Bala found improv on a whim while she was in grad school for mechanical engineering. She really loved it. She joined the university’s improv team and soaked up all the different improv styles they could teach her. Then, when she graduated and returned home to Bangalore, she connected with Improv Comedy Bangalore and started performing, producing and directing improv shows with them.
In our conversation, Bala talks about being inspired by all the international Zoom improv jams that she has connected with! She says she has found great comfort in this community online. Bala talks about what she has learned from the adjustment of performing via Zoom instead of #improvIRL . She says it has improved her confidence and her commitment to the bit.
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Download the FREE HC Universal Network app for Android and iDevices or visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com and join the fun.
(production notes: recorded Skype call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 5/24/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan.
Welcome to episode 215, a conversation with India-based improviser, Balashree Vishwanathan.
But first, a bit about our sponsor. This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible. You can get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android, or Kindle. Download your free audiobook today at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
This week on Yes But Why, listen in as I chat with Balashree Vishwanathan, co-artistic director of Improv Comedy Bangalore as well as the leader of the only all-female improv troupe in India, The Adamant Eves.
In our conversation, we talk about performing for our parents as kids. We discuss the new performance style required of Zoom improv. And Bala shares a few details about a new artistic collaboration she has in the works.
This was a great conversation and we both hope you really enjoy it. Without further ado, I now present to you: Yes But Why ep 215 Balashree Vishwanathan is a great creative community leader. Enjoy!
I’m Amy Jordan, and this is Yes But Why Podcast, yeah.
This is a funny story because I always say
People that when I, I started being interested in creative things, probably when I was four or five, and the first thing that I did was I would imitate all of the advertisements that were on television, with the voiceover, the instruments, the jingle, the sounds, everything start to finish. And this sort of became like, in between whatever, we’re watching the entertainment for the rest of my family, because they’d go from watching whatever was on TV, to watching me imitate everything on TV until the movie or the cereal came back on. And I remember doing that, I would really do it. And I would actually, I remember I would, as I grew, I kept doing it. So as I kept doing it, I remember that I would try very hard like when I was in the shower or when I was playing or something, as a kid that I would practice noises that I wasn’t able to nail in my first attempt. And then then go back to my family. And then when they’re watching the advertisement, I’ll bring in this new sound and see if they noticed and they’ll be like, Oh, cool. You You couldn’t do that last time there was this is great. And that was sort of my first
interest with performance.
Oh my god, that’s so great. I love it. It’s crazy to is it reminds me of my own kid. I mean, like yesterday, he did an entire scene from Toy Story. And I was like, What
am I doing right now? And then I was like,
Oh my God, he’s acting the whole thing out. Like, Oh, god, that’s so fun. I love it. I also loved the idea that you were cognizant of the like, specific noises and stuff and you would work and bring them back. That’s so God, I love it.
Yeah, and this led to my father actually buying me a really small keyboard like the electronic keyboard and I with no formal training. Would you sit in front of the TV and try to match noises with what’s coming on on the TV and play things? on my keyboard and my parents thought was the greatest thing they were like, our child is a genius. But I was like this is as I got older, I’m like, this is what children do. They
it’s it’s certain parts of your brain, like from a person who’s legitimately spending a lot of time with toddlers and reading books about stuff. Like you’re really is like to to have not every person has both the patience and the ability to listen to something and try to match it. Like it’s an important brain part. So your parents being proud of you about it is valid and yeah, I mean, also, you aren’t an only child, right? They had a you had siblings around. They’d watched other kids grow up before.
Yeah, so I’m the elder of two siblings and my sibling is actually eight years. is younger than I am. So
Wow, they really got away. And then I like that. I like that effort.
We need we need backup. And so you’re gonna you’re going to be old enough to carry on babies carefully. And then we’ll have another was probably their game plan. I don’t know, speculation
like put like a drum set in your siblings room and it just like listen just work on it because we need this. Yeah.
So my sister didn’t do that. I don’t think they grew up with a lot of siblings like they had their own siblings that they grew up with as well. I don’t I they’ve never said that. They told me like, I’ve never seen my siblings do it. So I’m guessing this was probably the first time they were seeing someone do something like this. My sister is also artistically inclined, although in a slightly different way. She’s more musically inclined.
did she learn by listening? Or did she learn by somebody teaching her in a way that she this is C this is D.
Yeah, she was she was playing she was actually playing in carnatic music, which is the Indian classical music. style. So it’s not C D, E, F, it’s sorry, gamma.
Oh, what specific instruments is she working on then?
She’s just a vocal.
She seems and I played the keyboard for a bit she did too for a small amount of time. But instead she was more vocally inclined.
Interesting. I love that. So like your parents really had to be very supportive of this artistic bent that the both of you are just so like involved in it. That’s great.
