I’ve been doing improv for over 10 years. I started doing long form improv by performing it in front of large audiences comprised of cheerleaders. Then I did Comedy Sportz in Madison, WI. Then I moved to NY in May of 2004 and saw one show at UCB, was amazed, and signed up for a class the next day.
I took improv classes because it looked fun. I had no intention of becoming an actor or a writer for TV. I was already a creative in the world of advertising. Improv was just another creative outlet. I had no idea what this was going to lead to, I only knew that I liked making people laugh and being on stage. I had no idea why I wanted to keep doing it or what my future was going to look like by training at UCB. I took the same teachers over and over at UCB because, aside from the fact that only a few taught at the time, I felt like I kept learning new things. I had journals of notes from classes and practice groups/indie teams. I knew it took forever to get on stage so after my level 2 class, I asked a performer, who I thought was kick ass, to direct a one person show and she said yes. So I wrote my first one person show and a few years later I would write and perform another one person show on the UCB stage.
You wouldn’t be able to tell much now, but I am a shy person. I was way too scared to ask people to join an improv or sketch team with them. I felt (and still feel) like an idiot when talking to people from UCB. I’m pretty sure there are people out there that think I don’t like them, when really I just feel stupid saying words around them.
Around 2005 I took my first class with Armando Diaz. He was the only one that taught the original form of the Eventé (and still is). Since I did take that class, I was able to get into the advanced level of his newly formed theater, the Magnet Theater and ended up playing on house/harold teams there for 4 years.
Since I had so many friends in improv in NY, I was warmly welcomed into the improv community when I moved to San Francisco. I played with indie teams out there and auditioned and got onto the Unscripted Theater Company. It was in SF when I had the breakdown, literally crying and screaming, that I was not just an improvisor, but an actor. I had spent oodles of money into grad school for advertising and was working in advertising and was not completely happy. Acting gave me complete joy. It was something I could do with ease and, according to teachers and friends, I was really good at it. I would have never ever ever discovered that if it wasn’t for improv. So I moved to Los Angeles to become an actor.
I did not do any improv for the first year I was in LA. I only concentrated on the business of acting and booking work, and I did. Then I missed improv. It’s like a goddamn addiction. This time was different though. I had to start over in an improv community with 7 years experience under my belt that no one cared about. I couldn’t tell you how many times people came up to me and said, “Oh! You’re a Groundlings, right?” And that’s fine, but it’s hard to feel so connected to one theater (UCB and Magnet) and be told you’re something else.
I retook level 2 at UCB took get my feet wet again, and I gotta tell ya, that class was super special. I was able to play and expand with that group, and I met some awesome new friends. I then ventured over to iO West. Both communities offer something different, but a lot of the same folks flow through UCB and iO West.
I’ve definitely gotten better in both improv and acting in the last 4 years due to my diligence with improv and acting classes/performances. It’s silly (and awesome) how much I perform here in LA. I do admit that it is hard for me to see A LOT of people I know up on the TV/Film screen while I’m a struggling actor/writer/improvisor. It is hard for me to have teachers who are people I was in level 2 or 3 with back in the day. It is hard for me to take classes or work with coaches that came into the community after me who are further along their career path than my own. But I often remind myself, yes I’ve been doing this for over 10 years but I’ve only been in LA for 4 years and an LA improvisor for 3 years. Those people who I’m watching already knew they wanted to be performers, I took my time to figure that out and that’s ok.
Improv has given me so much. Over 50% (maybe 80%) of my close friends are improvisors. I met my amazing boyfriend through improv. I discovered my dream through improv. I’m a little less scared to talk to strangers because of improv. I live more in the moment because of improv. I’m happier because of improv. I still get weird talking to some UCB folks though, what’s that about? Anyone else? Ah well, as I often ask…. What else is possible? How does it get any better than this? (those questions I ask are also improv’s fault)