Suit Jacket Posse stand the test of time: How a pastime turned into a Framingham State staple

Cara McCarthy / THE GATEPOST

When walking down State Street or sitting in the dining hall on any given day, you may notice a group of students wearing their black T-shirts, emblazoned with rainbow ties, and suit jackets.

If you have, it is likely there is an improv show happening later that night.

The Hilltop Players are known for the extravagant productions they put on every semester. But, there is a select few from Hilltop who shine through as some of their most prominent members – the Suit Jacket Posse.

Through years of performing in front of the FSU community, hundreds of improv games, and millions of laughs – Suit Jacket Posse has given the University a sense of life.

Started in 2005 by former Hilltop Vice President and current FSU Area Director Johnny Hurley, Suit Jacket Posse has gone from a fun activity with friends, to a core sub-section of the club itself.

Hurley said he wanted to do something other than the typical musical Hilltop would perform every semester, but still wanted to be involved, as he was an eBoard member at the time.

“I was tired of main shows. I wanted to do something a little different,” Hurley said.

The name of the troupe is originally based off a joke Hurley and a few of his friends had when they were students at FSU.

He said, “There was this group of kids who were walking around campus. They always hung out in the cafe and were really cliquey. … And they all wore jean jackets.”

Hurley talked about how he and his friends drew the name for Suit Jacket Posse from this group of friends and wanted to create a “West Side Story” rival group theme.

“It’s kind of funny now that it’s, like, 15 years later and I don’t think some people realize the name or where it comes from,” Hurley added.

With the 15-year anniversary of the troupe fast approaching, Suit Jacket Posse and Hurley have much to reflect on – one being their evolution.

Originally, the troupe was simply a group of friends trying to stay involved with Hilltop while not having to perform that semester’s musical. However, 15 years is bound to create a significant amount of change.

The first semester, of the troupe was just for fun. They did not perform in front of an audience, there was no improv chair, and they were modeled off a Boston-based troupe, “Improv Asylum,” Hurley said.

The original Suit Jacket Posse did not perform games. Instead, they took suggestions from the audience and would act out a scene based off their ideas, Hurley said.

Now, the troupe is more organized in the way they perform their shows, using the same structure as “Whose Line is it Anyway?” – a popular improv TV show from the late ’90s – in which there is a host who runs the game and the rest of the performers act out the scene.

Fifteen years later, the troupe is much more consistent, putting on a show every two to three weeks, according to junior communication arts major and current Suit Jacket Posse co-captain Sam Wayson.

Wayson said before he joined Suit Jacket Posse, the leadership role was split into two different roles.

He said, “The manager would run rehearsals and perform in shows, and the host would host the show.

“And now, they are combined into one role, which is the captain,” Wayson said.

Suit Jacket Posse co-captains Wayson, and junior communications arts major Ben McGhee both were introduced to inprov in different ways.

Wayson started doing improv when he was a freshman in high school.

“I auditioned my freshman year, I got in, and was in it for all four years of high school,” Wayson said.

He also said after he graduated high school, he started an improv troupe with his friends from his hometown in which they performed at a local library to “make a little extra money.”

He had the same experience when arriving at Framingham State. “I auditioned, got in, and have been with Suit Jacket Posse ever since.”

McGhee, on the other hand, had no prior experience with improv.

He said, “My first semester, I was not in Suit Jacket Posse. I was in Hilltop.   … I had friends in Hilltop who went to see the improv shows. I saw them performing, and I thought it seemed like fun.”

McGhee also said his freshman year ,he missed out on auditions. He said because of that, he and Wayson made an effort to get the word out about auditions at the beginning of this year.

Wayson and McGhee said they decided to split the role of captain this year because while they both wanted to step into the leadership role, they did not want to give up performing.

“Every show, one of us will perform and the other will host. So, we get the chance to do both roles without being locked into one position,” McGhee said.

He said he hopes one day, after he and Wayson graduate, their system of running the troupe will stick. McGhee said the way they split up the captain role between two people has “worked really well so far.”

Both co-captains said their favorite part of being in Suit Jacket Posse is the happiness they bring people.

McGhee said, “Regardless of what you’re doing, college is stressful. Everybody is going through one thing or another.

“So, just to be that thing people can do to relax for a little bit and have a good time is what makes it really worth it,” he said.

Current and former Suit Jacket Posse members also shared their appreciation for being a part of the collective.

Junior elementary education major Alex Surro said, “Even before I joined, I would always look forward to going to their shows to lighten up my day.

“I feel so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful group of people and hopefully make people smile at least once,” he said.

FSU alum Jace Williams ‘19 said, “Auditioning for, and then being a part of Suit Jacket Posse, was a huge part of my own personal development.”

Wayson said while someone may get turned away at auditions, it does not mean they are not talented. He encourages anyone who wants to audition to give it a chance.

“We always tell people who wanna join that all you have to do is bring a pencil and a personality,” Wayson said.

While plans for the 15th anniversary may be in the early stages, Wayson and McGhee said they plan on taking advantage of Suit Jacket Posse’s alumni network.

Their next show is Wednesday, Oct. 30 and they encourage audience members to wear Halloween costumes as there will be a contest at the end of the show.

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