Yeah, my my parents would, I would say my father was like, super like, but there’s also a very Indian parent thing that all children need to be cultured in a sense you need either need to know how to dance classically the Indian style or Classical Indian style is no other way that you can grow up in a respectable Indian household without doing any
of these things. Oh, well, that’s good. I mean, it’s important for sure. I get it. So you guys focused on the the singing not so much the dancing. It’s cool. It’s cool. Yeah.
Oh man, I can’t dance at all. Even though I’m definitely took dance classes as a kid. But
that’s so that’s so amazing. I’m really. So what happened? How did you nurture your performance interest like you’re a little kid doing these performances for your family but how were you able to you know, do that you do have you know, plays in school or were there performances in other venues?
Yeah, so, in school, there were a few plays here and there, but I was I had A lot of stage fright. I wasn’t really good at the place. But the time I really was able to shine was when I would tell stories. So I remember like when I was in second grade or something, my teacher was just at her wits end because the substitute teacher didn’t show up. And we all had, everyone was just screaming. And I was I was a huge reader. I would just read demolish books, just very simple bedtime story books, which were easy to read, and I just flip through them and then read them again. And I thought, okay, I can the teachers like, does anyone want to do anything to keep the other kids occupied? Not like, Oh, cool. I’m going to tell a story. So I got another class and I told a story, which became two stories. And soon the teacher just decided to have me tell a story like every week. And then I would just read I do homework for this. Like, I’d go back and it’ll be like, Okay, I have the storybook. I’m going to finish reading like seven stories, so that if they Ask for more, I’ll be prepared. And at the end of the school year, I still have the certificate that she gave me. The teacher gave me a certificate saying Bala Sheree gets, you know, certificate for storytelling because she was great this entire year. And that’s one of my most prized possessions
from 1999. So yeah,
amazing that she like recognized your skill and like, not only, you know, used it for her purposes, but also like gave you a stage for you to perform your own way in front of everybody. I bet you too if you were saying that you have a little stage fright, perhaps. You know, you had been a little shy and when you came out of your shell, she was like, What? Let’s do it. Yeah, like
yeah, absolutely. What a great teacher. I love it and she gave you a certificate. Oh. What’s her name? Let’s give her a shout out.
Her name is Nita. Eat the Nita I don’t know where she is. I lost contact with her a long time ago.
You know, it’s funny, I was just thinking of my own, like elementary school teachers. I had a drama teacher that just did an after school program. My mom works later. And so we went to this after school thing, and she would just do plays with us. And I swear if not for her, I would not be doing theater. Because every that’s clearly what she wanted to do. And it was like, you know, she get a bunch of kids and be like, Okay, guys, let’s build a stage and we were like, you know, and it was like, without bad experience at like, five years old, I don’t think are six years old. I don’t I don’t know that I would have been able to, you know, sort of get that. It’s like, yeah, we can do this. Sure. Yeah. So after school, like At what point have you did you really get into storytelling onstage? Was that later after school or By or when you were older, after clearly you’d been recognized for your storytelling talents. Did they get you doing it all the time as you got older? How did it progress?
Yes, the truth, cool. The storytelling sort of morphed into debate club and all those other things where you stand in front of the class and talk. And I was super active in all of that throughout high school and it was a thing. And then in undergrad towards the latter part of high school, the academic pressure was so immense that I didn’t really do any of that. Even through undergrad I didn’t do any of that. But then when I went to my for grad school, I was actually in the US in Raleigh, North Carolina. Now for about three years. I started doing a bunch of, you know, creative things again, because that’s the difference between American University and Indian University. University gives you avenues to try all these new things in university, again, is super hyper focused on academics. So I just went crazy. In my grad school, I was taking like, two credits of social, dancing, and trying to learn the waltz, the charger, the Roomba and all of that, while I had a full grad school case law, course load. I also learned I reconnected, I start playing the piano again. That’s also where I got into improv. I saw this group perform on campus and I’m like, I could do that. I would be great at it. And I asked them if they were open to having a practice and they were super receptive. I joined them and yeah, the rest is history. This was in 2016. And I haven’t stopped doing improv ever since.
Awesome. So you were in grad school in 2016. What were you studying? Like? What was the academic activity? demmick effort,
All right, he’s doing that right now.
I’m not really I’m in entrepreneurship. So I did a minor in entrepreneurship when I was there. So I sort of went that way. Yes.
You went back to entrepreneurship. What does entrepreneurship mean as a job?
So I’m not an entrepreneur, but I work as an investment analyst. So I work with a fund and they look at startups and see who’s worth giving money to. And I help that process and manage the sort of health manager portfolio once we invest. Oh, because you have the expertise on what entrepreneurs should be doing to have a good business. Oh, nice. Yeah.
