YBY ep 256: Shannon Dale Stott on following your curiosity!
This week on Yes But Why, I connected with Austin improviser, Shannon Dale Stott.
Shannon Dale Stott has been performing and teaching Improv for over 20 years. Her professional start in improv began in Richmond Virginia with ComedySportz and she has continued to teach workshops and classes for the Hideout Theater in Austin and through her own company, Improv On and Off the Stage. Shannon exudes confidence and kindness and that is reflected in the success of her students. Shannon speaks, teaches, and performs at improv conservatories and festivals all over the US and the world.
Shannon Dale Stott is someone that I’ve seen in the Austin improv community but never had the guts to talk to. She has an aura of celebrity. I overcame my fear and contacted Shannon to be on the show when I saw her video, “Names You Know” featured in an article, “Using your culture’s names” written by past guest, Aree Witoelar, teacher/founder of Impro Neuf International in Oslo, Norway. I messaged to tell her that her videos were reaching an international audience and congratulate her on spreading the improv word so far out of our Austin bubble. And then I just HAD to ask. I mean, guys, how could I not? And that’s how she ended up chatting with me on the podcast.
Shannon and I had the absolute BEST conversation and we hope you enjoy it. Everything you need to know is in the talk. Shannon shares the story of the moment she was inspired by the muse to become an artist. We talk about developing performance pieces, and the evolution some art has to go through. We talk about harnessing your curiosity and being open to inspiration during the creative process. This is a deep dive for sure into what makes artists tick.
Shannon talks about growing up traveling with her family and what it was like to navigate all the cultural changes as they moved from country to country, and she changed from school to school. Shannon says that this adaptability she learned was further honed by her improv education. We talk about picking up on nonverbal cues from fellow improv performers and paying attention to individual performance styles.
Support Shannon by taking a workshop with her through her company, Improv On and Off the Stage.
You can also check out Shannon’s youtube channel where she provides resources for improvisers all over the world!
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(production notes: recorded zoom meeting on 2/25/2021)
TRANSCRIPT by otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Yes But Why episode 256: my talk with Austin improviser, Shannon Dale Stott. But first, let’s talk about our sponsors. Today’s episode of Yes But Why Podcast is sponsored by audible. Get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. Did you know Audible also has podcasts on there as well as books? Did you know that WE are on there? It’s true. Once you’re signed up, you can listen to Yes But Why Podcast right there alongside your murder mystery novels and historical fiction. Makes your life so much easier. Head on over to audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY right now and download that app. You’ll get a free audiobook and access to hundreds of books and podcasts that are included with your membership. Don’t put it off anymore. Get Audible. Yes But Why Podcast is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. My husband, Chris and I run the company, PodcastCadet.com and the way that it works is that we put all of the money we make back into podcasting and learning everything we can about podcasting. At PodcastCadet.com, we want to help you with your podcast. We can give you a little push or we can help you with the production of all of your podcast episodes! Connect with us now at PodcastCadet.com . Use promo code YBY20 to let me know you heard this ad and you’ll get 20% off the first service or workshop you buy! This week on Yes But Why, listen in as I fangirl all over Austin improviser, Shannon Dale Stott. I was a little starstruck talking to Shannon. I know her from Austin improv over the years and she has such star quality! Unsurprisingly, she put me at ease as soon as we connected and that led to a really great talk. I now present to you: yes but why episode 256: Shannon Dale Stott on following your curiosity! Enjoy! I’m Amy Jordan. And this is Yes But Why Podcast! Yeah.
