While NAU Theater might be the most recognizable theater class, it’s not the only theater group the university has to offer. NAUghty Bits is an improvisation theater club that allows students to not only pursue another aspect of acting but to express their own views on show business as well.
The reason why junior director of NAUghty Bits Ryan Bowman came to NAU was for his love of improvisation. He heard that NAU hosted this club and was persuaded to study here as he used to do improvisation theater in high school.
“I think it’s the ultimate form of creativity because you have to do it right there, right then,” Bowman said. “I actually came to NAU partly because of NAUghty Bits and when I got here, I got involved as soon as I could.”
Bowman is responsible for the direction of the group in terms of learning and making sure people are growing in the ways they want to. Bowman said he wants to focus on what others want to learn because it is ultimately about the membership.
“I expect people to learn and grow as we focus on learning new skills,” Bowman said. “Part of the learning process is being able to take some constructive criticism and knowing it isn’t to turn anyone down but to help you grow.”
Freshman James Wallis wants to be an actor and thinks improvisation has helped him become more flexible with career choices.
“The other thing I’m considering is teaching,” Wallis said. “I feel like teaching is just acting anyway. Wherever I go, as long as I’m following the two things I’m passionate about, it will come in handy.”
Wallis finds NAUghty Bits full of opportunity and is amazed at how abundant the possibilities are compared to high school improvisation clubs. He thinks it gives more prospects to do things without being in real production.
People join NAUghty Bits to have fun and it is just as enjoyable to watch. Wallis said it makes him laugh and he has met many people who he is now friends with through this club. He said it’s a great way to relax during finals too.
Senior Maddison Moe also joined NAUghty Bits because she was fascinated and amused after her first show. She said she was laughing the whole time and it made her feel more comfortable and willing to try it out.
“Wherever I end up I really want to pursue community theater but its really given me a sense of confidence,” Moe said. “I also really love improv because you can apply it to any job. It lets you be creative, think on your feet and come up with new ways to solve problems.”
Moe finds theater class to be more structured and grounded with a syllabus but with the club, its a lesson with a little more play. Moe described NAUghty Bits model to practice as learning by doing.
“It’s not as competitive to get into the improv club,” Moe said. “Some of the classes you have to audition and get a head shot.”
As Wallis and Moe both describe, NAUghty Bits allows anyone from any background in acting to join. Moe thinks it’s a very open and welcoming environment.
“For us, we let anybody come to our rehearsals and meetings,” Moe said. “You only have to audition for shows but even so, it’s kind of chill and relax.”
NAUghty Bits is a branch of Arizona Playmakers (AZP). Joining NAUghty Bits grants automatic membership to AZP. Every fall, the club does a freshman transfer showcase for new students with an open mic night. In the spring, they host a new works showcase, which is a student festival that is written, directed and starred in by students. The showcase will be Sunday, April 7 at NAU’s Performing Arts Building.
Within the club, members are also given opportunities such as field trips to get hands-on experience. For the past four years, the club has been going to FRACAS, which is a three-day national improvisation conference at the University of Southern California. These opportunities give members one on one contact with professionals and allow students to showcase their talents.
“The big thing that really was a detriment to me when I first joined was being too afraid to go out there as far as I could go,” Wallis said. “In reality, the club is very supportive of you. It’s their duty to be. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and do something you might not normally do.”
There is a $5 membership fee, which allows members to be a part of AZP, vote on topics during meetings and participate in NAUghty Bits’ shows.