Nice. I like it. Way to take the take everything you learned and turn it into a sweet job for you. All right. I like when people are able to Like reframe things that they learned, right? Like, because there’s something so interesting about, you know, if you go to school, they teach you stuff and sometimes you think Well, okay, I guess I have to do it the way that they say, but no, I’m just giving you information, you can then use it in whatever way that you’d like. And you know, I really love it when I hear somebody where it’s like, Oh, I got a degree in this, but then I like found a way to move it around. So that now I use that knowledge to do this other thing. So it’s like, it’s great that, you know, you studied the entrepreneurship and then now you’re in a position to help people who are doing that to like, be like, okay, I believe in you. I want to suggest that my firm invests in you and that’s like, a man who they need that for sure. And so it’s great. Plus, like, plus like, just the idea of the experience that you had, even just going to school for mechanic Chemical Engineering I imagined the like, nose to the grindstone hard work of that was Yeah.
It was Yeah, it was it was terrible. It was really it almost it almost killed me so to speak. It was really really tough on some days, but I think there’s always something to learn from all those experiences. So happy it happened because I mean no.
Right? I know that it sounds like it’s not even It’s not like that many years in the past enough to have deeply reflected upon it. But I feel like at some point it’ll be like, Oh, I’m glad I got a degree in that because now I have this knowledge that I need. And who knows when you’ll need the knowledge you know, sometimes it doesn’t come up for years. And yeah, sudden you’re like what I happen to know exactly how to do that.
Didn’t waiting for that moment, though. Because sometimes in my current job, I’m just like, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Because I haven’t I haven’t followed the traditional path. In fact, after grad school, I first took about writing job writing about startups, and just about the startup ecosystem and industry around the world and India, and that was a super creative job that I really liked. And then yeah, I just, I saw this field and I thought, that’s a that’s a jump I can make. And I made it.
Yeah, right. Absolutely. No, it seems, it seems like a nice spot to be in. And to a certain extent, you know, knowing how money works towards businesses could really be helpful for like, artistic grants, or at least knowing what that is. And, you know, even if you personally don’t have to do it, but you’re involved with these improv groups, and they need it, you could be helping them that kind of stuff. Your knowledge is important. I don’t know anything about money, and yet I run a lot of money. I organize a lot of my own money and it’s not going but
Yeah, that is true that using the sort of financial know how for improv, running an improv group, I am artistic director of a group called the admin Eve’s which is an all women’s improv team India’s first and only So, so some a lot of what I know about negotiating and just how how to arrive at a number and what sort of money to charge and invoicing. All of that just comes from this and I’m able to run a lot of things for not just the Adam and Eve’s but for improv comedy, Bangalore as well, because of me coming from the sort of financial viewpoint.
Man, I, I imagine that your friends appreciate you more than you could even imagine, like, the idea of having a pal who can be like, Hey, we’re running this business and it’s kind of Okay, good luck. And they can look at it and you can look at it and be like, Oh, you need to switch this, this and this and this will help you and they’re like, Oh my God, thank god like you’re like the angel. They didn’t they were looking for you know, like, oh man plus, okay, so tell me we’re jumping but, but like so you’re the artistic director of the Adam and Eve’s. Tell me what inspired you to start your own thing? What got you to the point of where you’re like, you know what? I’m running this theater. I’m doing it. How’d you? How’d you decide?
So, Adam and Eve’s came out of improv comedy bandler, which is the bigger group and I think about 233 years ago, a bunch of us who are in ICB improv comedy, Bangalore, we were like, We have equal number of men and women and they were our theater had like 12 people at the time. So we were like, okay, we’ve been getting a bunch of gendered suggestions when we’re on stage. Why don’t we pull a prank On the audience and just do a little experiment and see if we took the, if we took the men off the stage, how would they react? So it was it was really born out of curiosity. We just wanted to see what would happen. And 2017 we sat down we ideated around names and we’ve found Adam and Eve’s and we haven’t looked back since it’s become its own sort of brand in a way where people identify Adam and Eve as its own brand and as its own theater and not just a subset of ICB, which, which is which is pretty nice. I’m actually quite enjoying that.
Are you doing any particular styles or leaning towards certain types of suggestions to sort of lean into the inclusiveness or the femininity?
So the femininity and the feminism asked A lot of our sets do not come from the suggestions. It just comes from us. So we get a suggestion and we start improvising. We either do like a montage of scenes or we’ve been playing with a bunch of long form improv formats like the cutting room and the Armando. And then just as we keep improvising because of the because of the makeup of the group itself, the kind of stories that come from those scenes are inherently inclusive. And yeah, they’re they’re very representative of the South East Asian experience the women experience of Southeast Asia.
That’s really great that you guys were able to connect how many people are in your community, the female part of the community.
