I Don’t Do Improv

A Guest Post By Julia Madras

The first improv show I saw in St. Louis was in 2012 at a place that I call The Black Box. I cannot remember the name of it, but it was basically a black room with seating. There I saw some of the Improv Shop’s veterans perform. I was hooked! But I was also in grad school, working full time, and just got a new pup. I enjoyed working all day, studying all evening, and going out all night, so there was really no time for me to pick up any serious hobbies. Ever since then, I joke that I’m a groupie. But one that doesn’t sleep with anyone or do drugs. So, probably not the best groupie.

This summer, I finally took a leap (or a step) and got on stage for an evening of Open Court – a freeform night of improv that anyone can join. Sure, I did a little theater and improv in high school and college, but never in the real world. Regardless of the quality of the performance, I had so much fun! So much so that I, once again, considered taking classes and getting into it.

Julia Madras acting in high school

That short time on stage brought out some qualities that are very important to me – the desire to take risks, make new friends, and to live in the moment. It brought back nostalgia of traveling the world.

While traveling, you meet people who speak different languages, have different humor, and come from all sorts of cultural backgrounds. It’s kind of like playing charades with strangers during every interaction. You study their body language and the tone of their voice. You look them directly in their eyes, when appropriate, to fully understand the emotions or messages they are trying to convey. It takes a lot of intuition. The same kind of skills you need in any improv show.

An important improv mantra is ‘yes and’, but because I’m just a groupie I’m going to go ahead and say ‘yes you should’ instead.

It’s 4 am in Portugal. Should you get on a random horse’s back and ride it down the street. Yes, yes you should.

Julia Madras on a horse in Portugal

Should you let a local dress you in traditional clothing in the middle of the market in Morocco? Yes, you should.

Julia Madras in Morocco

Should you go to a park in Spain with your new friends, knowing that you won’t understand much of what they say, but you will remember that day forever? Yes, you should.

Julia Madras in Spain

Should you follow a lady down an alley in China, then down some stairs, watch her unlock a door, and then follow her inside? You really probably shouldn’t, but I did and I learned a lot about the black market.

Julia Madras in China

Should you go with a group of guys you met at school in Mexico to their place to watch a soccer game? You also really probably shouldn’t, but I did, and we’re still friends to this day.

Julia Madras in Mexico

Like traveling to a foreign country, getting on stage at Open Court was taking a risk. Once you’re there, you have to focus on the moment, it doesn’t matter if this is your first show or 10,000th show, you have to be a part of the show.

Should I have done improv after all of those years? Yes, I should have.

Julia Madras performing in Compass Improv Open Court

I guess my point is, even if you can’t fully commit to something, like improv, don’t not do it. If an opportunity arises, take it. It could end up being an awe inspiring moment or just a gosh darn good time!

Should you give something from your past another try? Yes, you should. Unless it’s that one guy, don’t give him another try.


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