The Newman University Sloppy Joe Improv players kicked off their 2020-2021 year with a unique first performance at the Museum of World Treasures located in Wichita, Kansas.
Co-captains Matthew Clark and Brenden Schwartz both participated in the performances and agreed the opportunity was a great way to interact with individuals outside the Newman community.
For two-hour shifts on two separate days, three Sloppy Joe actors — Clark, Schwartz and Daniel Knolla — dressed in period costumes and interacted with museum guests.
Brad Nuest, education manager at the museum, had heard about the Newman improv group from colleagues and reached out to Mark Mannette, director of theater, who passed the message along to the Sloppy Joes.
Nuest said the actors provided a fun way to bring the museum to life during a special customer-focused week.
“The goal was to enhance the customer experience during Customer Appreciation Days by providing living history engagement,” said Nuest. “I hope the guests had a fun and entertaining experience interacting with the Sloppy Joes.”
Clark said he highly enjoyed the experience. As a theater major, he is always looking for ways to improve his acting skills. This opportunity provided him with a chance to hone both his acting and improvisation techniques.
“While I always enjoy taking center stage and interacting with performers and strangers alike,” explained Clark, “I was especially entertained by this experience because of the found space I had the opportunity to play in. Giving a couple of improvisers a full museum to wander around in is a dangerous — but rewarding — game.”
Clark said he enjoyed getting into character and performing in such a unique way with his fellow Joes.
“Though visitors may not have been anticipating our presence in the museum, we had a lot of positive interaction with people,” he said. “Brenden let the children try out his Roman shortsword, Daniel got some laughs from a couple of families and I was always asking people if they had seen my sheep — I played a Greek shepherd.”
Creating a storyline for his character helped Clark find fun ways to interact with museum visitors.
When he was working with Schwartz, Clark became a “humble shepherd who was being protected by a Roman soldier from beasts and bandits on the journey to my newly inherited pasture.” While working with Knolla, who played a cheerful monk, his character was embarking on a spiritual pilgrimage.
“It was enjoyable to serve as living characters in the museum, to be ‘walking intrigue’ and add a little ‘life’ to the museum.”
Schwartz said he hopes the Sloppy Joes can work with the museum again and is planning on reaching out to Nuest with some ideas for ways to partner in the future.