Right now we have about five people in the admin Eve’s but in The improv community as a whole. For the number of women is abysmally small. Yeah, a lot of the teams are dominated by men and they’ll have like maybe one or two women on their teams, which is sad, and it’s something that I would really want to change in the coming month like it, it can’t get faster. It needs to I mean, it can’t get slower. It needs to get faster. They need to be more women on improv groups.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’ll be honest, I feel like it took a while. In the communities that I’m aware of. Yeah. But, uh, but you know, I think I think a strong woman leader like yourself is certainly something that draws people out, you know, that then gets people to move it. A lot of people don’t think to don’t think to help themselves, like, like, they’ll just be like, well, I guess this is the way that it is. Is and there’s only a handful of people like that exists in the world at all that are sort of brazen enough to say, Now, you know, we’re going to do this because we should. And nobody’s going to tell us we can’t. I mean, I can’t tell you the number of times, you know, people are like, but there are rules. You’re like, Cool. Awesome. Yeah. Great. What does that even mean? Like, alright? Or like, it works better this way. And I was all like, Yeah, sure. I’m sure. Right. He’s until they tried something new. They were like, yeah, this bread is fine. And then they’re like, but what if we did this? You’re like, wait a minute, it’s amazing. Like, you gotta you can’t just be like, Hey, man, though, that the idea of let’s just do what’s been done before is so intense. And and that can really hold people back. For sure. But I feel like you’re making strides in your own community for sure. Certainly connecting to a larger international community. Like I said, it’s not like I, you know, found you by, you know, researching the improv comedy Bangalore community. It was like when you appeared in my timeline, you know what I mean? Like, so you’re out there, you’re putting yourself out there. I’m a random stranger that just happened to see you. And that’s, that’s amazing, you know, like, we’re cool billions of miles apart. And yet we’re able to connect and just the idea of that is, is really great.
Yeah, so I’ve been in the improv community also is super supportive. So they just want to, you know, be great supporting actors for everybody, even in real life. So they’re just constantly putting other people out there and tell talking about everyone’s work. So really have to be grateful to all the people I’ve met, cuz you’re so sort of generous with their recommendations of me. So just wanted to get Michelle Tony, thank you. Oh, absolutely,
The the beauty of being connected from friends to friends is kind of like the beauty of improv, right? Yeah, it has the same you know, sort of magic to it and, and total surprise sometimes. So that’s that’s always really great. I actually, that when I’m putting together this podcast, it’s always fascinating to me the sort of rabbit holes of people that I know that I tried to. Sometimes I just have so many people to interview. There’s people all over people like interviewing my friend do this to and I just have tons and tons of people to call all the time. Yeah. And occasionally I’m like, oh, man, I’m running out of my backlog. I need to meet new people. And I just looked on the internet for three seconds and there’s like, you know, tons of amazing performers out there. So I mean, there’s a lot going on, especially right now. You know, I wonder if you could speak to that tell me how you guys have been adjusting to doing your online shows. I’ve seen some and they look great, and they’re real fun. How did you guys get into doing the zoom shows on and you know, like how have you adjusted your style to do it?
All right, yeah. So when the whole you know, lockdown happened in India understandably a lot of the performance on the group were pretty hit not just financially but emotionally as well because it it was unprecedented. Nobody knew what to do. A lot a lot of people had lost work. So everyone was sort of just in this hole. And even even though I have a job and I was working from home, I just found myself with a lot of free time and just not knowing what to do creatively because all the avenues I know had sort of shut down, started watching a lot of work that international improvisers were putting out. And zoom was something I’d always used for work and stuff, watch a couple of zoom shows and talks and I watched a couple of improv sets I forgot by whom, and some storytelling stuff as well. And I just thought, this is something that you know, we should look into. So we decided to get a zoom account. And instead of trying to replicate and do improv that we used to do physically in a physical theater and replicate and put online, I looked at zoom as a completely different medium, almost a completely different art form in itself. And that sort of helps speed up the process of doing shows online because once you have a clean slate, you don’t have all of this had these hang ups of all but in improv, IRL, we used to do this And this and we can’t do this. That’s a bummer. So, we will skip over a lot of that really quickly, in just work with what we have because right now, we online improv is just a completely different art form than IRL improv. And that’s my opinion.
Totally. I’ve definitely heard that from a bunch of different people. I just wondered how you guys had adjusted and I love the idea that you like, didn’t even try to make it the same as before. You’re like, not new animal. Totally different game. Let’s figure it out. And, and then you created something else. Also, by the way, I love the phrase improv IRL. That’s, that’s like the most Zeitgeist thing I’ve heard. And so it’s like, Oh, God, the world is so wild. But that word is so it’s just so hashtag improv IRL. I love it. But okay, so how Has it been for you? Like, like, Do you find that there’s only a handful of people from the community getting involved? I mean, I personally, you, I feel like you and I are similar in that, like when things get harder. We’re like, let’s find a project. Yeah. So like, as soon as I was like, ooh, the world seems to be ending an uncertain way. What should we do? And my husband and I were like, let’s produce an online video series. And I was like, about a few weeks into it. We were like, what did we do? But, you know, we were just like, let’s have a project, you know, as a means to deal with it. Yeah. I imagine and I found with a lot of my friends that you know, they are not doing it. They’re held back. They’re sad at home. They can’t do it or the work that they have. They’re now doing from home is now way crazier and harder to accomplish, so they don’t have time to do it. How is your community responsible? To the online shows, have there been a lot of people playing? Or are you at, you know, like 40% capacity.