My first question to you is, what was the first time in your life when you felt like you did a performance or something? theatrical? That was the moment where you felt like oh, yeah, this is my jam. Okay, that’s great. I Okay, so the actual first time I felt like that was we were living in Nairobi, Kenya, and I was in high school. And the the full story is high. The nutty part was I was walking on the beach in Mombasa. Like oh, yeah, I was walking on the beach in Mombasa. And I was walking alone. And I turned this, I guess, corner or our Cove. And I was looking out into the beach. And I was like, wow, this is gorgeous. This is so pretty. And I kid you not. I heard a voice that was like, you should, you should sculpt this. And I was like, wow, that voice has lost its mind. Because I am not a sculptor. And I don’t know how to sculpt things. And I don’t, I don’t know what that even means. And for like, days after leaving the beach, like you should sculpt that you should sculpt it, you should sculpt it. And I was like, Man, this is the it was the nuttiest, I would dream about this voice. And I would dream about this like space. And I would think about how to sculpt because I didn’t even know like, where to get started. I was in high school. And it was like not in my realm of possibilities. And I went to English class one day. And English class was like, we’re having a writing of a writing contest. And I want you to write this story, or I want you to write we’re having this writing contest. And I thought, Oh, that’s easy. I will win that writing contest eat like I just I had no doubt that I would win. And then I had I went through some days with like, but I don’t know what I’m going to write and then the two like you should sculpt this and this writing contest like merged in my head and i understood that you don’t have to guess use sculpey as it was in that in the ninth grade sculpey was remember sculpey but like you don’t have to use sculpey to sculpt and i wrote this story and i wrote this story about night and day and why we have night and day this whole fable about this the sun trying to marry the moon and like the made a veil out of seafoam and all the land animals that used to be land animals but now live in the sea we’re like oh it’s so beautiful and they jumped in and that way down the veil and she could never like catch the sun or the sun could never catch the moon and so they’re always chasing each other like trying to get married or something like that and i wrote this thing and i did this video i wrote the story and i made this video that went with it and back in that day it’s my day if you wanted to edit videos and didn’t know how you took eight vhs tapes and eight vhs quarters and you put tapes and you’ve had to chop tape anyway it was a mess but i i did this whole thing until finally someone was like i don’t understand why a friend of mine was like why are you making this video when you could just recite the story and i just like right because i like acting right why don’t i do that so i did so i i delivered i finished writing the story the the time came where it was time to like do the contest and instead of doing this this video i recited it and i remember i had a dress made and i spray painted the dress to look like the sun and the moon and all this stuff and i recited and performed this thing and it and there was tons of people there and i remember that the process from you should sculpt this to the end of that performing that speech or in that story i have the your question was so interesting because you know i think that there are different questions that you could have asked like what is the first time you knew you were an actor when’s the first time you performed like as a kid or whatever like you know you there’s all the plays there’s all the stuff that you do as a child but that moment i think i was i i really understood that the process from beginning to end and everything in between that is storytelling and yeah that is storytelling is what i felt like i that to answer your question i was just like this is it this this entirety not just like the part where i like applause and the people who were very i mean i was in high school and so of course people were very like that was amazing yeah that’s what people sound like when they were in high school and but the whole that whole process really felt inspiring i think about that story or that moment and series of moments a lot like to this date because i don’t i’ll be honest i don’t know if i’ve ever not like that not as clearly as that had a progression of something other like it felt like something other was like here is some inspiration you’re so inspired here is that inspiration and what you need to do with it all the way to the very end when i felt like i delivered on on that i don’t know if i felt like that i’ve gotten pieces of it but that was the very first time i felt like oh this is it this is what i do
wow that’s amazing that’s a great story like a plus on that story for real have you ever heard the voice again or was that just sort of your initiating voice the music
when is it i think it was the initiating voice i don’t think i’ve ever heard that again i don’t tell that story often because i’m always afraid like side side story not even side story but you know when you hear people that you either admire or you you’re looking for the thing that like how do i how do i do this thing and people say stuff that in this during this pandemic this happened to me i realized um because there was a time during the pandemic where i was waking up just really early just i was waking up consistently i think for me for about a month or two, just consistently waking up like at five, between four and five o’clock, and I was getting work done. I was just like, yeah, okay, I’m getting stuff done. I’m, I’m inspired, I’m writing, I’m doing all these things. And I thought to myself, how interesting it was that that had never happened before. And that it was happening now and something different must be happening. And then I thought, No, no, you know, those times when you’re listening to people, and they’re telling you, well, I’m at fill in famous, brighter person here, or artists person, and they’re like, I get up every morning at four. So I can do my craft. Ah, no, but the No, friend. No, no brand. New, don’t just get up every morning at four. That is something that’s happening to you. Like, it’s like, young people might be making a choice, but that, and so to like do to do to roll back into that story. I always I often hesitate telling people like that I heard this this voice, which is true. But it wasn’t a defining moment. Like it just that’s just how it happened to me, like I did for that particular thing at that particular time. And no, I haven’t heard it again. But I know. I think that the point, either whether it was because it was where I wasn’t my life or whatever. But the point of that voice was sort of what you said was like to gank me in right to like to start. And but and then like I was saying I don’t I think I hesitate telling people that because it doesn’t have to be a voice. You don’t want to let people know or tell people like just wait around for a voice or wait around till inspiration hits you. And you wake up at four o’clock in the morning. Like just wait around until that happens to you know you, it’s going to happen to you in completely different ways. You’re going to be inspired in completely different ways. So yeah, no, it hasn’t happened again. Thankfully, I don’t even know. But it was because it was a very strange like, sentence, you should sculpt to this. Because it was also wrong. That’s the that’s the other part. It was completely wrong. Like I was like, No, I shouldn’t. I mean,
I feel like you did. I feel like he did sculpt it because like it the clay was the writing contest.
