SJP takes the stage, and our hearts: An improvised family
By Sophia Harris
In the evening before her performance, Cassidy Shaw is lifting weights in the gym in an effort to curb her pre-show anxieties.
Eric Qua and Emily Monaco practice aerobatics with their feet in the air and hands on the ground, cartwheeling in the McCarthy forum.
It is 6:30 p.m. - 30 minutes before the Suit Jacket Posse (SJP) takes the stage.
Shaw is a new member of SJP but not new to performing. In high school, she was in a production of a parody of Romeo and Juliet as well as an active member of her choir.
Qua is the co-captain of SJP alongside Will Nee. They too are no strangers to the improv scene and have been performing together since freshman year.
As the group takes the stage, the room erupts into laughter as they play a sequence of improv games full of “raunchy” jokes, not suitable for younger audiences.
“We are by no means family-friendly - we get pretty raunchy and vulgar at times,” Nee said.
SJP is Framingham State’s improv group and an extension of the Hilltop Players theater group. It has been in existence for around 20 years.
SJP is comprised of seven members all with varying levels of experience in drama. Although membership is not limited, auditions are required to participate.
Chris Miller, a former member of SJP, joined with only a summer of improv under his belt after leading improv games at a summer camp in 2019, where he still works.
Although not currently a member, he said he has made lasting friendships and connections with the FSU community.
On the other end of the spectrum, Tadiwa Chitongo was in theater all four years of high school and two years of middle school. He joined SJP during his first semester of freshman year, and it is undeniable that he has experience performing on the stage.
No matter the experience level, SJP welcomes anyone with a love for making their community laugh, Qua said.
As a welcoming group, SJP fosters the blossoming of many friendships every year.
Nee said, “The cast of SJP almost immediately becomes very friendly with each other. Because in the nature of improv, you have to be able to, for lack of a better term, make fun of yourself - you have to be able to laugh at yourself and be able to do that and be able to be open in that way. As being part of this group lends itself to being able to bond with each other very easily - very, quickly.”
Chitongo said regarding the comradery on SJP, “I think a big thing that Eric and Will wanted for their reign of SJP was to build a kind of like, a friendship and a found family. And I think they've done pretty well.”
Qua said, “Often you will see present and former members eating lunch and dinner together because we're all kind of like one friend group.”
He added that SJP is the club to join if you are looking to make friends on campus.
What makes SJP such a good place to make lasting friendships is the characteristics that make up its cast members, the group agreed.
It takes a special type of person to be able to perform jokes on stage.
Some of the qualities that the members said make them so successful on SJP, aside from humor, are dedication, thinking on one's feet, and supporting other members on stage.
Shaw said the best quality that she brings to the stage is keeping members on track.
“Building scenes and letting them shine, but helping people stay on track in a scene,” she said.
Nee said, “One of the - if not the main thing - I bring to SJP is the wholehearted dedication to the art of improv.”
Chitongo said he brings a more “intellectual humor” to the stage as well as one-liners full of innuendos.
All of the members’ characteristics on SJP complement each other nicely on stage, as audiences can see their close friendships first hand whenever they perform, Miller said.
Qua said he wanted to express his gratitude toward the people who came before him including, “Sam, Ben, Jake, and Alex.”
He also wanted to thank people who have auditioned, who have supported SJP, and who have gone to their shows.
“My time hosting people who have been on the team, whether it's for all three or four semesters or just for one - SJP would not have been the same without them.
“So I really appreciate them. I hope that new people are inspired to audition in the future.”
SJP's next show is March 9 at 7 p.m. in the McCarthy Forum.