I think it was important for us to first acknowledge that this is terrible, especially the situation in India, it was it was bad for a lot of people’s mental health. Because one everything was locked down to there was this fear of what’s going to happen. And three, I think this was the most heartbreaking one. A lot of people move from smaller towns and villages to big cities to find work. And when the Indian government just announced suddenly that you know, everything’s gonna be locked down, no transportation, no nothing. All industries are shut. These people who usually live where they work, like if they’re working in a factory, they usually have like a small house or a small place where they can live in within the factory. The factory owners told them that they can’t live there anymore because obviously the factory is not Running. And then they had no way to go back to their towns or villages and they had no place to live in the big city. And so a bunch of these people walked thousands of kilometres from big cities to their small towns. And a lot of them died on the way because of starvation and dehydration. A lot of them didn’t. A lot of them were entire families with children and everything. So we are getting news of this every single day. And one we’re trying to deal with everything that’s happening to we’re getting to see all of these absolutely heartbreaking images and news and all of that and we’re helpless, we can’t do anything. And I’m gonna say I couldn’t do anything and this is what I felt. I just wanted to do something just not feel useless and not feel like I’m doing anything. I contributed a bunch of stuff but that still was like there was still this In my head that said, there’s a lot more you can do. So I just made a post and I said, we’re going to do an improv show an online improv show. Invited contributions only if you feel like it, and 100% of those contributions are going to help people affected by this. So everything that we collect is going to go towards organizations that are doing work on the ground. And that really resonated with a lot of people. I guess it did give people a sense of purpose. instead of it just being you know, let’s do improv and just ignore what’s happening and continue on. Like, everything is normal. That really drove people to resonate with. Okay, some good can come out of this. And so the response from the community was super overwhelming. It took work granted, it did take a lot of like, gentle pushing, but people did show up They did show them and they still continue to show up. Every week without fail we if we just put a call out saying, Hey, we need like six cast members of any like a cast members for the show, we’ll find people they’ll in fact be like 40 or 50 people who are ready and willing and ready to jump in.
That’s awesome. You guys raised a lot of money too. You guys have done good work.
Yeah, we raised 70,000 Indian rupees over six shows. We Yeah. So just to give you like a sense of what that could do. 2000 Indian rupees can feed a family of four for a month. Wow. So we did 77 zero. So I was I’m very proud of that.
That’s amazing. That’s amazing. And you were able to find a good group that was working on the ground to help people.
Yeah, we did like one or two shows a week and every week, we change The organization that we are giving to and giving money to, I think four of those organizations with different causes.
That’s so great. That’s amazing. I’m so glad that yells like community was able to, you know, rally together so well that is really, really really great. And that you know, you guys can provide a performance space for people who are wanting to interact and you know, get out there I know a lot of extroverted people are having a lot of problems being inside not being able to perform all the time.
I personally am starting to get I’ve gotten sad that I can’t make jokes with strangers like just like going out around. That’s like my thing. And I didn’t notice I didn’t know was my thing until this happened. Yeah, I was like at a drive thru or whatever and I I just made a joke. To the person, you know, as I was given the money like oh, and then and then they couldn’t they’re like, what? Because he couldn’t hear me through my mask. And I was like, and I was like, Oh, no, I’ve lost, I can’t talk. Or we’re not gonna be able to, I’m not going to be able to make a random joke and make a crazy stranger laugh or at least give them a story to go back to their co workers and be like, Yo, what this lady just said,
I’m missing so many potential friends. That’s that’s how I feel. Yeah.
