Look out! Theatre Strike Force is on the loose

Jamison Webb, from left, James Gallen, Jenn Hosford, Nathalia Parra, Traci Grzymala and Dan Gordon perform in Theatre Strike Force's main stage show Def Improv Jam recently.

Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
You can't pinpoint where they will be. Their stage is everywhere.
You have probably seen them holding up signs that read, "Laughing kills, say NO to improv" and "Improv makes Jesus cry" and never thought twice about who they are.
They are the Theatre Strike Force. Well known throughout the department of theater and dance, Theatre Strike Force is a unique improvisational group that has been around for 15 years at the University of Florida.
Once a part of UF's Florida Players, a student organization funded by student government, Theatre Strike Force recently broke away to become its own entity. It is only a part of the department of theater and dance through a technicality, said James Gallen, the president of Theatre Strike Force.
"We offer an improv class called TPP3124 that is open to anyone," Gallen said. "That is our symbiotic relationship with the college."
After breaking away from Florida Players this past year, talk about tension between the groups lingered, but Gallen said he believes it's not in the groups' best interest to have any resentment toward each other. "Some of the people in Theatre Strike Force are also part of Florida Players," Gallen said. "It's not good to have hostilities between us."
And Florida Players President Brittany Lesavoy agrees.
"A lack of communication may have been misinterpreted as tension," she said. "We grew as two organizations going in different directions and we hope for the best for both of us."
But so-called drama isn't what Gallen, an English major, said he wants the group to be known for.
In the past, the improv group focused on social concerns, trying to reach out to those who wouldn't normally attend the theater by performing on the street.
Now Theatre Strike Force is more mainstream, Gallen said.
"We still deal with social concerns but we also do pop culture," he said. "When Theatre Strike Force first started they used 'guerrilla theater,' which is when the group would perform in prisons and unconventional stages. We don't do that anymore."
Most of their performances are 95 percent improv. But what it comes down to for the group is performing, Gallen said. At their shows, filled to capacity most of the time, the improv group wants their audience to leave feeling something. They might leave happy, laughing or pensive, but Theatre Strike Force's main goal is entertainment.
They rehearse 40 hours a week coming up with ideas for different performances, Gallen said. And he guarantees an entertaining show each time, he said.
They have one main stage show that lasts three nights, and always sells out. Meanwhile, the group has at least one show a week in different venues around Gainesville.
"It the biggest show of the year," he said. "It's 70 to 75 percent improv with short- and long-form sketch comedy."
The uniqueness of improvisation is what Gallen enjoys the most, he said. The fact that most of the members - about 120 people at any given time - are not part of the department of theater and dance gives the improv group a different feel.
Theatre Strike Force has two groups, the Apprentice and Sunday, Gallen said. The Apprentice group is geared more toward beginners, and the Sunday group is "the best Strike Force has to offer," he said.
As he steps on stage, Gallen said he feels inspired, his heart pounding. With each performance, he feels exhilarated, powerful and free, he said.
"Rehearsed theater is kind of forced," he said. "Improv feels more organic because the feelings left behind are powerful."

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