FARMINGTON — Jagger Trouant conjured the setting: a pizza shop in Rome.

“Here you eat this pizza,” Nick Minor said, putting on a thick Italian accent.

Aaron Verrill ate the invisible pizza, but was interrupted by Trouant, who already had switched the setting to a pajama shop.

Minor paced around Verrill — he was forcing the customer into trying on pajamas.

“Wow, you dressed me in these pajamas real tight,” Verrill announced.

End scene. On to another game.

What does the University of Maine at Farmington’s self-dubbed “best and only” improv comedy group, the Lawn Chair Pirates, do with their popularity?

According to Verrill, one of the group’s co-leaders, who performed the brief improve scene this week in Roberts Union for a reporter and photographer, they’re using their power for good by raising awareness for Alzheimer’s research.

“We have this strange presence on campus where we realized we have a larger audience than we thought we did,” said Verrill, 21, of Belgrade. “So we figured we should try to use that and see if we could put it for a really good cause. And so far our audience has been pretty on board, too.”

The Lawn Chair Pirates are ranked sixth in a national improvisation competition, Hilarity for Charity U, started by comedian Seth Rogen and his wife, Lauren Miller Rogen. The competition, a college spinoff of Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity endeavors, is pitting more than 15 participating college improv groups against each other to see which group can raise the most money for Alzheimer’s research by April 10.

Last week, Rogen announced the top 10 groups in a Facebook video, which the group has posted on its Facebook page.

As of Monday, Verrill said the Lawn Chair Pirates have raised $1,445 toward the cause, beating out Michigan State University’s group for sixth place last week.

The Lawn Chair Pirates are the only group from Maine participating in the competition. The University of Vermont is in first place, with $10,000 raised. Verrill said it’s the Farmington troupe’s goal to raise $6,000 by the end of the competition, hopefully more.

“The organization, Hilarity for Charity, it’s targeted towards college kids because they want to get a younger audience aware of Alzheimer’s. It’s something that we’re going to deal with if our parents get it in their older age, and something we ourselves might face when we get older,” Verrill said.

The Lawn Chair Pirates got a late start in the competition, which began in the fall of 2015. Zack Peercy, the group’s other co-leader, is a follower of Rogen’s and alerted his troupe members of Hilarity for Charity U in the fall semester, but agreed that they were too busy as a group at the time. When the spring semester rolled around, the group decided to join in for the good cause and see what they could raise. So far, they’re shocked at how well they are doing.

The Lawn Chair Pirates try to put on one improv show a month, which Verrill said draws a crowd of 250 to 300, mostly students, to UMF’s Lincoln Auditorium, the only performing space large enough to support their “Whose Line is it Anyway?”-style format, in which audience members throw out ideas for sketches.

Admission to the shows is free, but at the Jan. 28 show, the first show they put on while participating in Hilarity for Charity, they asked for donations from audience members.

“Our first show, it was really interesting, we had a donation table set up, and people were looking at it because they weren’t really sure what it was,” said cast member Minor, 20, of Westbrook. “Then we made an announcement saying, ‘We’re raising money for HFCU, and this is what it’s about and we’d really like some donations.”

“There were so many people coming up and (donating). We weren’t really prepared for how much money we were bringing in.”

The Lawn Chair Pirates have two more formal shows planned before the end of the competition, one on March 11 and one on April 8.

The shows are all improvised, containing up to 14 two-to-three-minute skits — or “games,” as the cast calls them — per show. The cast rehearses the skits but never knows what the rules to the “games” will be before a show, because those are provided by audience suggestion.

One game, “Director,” consists of several members acting out a spontaneous “movie scene” with another cast member acting as director — like the pizza and pajama shop skits. The audience will suggest a location or topic for the members, though those will change as the director interjects, keeping the cast members on their comedic toes.

“I really think we’re bringing comedy that’s liked and needed. College campuses are a good place and opportunity to have people laugh,” Minor said.

While these shows are their biggest draws, Verrill said the Lawn Chair Pirates have a few other fundraising ideas in the works before the competition draws to a close, including possible shorter bonus shows and a raffle featuring local businesses.

Starting Wednesday, the Lawn Chair Pirates will take T-shirt orders for $15 per shirt in the Olsen Student Center. The shirts feature their new logo design on a purple background for Alzheimer’s awareness.

The group is also accepting donations on social media.

The grand prize of the competition is a promise by Rogen to visit the winning group’s campus and film a scene of a movie with them. Since the Lawn Chair Pirates already have raised more than $1,000, they will get a movie poster signed by Rogen.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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