Yeah, it is. Um, it’s a super weird thing. And I’m so sorry that there seems to be that, you know, the factory workers were affected with such intensity. That’s not cool. There are definitely a lot of people who have been left by the wayside. And I’m sure that we have. I’m hoping that this experience sort of, I don’t know shows us where we need to who we need to take care. And what we need to focus on as far as like, you know, hey, like here, there’s a group there groups called the essential workers and they’re the ones that can keep working, right? And it’s like, you look at the list of who’s working and you’re like, guys, these are the people we treat the worst. Like, like waiters and people who work at grocery stores. Nobody’s like thinking, you know, if my kid graduates college, I really hope he works at the grocery store, like, and I don’t mean that they shouldn’t. I think they should, because, I mean, the people that are doing the work is to help everyone to be there to like, even the people that are doing the extra orders for the people for the older people that are at home, and they’ll do like delivery and stuff. Like, that’s, that’s amazing, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know. I feel like this is certainly a worldwide situation that we are all having to deal with. So Right now, and like with one another, like sometimes, I’m sure we’ve all experienced it where like, you see a country going through something and it’s not your country. You’re like, man, I wonder what that what’s up with that. But now it’s like everyone, like I keep being like we have to deal with this No. of Earth has to deal with. This is not is not a one country problem. It’s not a continent problem, you know, it’s like it’s a
planet problem. Yeah, it’s
just a crazy it should be I just hope especially with the Internet, and the fact that we can be connected with each other, that it allows us all to be able to talk to each other in a way that like, gets a better future. Like even we are you and I are strangers having a conversation about how the world could be better and even just the energy of that means something to the earth. Like Like, like the fact that we’re both hoping to take care have other people like I worked on a charity show as well. I love flow I love you know, but I love that, again, you and I are strangers, we have this in common now, we, you know, but like that, that idea that we want to you know, there’s people who need help, we want to help them, you know, like I have the means I have the ability to do this, I want to do it. I want to help What’s going on? I think that that energy is going to be good for the future. You know, my kid and maybe if you have kids eventually I don’t know if you have kids right now or other, you know, like the next generation and whatnot. Like what the way that it reflects, and maybe they’re Kinder because they can see the world globally in a way that we never could. Fingers crossed fingers or
Fingers crossed. No, I don’t have kids, by the way. don’t intend to either.
Well, if you did, then we’ll make sure they’re nice and sweet.
taken care of. But okay.
I gotta make sure other people Good girl. So nice and sweet.
Well, that’s good. I mean, you’re a leader. People will see you as a strong woman leader. And then some young girls that are friend, you know, kids of your friends will see you and go, maybe I can do that too.
that’s important. Heck, yeah. You know, even just whomever listens to this episode, can hear your voice and say, like, Hey, I could do that. That’s the thing. Hey, I have that skill. I didn’t realize I could use my skill for this. You know? I mean, I don’t know. I’m all about trying to put our put ourselves out there to be potentially inspirational to other people who feel like they can’t, you know, yeah, I like improv. Because there’s something so beautiful about not only creating something from nothing, but also like appreciating the mistakes or rather not seeing them as mistakes, no matter what happens. It’s just a new thing to find. Fold into the mix. And I feel like that has helped me in my larger life. Like that has allowed me to see tough times like now as like, Okay. I’m instead of being like, why did this happen to me? Why did I have to be the one to deal with this? What’s going on? I’m like, okay, what’s the lesson? What do I have? Not only like what skills have I amassed for years? I didn’t know I needed until right now. But also, like, how can I take something from this? What can I learn? What can I soak up from this experience? That’ll make me a better person and make the world around me a little bit better? Yeah, that’s how I that’s like almost my religious view of improv.
Oh, for sure. Yeah, I feel the same way. At least if you at least the time between wallowing and then getting up and dusting yourself off has definitely reduced Because I still feel like people should be given their wallet time
for a bit, but then get up and do something.
it’s like a scene though. It’s like a montage. You’re not on stage all the time. Sometimes you’re on the sides. It’s for you to be on the sides. You know, I teach level one improv like the, you know, the noobs. As soon as they want to take improv, I like talking to them first. And one of the things I like talking about their first show, is okay, guys, when you’re doing this show, if you’re on stage, you’re in the scene. So focus on that. But if you’re not, you’re still part of the show. You’re standing there. They’re looking at you. I said, I don’t care if you hate the scene that’s going on. You think it’s terrible. I need a smile on your face. I need to look like oh, this is amazing and exciting. I said you’re acting on the side is as important as the acting bit in the middle. The whole time on the side. You’re like, this is amazing. I’m super into it. Everything’s fabulous. But That energy is the same as when you’re at in life. Sometimes you’re at the forefront and you’re doing stuff and you’re working hard. And in that case, focus on that. Get it done. Oh, but sometimes you’re like, I can’t, I can’t be in the forefront. I can’t be doing that. And that’s fine. You do that. You just make sure to support your friends who are and get yourself to take the breather. Cool. You don’t have to be in every scene to take a couple scenes. You know, who knows? Maybe I need longer. Maybe I just did a big, huge wild scene, and I need to catch my breath before I try to do Yeah, and I was like, I ran around the stage 17 times. I’m not athletic. I need to breed. Right. So who knows you’re right. Give yourself a break. Like, give yourself the chance to the other thing too is to renew. I feel like for me, you know how they say to be a good artist, you. You not only need to perform and do things but you also need to like soak up art and you need to like soak up water. Other things you’re doing. Yeah, that, I think is what we don’t give ourselves the chance to do. And I mean that even even as a person who like legitimately watches too much television, like, I don’t really watch too much TV, but I don’t soak it up. Sometimes it’s just there. You know, and when I sit, and I actually focus on like a show that someone wrote, The people in front of me are acting, they’re emoting. And they’re putting in like, oh, man, really getting into this, you know, like, I can really take something from that. And I feel like that’s what a lot of people a lot of people are feeling bad about being at home and not doing stuff. And I say, No, fill yourself up with the artistic, you know, inspiration from everybody else that has been making art forever. And or making it right now. You know, like, yeah, I’m really fascinated by what’s going on online. And all the different Communities you said that when, before you guys went online, you were watching other shows, what? What were there any things that you saw that were particularly inspiring? Were there any moments and even if you don’t remember who you watched, you know, you probably remember what the scene was about or whatever. But if there is a, you know, a moment where you’re like, yeah, this is really getting something that maybe we didn’t get before.
Yeah, um, so I know bats in San Francisco, were doing a lot of shows. And they were one of the earliest teams that I watched. I remember waking up at like, seven in the morning to watch their shows because they’d be the whole time difference between San Francisco and India. So I watched a bunch of that. And then with time, I also started watching other sort of spontaneous theater there’s, there’s another spontaneous theater form called Back theater where people share their real life stories and then the performers play it back. They do it through like metaphors and imagery and all of that cool stuff. I started watching a lot of playback, direct theater as well, online. And just in general, being in the improv community. My Facebook Timeline was just flooded with people posting resources, people putting their own shows online. So yeah, once I started watching that I started realizing zoom is actually quite versatile. It can do a bunch of things. You still can chat with the audience and have them interact with you through the chat and all of that. Virtual backgrounds are a big thing. That was also fun to watch. Yeah, I just watching those shows was I was able to like to, like clean what formats work? Well, of course, physicality is not a thing that you can do. You can do like physically intense scenes or things like that you just confined to a box. But even within that box, just watching people do so many different things was just really eye opening.
Yeah. Sometimes the limitations really do help us to see further.
That’s really for sure.
Yeah. And then even in the beginning, I remember thinking, like, Oh, my God, I won’t, I can’t hear from the audience. And so I don’t know how the scene is going, because that’s sort of my yardstick. But the flip side of that is, now when I make a choice, I have to be 1,000% confident in it, because I’m not getting any sort of feedback whatsoever. And that’s made me a much more confident improviser than me. I don’t know maybe if I had continued performing on the stage and getting that sort of instant validation. I I would have probably stayed at the same level of improvising for a lot longer. But now it’s just within a month I have to be like, okay, I can’t hear anything, I can’t see anybody’s faces. I’m just gonna have to say this and own it harder than I have ever before.
And commit to the bit. Absolutely. I like that. I also like the idea that, you know, it is scary to commit to the bit. You do want that validation of the audience. But sometimes I think it’s almost better. Like Like, the larger and more committed you can be to a character whether or not anyone reacts. still the best. Yes. No matter what.
Yeah, totally, totally get that. Like I do consider myself a confident improviser. But I don’t like accepting it, but it feels good. You know that that external validation, you walk off stage and you’re like, yeah, yeah, this is what I needed. Now. I’m not getting any That, oh, I need to get external validation from Yeah, you really committed to that character. Good job, you
should pre record before your show like yourself being very supportive. And then at the end, you’re sure you can press. It’s like, Oh my god, that was amazing.
So good points, the characters you did.
And then you just play you’re like, you’re right. So,
yeah, funny enough. I have done that where if I’m feeling like particularly happier, I’ve had a realization, just whip out my phone. I’m like, hey, future Bolla. Listen, I’m gonna drop some wisdom. Just take it. And I have like a bunch of these videos of me at different places in the world, just telling me things. So I think interval validation is the way to go now.
I totally want you to edit all those videos together and make them for all of us.
My, but like just this idea of being like, You are great at this or you’re awesome. Like
I would watch that all day just like
various moments in your life where you’re like, things are going great or like you know what you can learn. Don’t talk to strangers or whatever.
videos to future Bolla. I like that. Oh, man.
That’s like, that’s like a movie. Like it really is where like, you know, what’s the there’s the movie where the guy forgets everything. And then like, this is you but like, you have your phone and you’re like, Oh, my God. I don’t know anything about my life. But I have all these videos.
Oh, memento. Yeah. Pretty much.
Yeah, it’s like your version of momento all of a sudden. Who am I turns out this lady. She’s real supportive.
Wait, that’s me. Oh, I’m such a great person. Yeah, he would do that movie.
Thank you. That’s the new Netflix documentary. I’m telling you. It’s like, Did you guys know it was amazing? The documentary?
Oh my god, I want this episode badly. Um, so one final question I want to ask you or like sort of final ish? Because I could talk to you forever. But um, even though it’s like probably the middle of the night, I’m so sorry. You. You’ve got a lot of cool projects going on. You’ve been working on both, you know, pivoting your improv to do online stuff and your artistic director. Is there. What is there that you’re excited about right now in your, in your life, like as far as creatively, like, do you have a new project that you’re working on? Are you like, constantly inspired by the work you’re doing with the Adam and Eve’s? Like, what’s the thing that’s making you the most excited right now?
