The Picture House is home to Pelham’s longest-running, live improv group, The Pelicants. This group is made up of high school students and led by the hilarious, and very-generous-with-his-time, Pelham resident Josh Wallach. The Pelicants typically rehearse in our theater on Tuesday nights throughout the school year, and perform on our stage and at Rockwell’s multiple times during the year. Of course, this last year was like no other, but Josh and a group of determined students somehow made it work. They rehearsed weekly on Zoom, moved back into the theater as COVID restrictions were lifted, and were able to come together for a final, outdoor performance.
We’re so thankful that Josh was able to keep this opportunity alive, and so proud of the resiliency and talent shown by this group of young people. Read more about how The Pelicants kept each other laughing through this last year, as Josh Wallach answers a few of our questions about the process. Congratulations, Pelicants!!
When did you move improv classes to Zoom? Last spring, soon after everything shut down, so I think we just missed one class
What were those first few online classes like? They were better than I thought they would be! The main thing to learn is to not talk or make sounds when others are talking, as everyone only hears the loudest speaker. This actually is a good skill to have for improv since it’s good not to ramble and to listen to what others say. Background sounds and add on comments are good for in person scenes – it can be done on Zoom, but well timed and quickly, which again is a good skill to learn.
Best and worst part of Zoom classes? The best part is we had 2 students from other towns who might not have done it otherwise. The worst part is, it is not impossible, but difficult, to have a dance battle on Zoom. So, losing a lot of the physical comedy aspect was the worst part.
What did you and the students learn from virtual classes? Students learned to work together and to go with the flow and be positive. I learned what works and what doesn’t, and that each group is different, so I figured out what they liked best.
What was the transition from online back to in-person like? Dance battles were back! It was actually pretty emotional for me. Two of the students had only joined when we were on Zoom, so they were commenting on the actual height of everyone compared to what they thought it would be etc. They were all so happy to be live and have a huge stage to run around on and crawl on and roll on – it was amazing.
How was the show?? Amazing! I love doing long form improv – so scenes are tied together by some themes that last from 20-25 minutes – and I do not like a lot of constraints. There are actually many different forms of this – I introduced them to the Slacker, which is a series of 2 or more person scenes, and someone tags one of them out and enters to start the next scene and the person or persons remaining stays the same character as the last scene. They did one for about 20 minutes starting with a birthday party with an “ether bunny” and ending with a hilarious commentary on the largest monopolies in the US like “Jeff Bozos” – showing the hypocrisy of Capitalism – with funny voices.
What do you have in mind for next year? A triumphant return to Rockwell’s comedy stage! And sassy magical robots.