and then like, you didn’t just write it like you weren’t just like I wrote a story about some stuff done. You were like, okay, after I wrote it, then you wanted to find a way to perform it. You’re trying to edit a video back? Hey, that’s sculpting. Number one. every movie made before a certain time is literal sculpture. Right? And, and then after you make this video and you’re like, Hey, friend, what do you think? Does it look good? They’re like, no, throw away that work? You did. Instead, what you’re going to do is you’re going to perform it on stage, and then you didn’t go, No, I’m gonna play the video I made. You said, Oh, okay, I’m gonna do that. And you found a way to adjust the performance on the video to performing on stage you did performing on stage in front of many people. Some could say the sculpting was not this particular piece. But you
I think that you’re absolutely right. And it’s important for people to hear that because the the takeaway in there of me saying it was wrong. And you saying it was different? You know, you took that and it was different. I think the the Curiosity part I’ve been really toy bubbling or chewing on curiosity and what curiosity means. The head I said, had I heard that you should sculpt this and then said, that’s, that’s wrong. And then not not only is it wrong, but it’s weird that I’m hearing voices and I that’s I need to go drink more water and get out of the sun or whatever. Like, instead of that, finding curiosity in it, like Where, where, what does that mean? What can I do instead of sculpting, you know, with clay or whatever, what, what are the other things that I can do? And I bet that there are people out there who
sort of I don’t want to say the vision hear voices, but I’m sure that they are inspired in some way or a question bubbles up inside of them that they throw away. And it’s cut whatever it is, whatever that inspiration is, is coming to you in a different in a different way. And it’s asking you to, to pursue or to follow your curiosity, but instead of doing that, you’re letting you’re letting it go. So yeah, I think there’s or dismissing it, you’re just missing it. And I think that there is some power or there’s some traction there just to just, if listeners are like listening specifically, like, what, how do I get inspired? Or how, how do you find the inspiration? Or the the, what was it in 20? or 2019, or 2018? or anytime before? Like, 2020? That was like this, follow your bliss? mantra, you know, that was hanging out. And I was like, oh, but what’s my bliss? Or your? How do I really, that was so annoying, but there’s a curiosity in you, even if it’s an annoying curiosity, like normal stuff, like why does this coffee mug always drip? I hate this coffee mug? Like that’s like, yeah, like, can you fake? Can you fix the coffee mug? Or what? what is what is the curious thing around that? That is that is inspiring to you. So
Necessity is the mother of invention. But I think it’s like engaging with your curiosity. Right? Yeah. If you’re like, I wonder if this could work. If you follow that thread, that’s going to be something new, something exciting, you’re gonna try something you’re gonna learn something not only about whether or not your hypothesis about this thing, working a different way is going to be okay. But then you also learn how you can use your own skills. Right? You know, so you mentioned that, like, clearly you had done the utricle stuff before, was, so it wasn’t totally out of your wheelhouse to be doing a performance art piece. Because if you’re just like, you know, regular gal in school, going to classes, doing whatever, playing sports, and then all of a sudden, one day, you’re like performing a performance art piece about like the parable of the sun and the moon. It’s like people will be like, well, what
What if you’re, like already a little theatrical? And you create this, this feels to me, like sort of your close to adulthood collection of like, by the way, these are skills that you have. Did you know that? Like, so when you did this piece? How did it? How did it propel you towards doing more creative stuff in the future?
