Theatre Strike Force is the University of Florida’s premier improv and sketch comedy troupe. The style of improv performed by Theatre Strike Force is primarily short form, however several outlets for long form improvisation exist within the group. This includes The Sunday Group, The Delta Group and the Apprentice Group (the „varsity“ team, the „intermediate“ team and the „novice“ team, respectively). In addition to improv, a sketch writing branch exists called TSF Sketch.
The primary purpose of Theatre Strike Force is to provide social and political commentary in a thought-provoking and comedic manner. This is achieved through performing improvisational and sketch comedy that is both entertaining and socially engaging. Membership within Theatre Strike Force currently exceeds 60 members.
Theatre Strike Force has been a comedic fixture at the University of Florida since 1989. Founded by Dr. Judith Williams and Sid Homan, both of the UF School of Theatre and Dance, the improvisational group initially performed experimental „street theatre“ that was satirical in nature.
In the mid 90s, the group came under the direction of Heather Roberts, who fused TSF’s social and political consciousness with a more comedy-based style of improvisation. Roberts also created The Sunday Group, a special team within TSF that would focus specifically on „long-form“ improvisation (a Chicago style that provided the comedic foundation for stars like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Chris Farley).
Now, with regular performances for packed audiences and ever increasing membership, TSF has become one of the largest and most popular collegiate comedy groups in the nation. Although best known for „short-form“ improv (popularized on the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?), TSF also performs long-form improv, musical improv, and sketch comedy. Many TSF alumni have moved on to Chicago and Los Angeles, joining the ranks of some of the best improvisers in the country.
Their Sunday Group improv team was the subject of Whether the Weather, a documentary about college improvisation.
Theatre Strike Force performs monthly at the Orange & Brew, as well as multiple residence halls on the University of Florida campus. TSF has also performed for Dance Marathon and Relay for Life in addition to other charities and student organizations in Gainesville. Theatre Strike Force offers an open and formal course in learning to perform improv through their „Academy“.
TSF may function as a performance group, but at its heart is also a completely open club. TSF’s Academy was created with this in mind. Divided into 5 Levels, the Academy offers several different experience levels for aspiring improvisers. Once students have sufficiently learned the techniques in a specific level and feel comfortable proceeding with their training, they are allowed to proceed to the next level. Level 1 covers basic performance techniques, such as support and „Yes, and…“, while covering some of the games performed by the TSF Short-Form Team. Level 2 is a short form intensive that drills games TSF frequently plays in shows, practices new games, and experiments with making the games more challenging. Level 3 is the introduction to long form, covering basic forms with an emphasis on strong scenework. Level 4 is the Harold intensive, drilling the innovative form invented by Del Close at the IO Theater. Level 5 is the experimental long form group featuring TSF’s most experienced players practicing more advanced forms.
Throughout the semester, each Level has four performance dates where they will perform with two other Levels and showcase what they have learned over the course of their class. These shows are an opportunity to invite friends and family to see the progress they’ve made in their training.
An audition-based team, these players are the face of TSF. Performances ranging from shows in residence halls and auditoriums on campus to shows at other colleges and festivals are this team’s role. These are the best short-form players TSF has to offer and are among the best in the state. The Short-Form Team is currently directed by Michael Christie.
The Sunday Group is an elite troupe of improvisers that performs long-form improv. They represent the best Strike Force has to offer. The Sunday Group performs at a wide range of events including shows on campus, at local bars, and a medley of shows at Gainesville’s prestigious Hippodrome State Theatre. The Sunday Group has gained acceptance to various improv festivals, including the Chicago, Miami, Blackbox, and Dirty South Festivals. They also perform regularly in the Gainesville Improv Festival.
The Sunday Group has also competed in a number of improv tournaments. In November 2009, the Sunday Group (competing under the name of its parent organization, Theatre Strike Force) won the Southeast regional tournament in the College Improv Tournament, sponsored by the Chicago Improv Festival. They competed in the semi-finals on February 10, 2010, but lost to The Titanic Players from Northwestern University, who went on to win their second CIT title in three years.
The Sunday Group is currently directed by Chase Schaum.
Recently instated in January 2009, the Delta Group is the intermediate long-form team of TSF. Most members have been studying and performing improv for at least a year. The Delta Group is TSF’s experimental team, specializing in organic, Chicago-style improv and exploring themes based on audience suggestions. The Delta Group is currently directed by Michael Springthorpe.
The Apprentice Group, or „A.G.“, is the beginner’s long form team within TSF. It is geared mainly towards students who have little to no experience with long form improv and serves to teach the basics of improv through introductory forms. Almost everyone that has ever been in the Sunday Group has learned their craft in the Apprentice Group. Specializing in their own quick-paced style of long-form, the Apprentice Group performs both with Theatre Strike Force’s other house teams and on their own. The Apprentice Group is currently directed by Terrence Commons.
Founded by Erik Voss in January 2008, TSF Sketch is a team of comedy writers that meets weekly to collaborate in developing ideas and writing sketches. Their mission is to provide Theatre Strike Force with a flow of sketches to use to entertain audiences in the local Gainesville community and beyond. TSF Sketch is currently directed by Nick Simmons.
Many members of Theatre Strike Force have gone on to create and/or perform with a number of independent improvisation and sketch troupes across the country including :
Many improvisers and comedians across the nation got their starts at Theatre Strike Force including: