I’ll never forget the first time I set foot in an improv workshop.
I was a sophomore in college, 19 years old, and scared to death.
It’s almost impossible for me to believe that was 13 years ago. Geeze, I’m old.
I had always wanted to try comedy. My favorite shows growing up were Kids in the Hall and Saturday Night Live. I played along with the improv shows “Who’s Line is it Anyway” and “The Instant Comedy with the Groundlings.”
I wanted to perform. I wanted to write. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
One day soon after I got internet in my apartment, I found that Four Day Weekend, a long time improv troupe and theater in Fort Worth, Texas; had just begun offering a beginner’s improv workshop.
I didn’t sign up at first. I thought about it though. I badgered my friends and parents about whether or not I should. About whether or not they thought it was stupid. Every told me I was the one being stupid. They told me to just give it a shot, and if I didn’t like it, I could quit.
Finally after about six months of religiously checking their website, going to shows and endlessly going back and forth-I signed up.
I was terrible.
I was the only girl in a class of 8, and I had zero confidence.
But I had a blast.
Over the next few years I continued taking workshops and eventually formed a troupe through Ad-Libs Comedy club in Dallas.
It continued to be the one stable thing in my life while other aspects were lacking. I didn’t have much ambition or love for my job, but I had improv shows to look forward to. I wasn’t thriving in terms of relationships, I was overweight, I had little confidence in the other avenues of my life-but I always felt good being on stage.
In the spring of 2011, I found myself in a really bad place. I was depressed. My comedy troupe, Monkey Junk, wasn’t performing as much because our members were all doing really awesome things with their lives (marriages, careers, babies).
When I lost my job in Dallas, I packed up as much as I could and I drove to meet my aunts in Austin for the weekend. They suggested we take a free improv workshop because they had always wanted to give it a shot.
I was scared.
Somewhere, during my months of depression, I lost all confidence to be on stage. I didn’t think I could be funny. I didn’t remember how much fun it could be,
But after a lot of persuasion, I went.
And I had a blast.
After the class, the owners of The Institution Theater suggested that I sign up for class. I told them that I was just visiting.
The next day, I drove to Waco, and broke the news to my parent’s that I was moving to Austin.
The rest, my friends-is history.
I took a few classes. Met some amazing people who were interested in a type of long-form improv that I had always found fascinating called the Harold.
Three and a half years later, and iScream Sandwich is still one of my favorite parts of my life.
There have been times over the last few years where I have had that fear of performing and social anxiety return, but I’ve found a group of people who I know will always support me both on stage and off, and I ALWAYS leave a rehearsal or show feeling a million times better than I did when I arrived.
My team provides me with a safe place where I can always be myself, and will always be accepted.
When I quit drinking, I realized that improv was one of the only things in my life that I didn’t associate with alcohol. I never drank before shows or rehearsals, so it has always been comfortable for me to return to.
While improvising, you are forced to be in the moment. You can’t worry about the things you did, or the things you have to do. You only have the present. You have to listen and support your team. You say “yes” to move things forward.
It makes you realize how important relationships are. It makes you mindful of your actions and details. A teacher once told me that using “Heinz 57” instead of generic ketchup can define who you are in a scene. You think about how you really hold a broom or drive a car.
In short, I am so grateful for the experiences the art and my current and past teams have provided me.
Of course, this is all leading to me asking you to come to one of our shows.
And YOU SHOULD!
iScream Sandwich will be at Coldtowne Theater next Monday, March 9 at 8:30 pm.
Even if, or especially if, you’ve never seen an improv show, you should give it a shot!