Yeah, man, he so many, so many ways, right? Because I think I’m just thinking of so many other other different things. So right, I’ll work from now sort of backwards. Right now, what I’m doing a lot of because of us being inside. I’m doing a lot of video editing. Now I’m doing that video editing because I want to be but I am doing. I am recording improv tips and tricks and all of these things. And I’m trying to record people’s conversations with me. And that has to do with improv. And then I’m getting into this, this editing, because because that’s how you release stuff, right? And all all of that when you do something, because it used to be that I would, it used to be that I would tape or film myself saying something to teaching a lesson, let’s say, and I would film it maybe 20 times so that I could get one single take so that I could put that single take out because I thought that’s what I had to do. I didn’t even it didn’t even dawn on me that I could just ramble and then cut out all my arms and cut out all the crappy crap that I said it didn’t that it didn’t even like dawned on me. But I had to go through a process to do that. And as I’m going through that process, I’m learning Oh, I can cut out I can cut out these things. These arms, I can add music, I can add text, I can put schedule things to go out when I want them to go out. There are lots of things that I can do and I think that that experience of going through writing then trying to edit with three or four different VHS players, then performing for my friends of asking my mom to get it dress made spray asking my art teacher How does one spray paint a sunset? Like, what’s the difference between a sunset and the sunrise? Are there different colors? What can I as as this person like as a teenager? Can I can I wear a dress like this? Is this what the what is the expectation of of not winning but performing this piece? I want the whole stage everyone else is standing behind a podium, what how I want lights? Like Can I can I do these things? And going through that process? Then, I think definitely set me up to be able to ask questions, and to be able to research. Research and asking questions are big, right? Like, oh, man, I’m watching this video, and it needs something. Let me watch some other videos that are doing it better than I’m doing. Oh, I’m seeing, I’m seeing text I’m seeing edits, I’m seeing whatever it is I’m seeing. So I think that that really taught me to look at a project that I specifically am doing with some sort of critique. And stay away from what other people are doing, because they’re not asking any questions, right. So that idea of Okay, Shannon, you’re going to write this thing, then we’re going to have the contest and the contest looks like this, it looks like you’re standing behind a podium and reciting your mind reading your paper. Okay, that sounds boring. That sounds like I’m gonna lose, like that’s doesn’t do anything with any of my skills standing behind the podium. That’s nerve racking. And also, no one’s gonna see my fabulous dress behind this podium. Right? It’s great. But there’s there is a the asking questions or the butting up against
what other people are doing. Because I think when people see my videos, now, my videos aren’t that great. I’ll be honest, like there, if you can look at other people’s like YouTube videos, and I’m not a YouTube star. But I think that people are craving that stuff. Because no one I’m not seeing it done. Like I’m doing it anywhere else. As far as content goes as far as like improv improv content goes. And I, I believe that that comes from sort of that also stems out of that experience of this is, this is how it’s done, you’re going to stand behind this podium, deliver your thing, this is how it’s done. You read a book about improv, and then you go find a 101 class. And note, there’s nothing out there for you to research or to get any better in your spare time. And if there is, it’s one guy talking to a camera, and that’s, that’s it, or one person talking to a camera, and that’s sort of it. It’s not for you, then that but that’s how it’s done. That’s how it’s done. Yeah, yeah, I think that experience definitely helped me sort of what else can What else? What else? What
Can I just say that clearly what you’re doing is right and working? Because I mean, yes, you and I are currently in the same town. But let’s be clear, I connected with you. Because I saw one of your videos posted by a friend of mine who lives in Norway. They were writing a blog post about a similar topic that you had done a video on. And at the end of their blog posts, they included your video as additional material about the idea of using different kinds of names and using your proper name wherever you’re from. And it was about that. And I saw your video and I was like, are you kidding me right now? This person who’s like in my town who’s like one of my aiic people is being featured on like the blog post of like, a guy who runs an improv festival out of Finland. Like, are you kidding me right now? Like, what? I was so impressed with that. And like, sure, I’ve seen your name a bunch of times and been like, Oh, yeah, I should totally ask her to be on the show. But that was just like, oh, man, what she’s doing right now is getting out there. I want to see what’s going on with her. Right. So clearly what you’re doing is good. And I know that you’re all like, oh, there’s stuff that’s better than mine or whatever. But that’s just based on your own, like aesthetic of stuff. Because like, Can I just tell you how many videos my husband watches where it’s like, That’s his favorite guy. And I’m like, this is terrible. Or like, what watch something and it’s like who’s the top rated person who gives advice on xyz and we watch it and we’re like what does that trash in the background like like can you even hear him oh god you know so there’s just no i mean clearly i’m in theater and not in marketing i just don’t know what it is a person’s going to be like yeah that i’m that i’m gonna follow that guy every day and listen to what he has to say i’m all like um are we looking at the same situation like this is not professional at all you know we all have our own like this is what right eye standards are for as a personal artist absolutely
