Improv Community Misrepresented in Arts Article

To the Editors:

We, members of the three improv groups noted in the recent article titled “Community of Improv Performers Grows Tighter,” take issue with not only the content, but also the process by which the piece was written (The Oberlin Review, May 1, 2015). Many individual members felt their personal experiences were not reflected or altogether ignored, and we wish to use this platform to express our discontent with the portrayal of us and our community.

First, we would like to call to question the lack of communication between the author and the improv community. At no point were directors of the groups aware an article was in the works. A photographer showed up at a recent Primitive Streak performance without asking, either before or after, for permission to document and publish photographs, including the one that ran with the piece. The article primarily pulled from the words of one particular person, who was unaware their responses would decide the direction of the argument presented. It ignored not only senior members, who may have added more historical context, but also the very voices the article deemed absent. This led to a misreporting of opinions as facts, including the idea of a current rivalry, going to each other’s shows as a “brand new” sense of camaraderie and even basic research errors concerning forms used by particular groups, especially Primitive Streak. We are a large, supportive community and take this matter seriously. In fact, these processual faults, namely the assertion of one person’s opinion as fact, spread misconceptions, negatively affecting both the individual members and the community’s public reception. This poor journalism has actual consequences.

This brings us to a major point of issue: ignoring a broad spectrum of voices that are available to speak to the improv community in favor of a small few. We are very concerned that the article created a misconception of Oberlin improv at large that could have detrimental effects for audiences, prospective and even current members. In particular, we are offended by the erasure of our groups’ histories and the identities of our current and past members.

Currently, Oberlin’s improv scene consists of a large amount of women, queer people and people of color. This is actually a unique situation, considering that the improv world beyond Oberlin is disproportionately dominated by cis white men. We do not, in any way, intend to congratulate ourselves or tokenize individual identities. There is always more to do, but we also recognize how Oberlin’s improv scene is comparatively unique in this way. Our auditions are open to everyone, though the nature of improv does impose size limitations. Groups may be initiated at any time by anyone. Recently there has been an influx of other comedy groups on campus and an effort to expand offerings of inclusive opportunities.

We hope this letter reflects the perspective and experience of a larger portion of the community.

Erin Amlicke

College senior, Primitive Streak

Joshua Blankfield

College first-year, Primitive Streak

Amara Granderson

College sophomore, Primitive Streak

Caio Ingber

College junior, Primitive Streak

Charlie Kaplowitz

College junior, Primitive Streak

Julia Melfi

College senior, Primitive Streak

Olivia Harris

College junior, Primitive Streak

Maya Sharma

College senior, Primitive Streak

Arif Silverman

College senior, Primitive Streak

Christine Walden

College senior, Primitive Streak

Jesse Arnholz

College sophomore, Sunshine Scouts

Taylor Greenthal

College senior, Sunshine Scouts

Zoe Kushlefsky

College first-year, Sunshine Scouts

Sophie Zucker

College senior, Kid Business