Smile and Nod member Jade Sigmund. Sophia O'Keefe | Mustang News

Smile and Nod, Cal Poly’s comedy improvisation team, watched over 70 students audition for new spots on their team Sept. 22 and 23. Despite a sprained ankle and a first-time audition, Jade Sigmund and Grace Trotta made the final cut.

Sigmund and Trotta had different experiences in terms of their auditions. Communication studies sophomore Sigmund auditioned three times during her first year at Cal Poly before making the team her fourth time around. Trotta, on the other hand, a communication studies freshman, is one of the few students who gained a spot after just one audition.

Sigmund said she participated in drama in high school and joined an improv club. Though she didn’t make the team her first year at Cal Poly, she attended the workshops members offer throughout the year to improve at improvisation. During her audition for Smile and Nod this quarter, she tripped off of the stage and sprained her ankle, and thought this would prevent her from pantomiming at the callbacks the next day.

“I went to callbacks in crutches,” Sigmund said laughing. “I just made do and I think I just showed them I wanted to be there. Like, I was not about to miss callbacks. I guess I had to get injured before I got on the team.”

Trotta knew about Smile and Nod through a friend who was on the team before graduating from Cal Poly last quarter. She said she was on a similar comedy improvisation team in high school and managed the team for two years. She was comfortable with improvising and wasn’t very nervous for her audition, even though she knew that most students don’t make it on the team after their first audition.

“It feels awesome,” Trotta said. “I’m so glad I auditioned and I’m so blessed that I’m able to do this for all four years, but I definitely don’t take advantage of that. I’m very grateful. Like they said, first years don’t usually get on, so I was at peace with not getting on the team, but then when they called me I was really excited. I cried.”

Sigmund said she felt nervous at her first audition, but now that she has experience, it’s more fun than it is nerve-wracking.

“I go there for fun and I know if I can’t make it, I always have the workshops and I can hang out with friends I met through it,” Sigmund said. “Improv auditions aren’t like how you audition for a play, where you prepare a monologue and it’s very serious and you go one at a time. It’s like a big fun party, and you all hang out and you all watch each other audition.”

Smile and Nod Vice President John Chapman explained the audition and callback process.

“The audition process is all about seeing how people perform in front of an audience,” biology senior Chapman said. “At auditions, we play various improv games in order to see how comfortable people are on stage and how good they are forming scenes with their partners. And of course, being funny. At callbacks, we do longer forms of improv to see how people are when they improv with people already on the team.”

Chapman also said the team looks for certain qualities in potential new additions to their group.

“We hope to find people who can work well with other people, have good energy, are funny, are having fun and creativity,” Chapman said. “We also look for people that can help elevate the quality of our shows. Ultimately, we hope to find people that love improv.”

Smile and Nod member Grace Trotta. SOPHIA O’KEEFE | MUSTANG NEWS
Smile and Nod member Grace Trotta. SOPHIA O’KEEFE | MUSTANG NEWS

According to Chapman, Sigmund and Trotta had all of the characteristics that the team was looking for and more.

Trotta also said that the team members told her they liked her confidence after the audition, which made her stand out from the rest of the people who auditioned.

“Even if you’re not confident, just showing confidence is a really good thing,” Trotta said.

The two new members are already excited to start their journey with Smile and Nod.

“I already really love the people on it,” Trotta said. “They’re already super supportive and I can already tell that we’re going to be friends. I also really love performing, but I’m most excited for the team community.”

While both of them made the team, they won’t perform in front of an audience until the end of the quarter for the groups traditional “Noob Show,” where new members perform for the first time.

Sigmund said she’s most excited for the opportunity to perform at the end of the quarter, and looks forward to learning how to put on the best possible show.

“We have to put on a really good show since we charge people for it,” Sigmund said. “It has to be a genuine thing they would want to pay for.”

Sigmund’s biggest pieces of advice to those who want to audition is to attend the workshops to get better at improvisation techniques and to keep auditioning until they can get in.

“Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in after your first audition,” Sigmund said. “I auditioned four times and I’m glad I took my time with it.”

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