world is now everyone’s an artist right like you and i have spent our lives doing these projects and developing stuff and clearly you learned enough as you went along to move from vhs tapes to now you’re on the computer doing it right but like some people are like not you know like some people send me photos of photos with their phone sometimes and not like old ones like it’s like oh it’s a picture of me as a kid all right sure this makes fun you took this photo when and you’ve printed it out and then you took a photo of it with your phone and you sent it to me i feel like that’s triple time what you needed to do right and it’s just because we all look at creating differently we all put stuff out there so i’m just going to count to your little i don’t know if i’m doing a good thing by telling you yeah you are clearly you’re doing amazing people passionately are checking
your stuff out and that matters you know it does it does it does i it’s it is it is good to hear it’s always good to hear it’s always good to hear because it’s true we all have a we all have a judgment on our own creative work and i think what’s what’s helping me a lot when i first got started i have people who are just who said the same thing and who definitely said look you’re not going to know if this works because i was talking about that a lot like what if i what if i what if i just put out content what if what if what if and i remember my friend towson said yeah if you keep talking about it but you don’t do it it’s never gonna get done but you can keep you can keep coming over here and talking about it if you’d like so friends like that brands like that and exactly what you’re saying it’s like just put it out you’ll you can get better later like but you can’t get better without starting bad you can’t get better without starting so yeah i i have really enjoyed this this movement toward putting out content specifically about improv because for me and i you know we’re jumping around here but for me improv is teach teaches us life and and so the other thing about that whole series that whole thing that i did high school to now really what that at its base yes we’re talking about being artistic or we’re talking about doing a project but the thing is that you can take those that set of moments and sort of superimpose them on on anything from for me but for but also for everyone right what is the thing that is that you’re questioning or what is something that interests you what how far are you willing to go and how much digging are you willing to do to put that either whether it’s an idea whether it’s a relationship whether it is communication whether it’s getting better at something whether it’s teaching somebody else to do something all of that stuff all of those things how is it that you can move forward with curiosity to get better at becoming the person that you’re trying to become
plus i think that the things that you learned during the process of creating this particular piece which i just realized by the way has now a new form this piece is now a new form because now it’s in storytelling form right now like it’s it it’s now another thing which is but to that end everything in our life is like this right like you have to figure out how to reform everything in your life all the time you know like things never work the same way consistently and believe you me artists are not usually the crowd that’s like trying to connect and make them Safe and make things like consistent, right? Like the people who crave nine to five who are like I can’t live unless I have health insurance and like a check every two weeks are less likely to be in the artist realm. Because like your story like this project, it ebbs and flows, it becomes different things and you have to like the phrase kill your darlings of like what you thought you were making. Turns out, you’re not making it, break it in half make a new thing. Right, like, and I feel like that’s everything about life. And in fact, I feel like that’s definitely everything about right now in life, where it’s like, oh, did you think that your career was going a specific way? Oh, and was it going up? Was that their trajectory that it was doing? Okay, well, cool. We’re just gonna change what the entire industry is, and nothing that you knew before works anymore. Okay, here’s a new ball of clay, make it? And you’re like, I don’t what do you mean, but because we have done this kind of stuff creatively with like, writing, whatever, we are able to do it, we are able to create a new life. We are resilient. I’m the the people that are working the nine to five, don’t believe in, you know, the chance of it like freelance lifestyle is like the scariest thing they’ve ever thought of in their whole lives, right? whereas an artist has to live this sort of freelance lifestyle every moment of every day. Because everything that we do is like half created half Frankenstein from two other projects, like an idea that came from nowhere, or taking the word sculpt and deciding it means writing instead of sculpting, right? I mean, but that’s just life. Like, it’s like when somebody gives you advice, and you’re like, and it resonates with you, but it sounds like I don’t know why, how I’m gonna take that. But I hear it. And it feels good. I just don’t know how to move forward with it. Right. So. So you had mentioned that improv teaches us life, right? That was the thing that I wrote down that you said, which was totally on point. And I feel like it is similar to this idea of creation, this idea of collaboration, this idea of allowing something to fail, and just embracing whatever that is, and trying to turn it into something new. So I guess I will bring us into improv by asking you, how did you get involved in it? And what was your like? How did you get started? And then like, how have you embraced it in your life?
