small, Alex Russell, and Chason Bytel.

At the second show, the teacher team consisted of Mr. Howard, Mrs. Franzen, Mrs. Castiglione, and Mrs. Wels. The premiere consisted of a series of improv games, with the teacher team competing with the student team to see who could get more laughs from the audience.

The 4 p.m. program continued as normal until a light truss on stage right fell over and injured a few audience members. Mrs. Kraus, the Los Al principal, being one of them, suffered an injury to the shin; however, one of the other audience members was not as lucky. One student suffered a head injury, which resulted in visible bleeding.

After the incident, Izzy Ruiz, junior, took Mrs. Castiglione’s role in the show while the incident was being managed. Mrs. Castiglione is not at liberty to discuss the details of the incident beyond the facts of what happened at the show.

However, if the situation does turn legal, it would most likely affect the $16,000 in funds that the drama department has raised as of May 11 to get to go to the International Thespian Festival, which will be held June 19-23 this year.

In total, the department needs $43,000 dollars to send all of the necessary people to the competition.

Since all of the proceeds from the shows were donated to the fund, the Los Al Live team boosted the total by about $2,500.

The second show went more smoothly, as Mrs. Castiglione and a few others were able to further damage control in between programs.

Grace Dejongh, senior, has been in the program since freshman year, and she has been the Los Al Live team captain for the past two years. As a captain, Dejongh manages Los Al Live merchandise, tryouts, and warm-ups before shows.

During warm-ups, Los Al Live team members play games that encourage quick thinking and spontaneity so that they are prepared for such during the show.

Dejongh’s favorite part about improv is the camaraderie, as well as how it adds to her theatrical skillset. As a member of the Advanced Drama class, she believes it is important to think on one’s feet, which is what Los Al Live is all about.

Dejongh’s main advice to those trying out for improv next year is to be spontaneous and natural.

“Say whatever’s on your mind…don’t try to be funny,” said Dejongh.

Landon Small, senior, is proud of the legacy he gets to leave at Los Al. Small has been enamored with the Los Al Live program since his freshman year; however, he could not join until junior year because of COVID. He is deeply grateful for all of the friendship opportunities he has gotten through being a part of the program.

Small recalled how much fun he had at the state improv competition, held at Upland High School. He made up a part of the five-person team, which consisted of Landon Small, Grace Dejongh, Tom Curd, Evan Pagan, and Izzy Ruiz. He also spoke highly of the Los Al Live team’s mentor, Mr. Barker.

Mr. Barker has been managing the team for 14 years, and his team members have mentioned his kind character, which contrasts with his deadpan demeanor.

Mr. Barker believes that one should not stress out about not having made the team. He frequently encounters candidates that try out as freshmen and do not get accepted until a later year; however, he oftentimes regrets not having recruited said people earlier.

Mr. Barker personally recommended students not enrolled in the drama class reach out to classmates who are or talk to him personally about improv games to practice. He also communicated that thinking on one’s feet, cooperation with others, and listening to others are part of the basis of improv.

Mrs. Fox, a math teacher who performed with the Los Al Live team, enlightens that the teachers rarely practice outside of improv shows at the beginning and end of the year. Mrs. Fox appreciates the opportunity to entertain her students in contrast to being their teacher; she believes that already knowing students through teaching helps build a rapport with these students as audience members during the show.

Chason Bytel, senior, who joined the team starting junior year, donned some advice to those trying out for the improv team in the future.

“Be confident…but don’t be egotistical,” said Bytel.

Bytel and others also advised not having a game plan for auditions.

Additionally, it is best to apply oneself to work with others to the best of one’s ability, as the goal of any improv performer is to make those around them look good.

Mrs. Castiglione, who is familiar with many of the improv team members since drama students frequently join Los Al Live, also decided to shed some light on the makings of improv.

“Good improv is…smart language,” said Mrs. Castiglione.

She emphasized that having the courage to focus while being silly on stage is essential. She also teaches a unit of improv in her drama classes at the beginning of the year to prepare her students for tryouts, should they wish to join the team.

Mrs. Castiglione went on to emphasize the importance of rules and structure in improv; she mentioned how improv, like any other skill, can be trained through dedicated practice. She believes that the students execute their performances rather well, though some may have certain weaknesses with aspects of improv whereas others have strengths.

Overall, the team has performed rather well this year, and they have shown great improvement through high-level competition and enthralling shows.

Hopefully, the team continues to prosper in the following years, and students at Los Al will be able to entertain each other to gain coordination among peers, improve communication skills, and develop a sense of camaraderie.