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Life unfolds at a silly pace at the Harrisburg Improv Teatre. BY LORI M. MYERS


ACC student Haad Naqvi of Hummelstown remembers being on his way to visit a professor on

campus when a flyer caught his eye. It was for a class—sans grades and

credit points—to learn a comedy form known as improvisation. Te place? Te new Harrisburg Improv Teatre in Midtown Harrisburg. Te instructors? Jake Compton and Paul Barker, two members of its resident troupe, Te HIT Squad. “I was hesitant to participate,” Naqvi

recalls. “I actually didn’t have any acting, singing, comedy, performing skills. At the same time, I know these things work better

with everyone

participating, so I decided that my hesitance should die right away.” But that “hesitance” took a little while to make its exit. Naqvi had told the instructors that he would perform only if it were a requirement to take the class. After all, his initial intention was simply to think quicker on his feet, but Naqvi ended up performing, found it valuable and was hooked. “Te experience was fantastic,” he

says. “I felt performing completed the experience.”


already lays claim to

several improv groups that perform around the region, but now the comedy form has a home of its own. Go on over to the Midtown space—a

44 | THE BURG | 08.14

former shoe repair and tailor shop and then an art gallery—now repurposed as a theater by Perry County native Jake Compton and his wife, Somers, a native of Etters. Te Harrisburg couple are amazed that their dream of offering a place for improv and other creative endeavors has come true. About 10 years ago, Jake got hooked

on improv and took some classes in New York after inviting himself along when friends wanted to give it a try. He discovered that he loved it, but got busy with other things and put it on the back burner. “I knew it would cycle back in my

life,” Jake says, as he relaxes on one of the cushioned pews in this cozy theater.

“We launched classes at

MakeSpace and got a full house.” Tat evidence of interest was all Jake needed. It fueled his need for a space where creativity and the improv mantra of “yes, and” (meaning that performers always affirm each other’s contributions) could flourish. At the end of last year, Jake was online and noticed that a building on 3rd Street was available, and, when the price dropped, he and Somers were able to make that dream a reality. It was perfect—intimate,

compromised. It was going to be all of those things. “We look at this and laugh,” Jake

says. “How legitimate we must look to other people.”


Te theater officially opened in June, but not before hitting an unexpected snag. After taking ownership of the building, the Comptons decided to paint over a mural on an outside wall facing a community garden. At the time, they didn’t know that the mural was a commissioned work that had become a cherished part of the neighborhood. A brief media kerfuffle ensued, and the Comptons suddenly found themselves facing TV news cameras, explaining and apologizing for their oversight. Te controversy now seems to have receded, allowing them again to focus on the potential of the theater. “We’re very excited about what the future holds,” Jake said. So is Jennie Adams of Hummel-


filled with potential. Jake wanted a niche space for improv; Somers sought a place where people could rent the storefront building for events like birthday parties and bridal showers, as well as poetry slams. Tey

stown, a seven-year improv performer/ teacher, member of Gamut Teatre’s TMI Improv Troupe and a performer with and co-owner of the all-female No Artificial Sweeteners. She took a class at MakeSpace with Jake last spring and enjoyed it so much that she signed up for Level 2. “Jake and Somers Compton have been very open and welcoming to the already strong Harrisburg

improv community and are open to collaborating with all the existing troupes here,” Adams says.


fact, No Artificial Sweeteners and Te HIT Squad did a joint show that benefited their improv class scholarship program.” Te young improvisers scholarship is

for young people ages 17 to 19 who are interested in taking a class but for whom price might be an issue. “We are hoping it helps to draw in

young people who otherwise would not become involved,” Jake says. “I lucked into getting involved with improv when I was 19. I’m excited at the chance to give young people the same opportunity I had.” On Aug.

15, the Harrisburg

Improv Teatre will present a Level 1 class show at 6 p.m. and a Level 2 class show at 7 p.m. Ten Te HIT Squad will take to the stage at 8 p.m. At 9 p.m., there will be a free mini class and mixer for those who want to try improv. “If it terrifies you, you should take

a class,” Jake says. “It will help you with life.”

Te Harrisburg Improv Teatre is at 1633 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. See for more information on classes and shows.

Disclosure: Paul Barker, one of the instructors at the HIT, is senior writer for TeBurg.

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