I had the regular old Mom, Dad, I’m going to be an artist and I’m going to be a theater major. And they were like, absolutely not. We’re gonna go and you’re gonna become some things, you know, respectable. Okay, so I tried to be respectable, and in many different ways. And it never, it never happened. And I hung around the artist community. So I went to college in at VCU. And what I did was I just hung around VCU, really, and the VCU artists theater program, excuse me. So hung around, I saw a an audition for comedy sports, Richmond, I auditioned and I got it. So that’s the like, that’s the that’s the short version of that. The other the other part of that is, I’ve always, I’ve always been gregarious and fun. You know, it I was the bane of every teacher’s existence in class, right? I talked to my che jokes too much. I wasn’t paying attention. I like I wanted attention from the wrong people. Not a teacher, anyone else? You know, things like that. When I moved to Kenya, like when I got into high school, I remember I read a book. And I cannot I never somebody recently was like, it was this book. And I was like, Yes, that’s the book I’ve read. I don’t know what it was called. But I read this book. And I thought is this improv This is amazing. So I’ll start an improv troupe. So the first improv troupe, I actually started was in high school not actually knowing what I was starting.
Yeah, yeah. And yes, there is a lot.
That failed because my parents were like, you can’t do improv and have bad grades. One of them has to go. Haha, you know, that just didn’t happen. So those are those are like the little speckles of how I got started. And when I actually started started in with Richmond, Virginia, in Richmond, Virginia with comedy sports. I don’t think I knew at the time what the impact would be. But when I look back, I really realize that I was in a space that helped me to hone all the stuff that was annoying my teachers, you know, like I I enjoyed making characters it also I enjoyed making characters I enjoyed becoming different people I enjoyed making people laugh, I enjoyed those things, but to, to merge improvin life for me.
think that the words that someone would use as third culture kid, right, so most of my childhood, I spent in a whole bunch of different places, just traveling through Europe, traveling through Africa, picking up and moving every two years, not really, you know, my dad traveled so he was home sometimes sometimes he was gone for a year or two. And then he’d come back and sit, my mom was also traveling, we’re trying to make friends as children, and we my sister and myself, our family in general, but, and me, the Royal we, you know, are trying to make friends with different different people from different countries, from different cultures from with different languages, with different ideas of how women move through the world with different ideas of how you respect and talk to men. And as a young person, I have to be able to navigate those things quickly. Very quickly, especially like in high school and middle school, you’re trying to navigate those things so fast. And as an adult, you start to realize, this is difficult, like this is actually a difficult thing. Some some people become very reserved or quiet because they have to do those things. And I realized that improv was teaching me that the things that I was already doing naturally had a place on stage, but also could be honed intention with intention. Right? And I think that that was very big learning, learning to be aware of my surroundings. This is something that comes natural to me, right? I have to I have to know. Am I in a space where I don’t look men in the eye? Am I in a space where I take my shoes off? Before I go inside? Am I in a space where the women sit in a different space than the men so I need to know how to get there? Am I What? What are the children? children being like the people around me? What are we listening to? are we listening to American gangster rap is that what’s cool is weird or is Weird Al Yankovic cool? In this particular setting? Or is Paul Simon cool in this particular setting? Where Where am I? And you don’t know that you’re doing that? But once I took improv classes, those things come directly into play. What what is on my scene partners face? What is that? Is it joy? Is it sadness? Is it Are they Rumpelstiltskin? Are they a giraffe? Where are we? Are we in a at the beach? I mean, some of these things are given to us by suggestions. But what beach? Are we at a nude beach? Are we at coastal beach? Are we at a lake beach? Like what? Where are we? What are the signals that I’m getting? And if you’re taught by good teachers, you can and you’ve never had, like, I’ve never, if I had never had that experience of moving around and having to navigate those signals and culture cues and all of those things, I realized that you can still learn those things from improv, you can still learn them. You can take all of those things that you’re learning as far as character, space work, storytelling, environment, that for the stage and apply them to your job, your relationships, your work your life.
