By Saiham Sharif
Few people at Grinnell College perform oddball characters and hilarious, unexpected moments better than Infinite Coincidence, a long-form improvisation group that crafts approximately 45 minute scenes in real time. Infinite Coincidence is a five member group this semester. They practice twice a week and recently finished the first of their three performances of the fall.
Hannah Lundberg ’18 and Sam Dahlke ’19 are devoted members of Infinite Coincidence, having both joined Infinite Coincidence in their first year at Grinnell and continuing to participate with pleasure. They explained that the use of long-form improv allows for Infinite Coincidence to develop characters over a longer period with the hope of connecting emotionally to the audience.
“Long form is more focused on story, while short form is more focused on bit,” Dahlke said. “So in a long form scene, we’re looking to be funny, obviously, but also to fulfill the audience — hopefully. To create emotional relationships between our characters that feel meaningful.”
The length of scenes can also be a challenge, according to Lundberg. If the character the actor comes up with in the moment isn’t suited for the scene that unfolds, they’re stuck with it, and have to figure out a way to reintegrate their character.
Lundberg finds that the interpersonal dynamics of Infinite Coincidence are essential to the development of their scenes. The members cannot be reduced to any set of generalizations, other than that they are all very funny. They come to the group with varying degrees of experience and interest in improv and different academic and personal goals.
That diversity is part of what makes them so interesting, but in a college environment, where member turnover is always high, that dynamic is changing from year to year and even semester to semester — three of Infinite Coincidence’s members are currently studying abroad. However, Lundberg and Dahlke believe that Grinnell continues to provide the personalities and talent necessary to sustain a group like Infinite Coincidence.
“There’s so much talent on campus,” Dahlke said. “We’ve been really lucky that the people we’ve gotten have been amazing and really fit into the sort of group paradigm that we have.”
For Dahlke, improv serves as a way to escape the rigors of college.
“I’m often stressed academically, which is unusual for this college,” Dahlke joked. “So improv is a good outlet for that, like any sort of hobby. To go to this room twice a week and be transported to a different reality is nice when you have a lot of work.
Lundberg was drawn to improv and Infinite Coincidence specifically because she saw it as a socially conscious, friendly and humorous way to enhance the campus culture at Grinnell. They focus on punching up and often weave relevant issues into their scenes.
“[Members of Infinite Coincidence are] people who care about each other and who care about having a positive impact on the campus and the world … without overtaking it,” Lundberg said.
If you missed Infinite Coincidence’s first performance, don’t worry — they have two more upcoming. You can catch their shows on Friday, Nov. 10 or Friday, Dec. 6. Or join them for both — they never do the same show twice.