Muscle to muscle, toe to toe
The fear has gripped me but here I go.
— Alt-J, “Breezeblocks”
For six weeks, 13 individuals and I embarked on a journey learning the introductory stages of improv comedy, led by regular weekend performer Andrea Fantacone.
Each week was just another step closer to the night where my classmates and I would perform in front of a live audience for the first time. The night of the show came faster than most of us expected. We didn’t really stop to think about it, really. We knew that between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. on Sundays, we’d be spending our time prepping ourselves for the day of the show.
After an hour of work on stage, Fantacone instructed us to make our way to the green room. I grabbed my bottle of water and enjoyed a cupcake brought in by one of my classmates, hoping the nerves and adrenaline would slow down from the wild and chaotic pace that I was experiencing. I took a deep breath and began scanning the room. Conversations fell in line with the light and funny; laughter from the small clusters of people was bright and breezy. I saw one or two of my classmates stretching out and getting loose at one end of the room. I picked up on the music that had started blaring through the speakers out on the performance area. The expanding audience’s chatter seeped through the hollow walls of our room. I couldn’t help but remember the Friday performance I attended as a spectator – unaware of what I was going into, but excited to see what was about to happen. Fast forward six weeks and here I was on the other side – prepping to go onstage myself.
Normally, you would be unsure of allowing yourself to be that transparent. But improv is about being in the moment. Listening to your partners onstage. Paying attention to what they are giving you. You have to go without thinking, which is exactly what took place that second.
I honestly don’t know what happened during the group portion I was in. Fortunately, I was able to obtain video of the show to see what transpired. The opening sketch I participated in featured Kunzier suspiciously trying to not reveal that she has been disposing the family animals in a variety of ways. Another skit featured a classmate and myself as chickens that a mother and daughter may want to take home. In my monologue, I spoke candidly about the one-word suggestion I received: pants. One other pants-involved sketch involved me as someone who had a rather catastrophic accident – a lower back side injury due to padded slacks.
When our time was up, the second group took the stage and performed an exhilarating set. One of the monologues centered around one of the members speaking about his short stint working at a smoothie stand. He spoke about several experiences that featured him as an object of lust. Another sketch involved a male who is unable to do sign language struggle to shop at a local grocery store.
When I walked into the level one improv classes for the first time, I was unsure of what I was getting into. Each week, I walked across the black curtain excited and prepared to learn all about the art. Six weeks later, I was up on stage with some of the greatest people that I will ever met in my life. I don’t think we all intended to become so close with one another at the pace that we did. We pushed one another to be better.
The Black Box Improv Theater has an impressive array of talent that continues to grow. I wish I could describe how much Justin Howard means to all of us. By opening up the small theater, he has allowed a new world to open to those who dared to see what it was all about. I can honestly say that this has been one of the craziest and most terrifying experiences of my life.
I just hope that I don’t have to do another flamingo sketch. Ever.