Totally, totally. Oh, man, you know, I had read a thing in my, in my short term Google stalking of you, I had read for sure that there was, you know, part of your teaching had to do with, you know, paying attention to your scene partners and looking for small cues. And I was like, oh, we’re gonna get along because this is essentially the bread and butter of my level one class. So like, whenever I teach level one, for me, the most important thing to teach the students alongside whatever particular because I’ve taught for different schools and everybody has a different like, this is what we teach them to start cool. But first, what they need to know is, this art form is variable. every time you do it it’s not going to be the same it’s not like i’m going to teach you okay this what you do and then you do that all the time you need to get to know the people that are in your team and study them and once you know all of them it’s like you are you didn’t know what colors were in your paint palette and you have to get to know those colors and then once you know what those colors do you’re able to use them to create art with right and so that’s the i’m always talking about that so i’m so glad it came up because it’s like so interesting to me did it know you seem so like present and mind about your whole journey and i feel based on your references that were close in age but like and so i understand i’m in i’m 42 and i’m very much like reflecting upon the world and i understand my journey and i i have thoughts about what 20 year old amy did now and it’s like you know just the way you do you know you’ve reframe your story did you when you started improv did you like or were you aware like oh my gosh these things that i’ve done over and over to adjust to every new social scene i’ve been part of are part of this or is that like after years of doing improv and reflecting upon your life as adults as we all do did you bring that together
yeah i think it was more the ladder and i honestly i think it was the ladder because i was unaware of i was unaware of what i was going through as a young adult you know i as i guess we men as many as many young adults are many i don’t want to say all young adults some young adults are very aware of themselves and whatnot but i think innately i understood that there was something similar it’s sort of like if we go back you were saying if we go back to this you know voice in my head telling me to sculpt and then not sculpting but sculpting in a different way i think that’s sort of apropos to this particular scenario where i was in improv i’m doing improv and there was something innately that i was like i’ve done this before there’s something i’ve done that’s like this and but i don’t know what i didn’t know what it was and i didn’t know why it was coming so easily but i really think that it came very easily and it was because i had had all of these experiences and then yes later in life i definitely have been looking back and thinking and why and watching and especially when you watch other people with it because you said you teach right so when you watch other people do improv that you’re teaching that when you see that it’s your like it’s very much it’s easier to see what it is that you’re experiencing because you’re teaching it right you’re oh it’s coming out of myself or they’re doing it or whatever it is yeah so yeah yeah it was definitely later it was definitely later that i put sort of a stamp on it and i’m very much aware of what it was that i was going through or have been through but yeah i didn’t i don’t think i don’t think i was savvy enough as a young adult to put those things together very soon very quickly into my into starting my improv journey but it looking back i definitely have been
so i have one last question for you and i feel like we talked a little bit about it but what’s your jam right now like what’s the thing that’s exciting you creatively and i know that we’ve talked about your youtube videos and what you’re putting out and if that’s it let’s talk about it but also like just you know what what has been recently inspiring you what is the thing that’s like you know in your head in your and you have to give me any secrets you know you have to give anything away but you know just like what’s exciting you right now like what in your current creative career at the moment in your life right now is like exciting now
i’m telling you it’s it’s virtual improv i didn’t think it was gonna be but it is and not and when i say virtual improv improv i don’t care where i’m doing improv it could be underwater like i love improv it doesn’t matter if it’s virtual or on stage or in space or wherever it is i love that the thing that’s exciting to me about specifically about virtual improv is seeing people really break out of the idea that they have to use the four box the four lines of the box on zoom in order to create scenes i’m loving people that are doing that are bringing in live musicians that are bringing in technology that are using props that are doing dramatic improv that are using their cameras to the best of their ability you know with with filters or with obs or with just bringing the camera closer going outside trying to i did a i did a set with a friend where he went into his backyard and built a fire and i went into my backyard and tried to set up lights like i was at a fire because you know we can’t be together so we’re doing this set like we’re at the same fire and it was a beautiful set like it was just so nice to to be two people in the same place and and try very hard to connect through that and let an audience see try to help them suspend disbelief right in in real time without like a back without a green screen you know and even people who are using green screens more props to you all all of those things just people who are really seeing who are who are following exactly what we’ve talked about this whole time which is their curiosity right asking that question i wonder if i can and the basic question is do improv on zoom great and but then the next question is i wonder if i can make my sound better how do i make my video better how do i show people how do i bring more people how do i bring less people how do i recreate the feeling what is it what is it internally on a live stage that i’m missing that i can bring to a zoom or a virtual stage because you’re going to miss the physical things right you’re going to miss the lights and the and the people clapping right there and you’re going to miss all those things but what is it internally that you’re looking for and how can you create that here and the people who are being able the people who are following that and experimenting with that and really projecting that that that feeling and finding it in a virtual world that’s what’s super exciting to me right now
