What does SPAP stand for?
According to its Facebook page, “That’s a good question.”
While Virginia Tech is a more technical school in both name and notoriety, small arts programs and organizations still find a place to thrive in a growing environment. SPAP Sketch Comedy at Virginia Tech is part of this small but happy community.
“We were just four people who decided we wanted to do some comedy,” said senior mechanical engineering major Zach Barefoot, the “chancellor” and co-founder of SPAP.
Barefoot teamed up with his friends and decided to bring a dedicated sketch comedy group to Virginia Tech that performs a two-hour comedy show every semester.
While writing, filming and performing sketches is not easy to balance with being full-time students, the payoff is definitely worth it in the form of laughter and validation.
“The final payoff is when the audience is there, and they’re having a lot of fun with you,” Barefoot said. “When there’s a full building of people who are all on the same page comedically as us; watching the sketch and enjoying it –– definitely adds a lot to the scene, and it changes it completely. It just makes you as a performer feel more confident and push a little harder.”
Preparing for a comedy show is much more work than performing it, but performers find the benefits of teamwork and comradery to be worth the extra time. It also helps with making friends and the fluid nature between sketch characters in their shows.
“The rehearsal process is always really, really fun –– and kind of a mess, but it’s a fun mess that we have kind of got the hang of it,” Barefoot said. “We’re up late with each other, we’re exhausted with each other, but we love the work. It definitely brings us closer together and develops nice chemistry.”
This chemistry is what has brought the organization together over the course of four semesters, and from this originates great performances.
“Some of our best sketches have come from us just hanging out and throwing stupid ideas and building off them,” Barefoot said. “One of the most fun parts about it is writing a sketch either for yourself or someone you specifically have a role in mind for and then putting it on.”
In a school so focused on STEM-related fields, Barefoot, an engineering major who has also performed in several plays by the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts, explains how balancing a culture of students focused on technical skills with performing arts is beneficial to SPAP and the school itself.
“I enjoy the contrast between my engineering friends and my theater friends,” Barefoot said. “It’s definitely a nice change. It’s really fun, because a lot of people in SPAP are also not theater majors. They’re people studying computer science, HNFE, whatever. Then, they get to come in and kind of switch things and turn on the creative side of their brains. I think it’s beneficial for them and it’s cool for audiences to see that different side of it as well.”
Although SPAP has only done two shows so far, both of them have sold out. They were anticipating larger turnout for their next big show on May 1 in Colonial Hall in Squires, which has unfortunately been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m pretty disappointed everything got canceled,” Barefoot said. “We had written everything, and rehearsals had already started. This live show has been the best part of the last two semesters for me and many of the other members.”
Even though their show has been canceled, SPAP is continuing to strive for creativity and film sketches for theirYouTube channel under the same name as the organization.
As SPAP continues to grow, the group can only hope to become more mainstream as a performing arts organization at Virginia Tech.
“My hope is that eventually when I come back to visit, SPAP will be doing shows in the Moss (Arts Center),” Barefoot said. “I mean, that’s a really big goal –– there’s like thousands of seats in there but I think it would be pretty cool to see.”
Despite their recent road bump, SPAP sketch comedy is still alive and well, and plans to come back after this with full force.