huh yeah i like it i like that it’s not just even virtual improv it’s like you know ingenuity when it comes to how you’re going to perform it and like it’s it’s a limitation that’s actually opened all of our minds
right like we thought it was gonna be something that was like oh man now i can’t do this yeah but you can do a million other things yeah and you guys can be across the world from each other and have this like great intimate scene or like you can be in space and it’s way more believable like this then if were you know standing on stage and you’re like ooh ah like so much more suspending of disbelief when you’re standing on like a wooden slat stage there is when you’re like on a computer screen it’s
like i’ll believe anything and like just believe anything just put it back there yeah why not i’m loving that i love you said ingenuity yeah absolutely
yesterday i teach a virtual improv class to eight year olds and yesterday they were really obsessed with their like backgrounds and stuff like that and i was like okay let’s not do that today but i will make a note that next week we will create scenes using your backgrounds i will you pick a background and then all of us have to do a scene together with that as our inspiration right and so they were like okay so it’s like yeah they’re messing around and i’m like hey hey could you stop changing the background every 13 seconds
that he cool
but um but then it’s like alright well hey if that’s what you want to do i’m always like what do you like and like i want to do this this and this and that i write those things down and then figure out how to turn them into improv exercises right
isn’t that great that’s great
but it’s also like i feel like safer and more intimate and when you do virtual improv like number one it’s safer because we’re all physically separate we’re safer from COVID but we’re also safer from like a lot of the things that were an issue on stages you know like physical proximity messing with each other adults being inappropriate with each other and then also with children it’s like it’s like i hope your parents love me i’m in a room so far away like i’m just here on as sitting at a desk like we’re having a great time and the best part about these classes is i have a recording that i then send to the parents you worried about what it’s like watching yeah it’s like being like what’s going on you know weird here today oh that’s fine cool let’s have a weird hair thing and i messed my hair up you know i mean whatever it’s
yeah so the interesting thing about COVID is it has both improved our necessity necessity to project right when i’m wearing that mask i really have to use my projecting voice my onstage voice to talk to people right and i’m all like yeah super glad i have this skill but now that i’m doing virtual improv i’m actually improving my own possible film work because now i have to talk quieter and i can get real close to the camera you know like my favorite part about doing film at any point in my life was the idea that a the camera is way too close to me and me and the other person like i’m always mad when people are whispering in movies but it’s because they’re so close they’re like so close and you can’t tell that from the angle of the camera you’re like they’re like across the room from each other and i was like they’re touching again like they set up a camera and like a corner of a room and you and the other person are like yes let’s have this serious discussion very close to each other and it’s a ridiculous situation but now that i’m doing a virtual improv and i’m literally so i’m interacting with like this tiny little space around my desk and this person and and you’re on the screen so i want to be like let’s get closer what are we talking about you know there’s something great about that and also i’m like learning that skill because i have to do it works better right i’ve definitely noticed in recording these things that i’m still projecting and so i always have to even myself down because i’m loud but i’m working on it right so the virtual improv is not just good for ideas and creative stuff it’s like helping us with real skills that we
need is it’s it’s it’s challenge it’s challenging us i’m the same way i have a i have a partner jen pina and we’re doing a doors experiment and we do this show where we she is up against the door i am up against the door and it’s an intimate it’s an intimate show right it feels intimate and it is intimate because it’s just the two of us we’re learning how to in that very small space with just with just that those ideas how to project but are our emotions you know how do you how do you act how do you act when you don’t have to like act to the back of the room you know like everyone can see up your nose how how do you do that how how and we’re learning it and it’s it’s awesome it’s lots of you’re right it’s teaching us more than we think
i feel like that’s kind of the overall lesson of this entire discussion like i feel like that’s pretty much what we’ve realized as we’ve chatted through you know all that we’ve talked about is the idea of process the idea of it being a full journey that sometimes we get in the moment sometimes we don’t get it until later when we can reflect upon it but the idea of you know being okay with all of that like if you’re in the moment you’re like why is this happening i don’t get it i’m always like it’ll reveal itself
even 2020 and all this insanity and everything i’m like something about the culture required this to happen the earth and it wasn’t just like you know the us
word right no whole a whole world
the earth and so the idea of that what that meant culturally to every group what it inspired what it made us deal with all of us being on the internet together has allowed us to see things in other places that we didn’t realize were happening to connect ideas where it’s like hey in your country they’re doing this and our country we’re doing this they’re very similar we should discuss how to make this better in a real like hey man we should work together as opposed to constantly discussing war kind of way you know so i don’t know i feel like listen i feel like we solved everything and it was a great conversation
thank you shannon so
much for being on the podcast i really appreciate you
i love this i love i love talking shop
oh so fun
alright great you amy thank you
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