Okay, so it’s always been different art forms are siloed into into their own little, our I don’t want to say echo chambers but that’s what it is. improvisers are consuming improv and proscenium and scripted theater just consuming that. And now everything is online. And more often than not, you just end up Stumbling on different things. So I’m super excited about marrying all of these different art forms into maybe one team or one format or one show and that’s what I’m actively working towards right now is sort of marrying poetry, storytelling, improv playback, theater and scripted theater and see what comes out of it. Also, because our a lot of the people in the theater, like in our company, also come from writing backgrounds, poetry, backgrounds, scripted work, all of that. So that’s one thing that I’m super, super excited about. Yeah, And then also would like to do a lot more storytelling. That’s something that I’ve missed doing. And that storytelling doesn’t need that much of a shift from offline to online. It’s more or less the same thing. Not the case with improv. So these are pretty much the first one is actually what is taking up. A lot of my mind space these days is just marrying different art forms and sort of crossing over and saying, hey, look, I have this. And these are the skill sets that come with this art form. Take what you can from it, take what you want from it, and then show me your toolbox. And I’m going to take stuff from you as well.
And are you like having individual meetings with different artists to like compare notes and come up with ideas? Or are you kind of just brainstorming on your own right now and then you’ll bring it to the team.
So I’m actually now doing playback theater. I have been training in playback theater for the past, I think, a few weeks, and I’m actually doing my first playback theater show tomorrow at around this time. Yeah. And then just meeting and I actually do brainstorm quite a bit with people from different backgrounds, and then ask them what what they think has worked in their shows. And I sort of look at things that are in their art form and say, Hey, I saw this and I really like this aspect of it, or I really, really like this format. Can we sit down and think about how to bring this into improv, and sort of bring the playfulness of improv to it? And is there a way to elevate what we already have, by sort of borrowing from each other?
Yeah, that’s awesome. Are you hoping to put it together in like a single show? Are you hoping to create like three or four different formats for You know, artistic creation.
So right now I’m working on one format with another group based in India. They’ve been doing some really good work around improv and scripted work as well. And I just, I just called people and I’m like, Hey, I’m super interested in collaborating. I think your work is great. Let’s get on a call and talk about it. And we just started doing that last week. And then again, I’m I’m also in a duel with one of my Adam and Eve’s teammates, who’s also a very, very gifted playback theater artist. Her name is Lakshmi. So the two of us are doing a duo and we’ve sort of married what we know about playback and improv respectively, into a possible format. So those are the two things that I’m working on right now.
Awesome. That’s great. Are you able to do duo shows with Lakshmi Well, you guys are at home.
Yeah, yeah, that’s so we’ve been workshopping our format and stuff. We’re hoping the first show is on the sixth of June, fingers crossed. And yeah, we’re going to be doing these dual shows online. And that’s the thing. We’re thinking of it from an online first perspective. And then when everything opens up, then we’ll think about Okay, now we’re back to improv IRL. How do we take our format from online to IRL?
honest to goodness, though, I mean, I feel like if anybody needed a new revenue stream, it was improv theaters. So the idea that you can develop all this online content, and then maybe you know, when we go back to being on stage now you have two separate tracks, like yeah, one’s totally on stage, and then one’s totally online and they’re both exploring new styles and trying new things, but just using the medium of Stage and an audience or a online set up and like a phone call and see how those things are affected. But yeah, theaters are going to need to make some cash, whatever way that they can. So having both of those skills I think is really great. And like what a great way to be inspired and keep the artistic flow going.
Yeah, and I again, I wanted to reiterate that, if anybody’s thinking about just taking what they do on stage and then trying to adapt it to online, just don’t do that. start from scratch, clear your drawing board, just not everything but all of the games. He read, I think, from a viewers perspective, because I think we lose sight of that which is like, okay, we’re gonna do improv. We’re gonna do it exactly like how we do it on stage. We’re trying to trick the audience into thinking that this is a stage and nothing’s changed. That’s not the case. We need to work towards shorter attention spans standing out, because there is there is a universe of options out there people can watch, like, any number of things at any given point in time. So what what brings them to you, it’s the fact that you interact with them. Netflix can’t offer you that. So there’s real value in that. So hold on to that.
Like that, that’s really good.
And it’s also the most connection we’ve probably ever had with performers. Even if you were sitting in an audience before they were still strangers in front of you. Now you can like type in a note and immediately they see your support of them.
Yeah, yeah. And it’s acknowledged to and we do get to acknowledge a lot of both the audience in a lot more of what they’re saying than we do in a live theater because usually, it’s just first person who raised their hand or give us a suggestion now it’s like this, this literal avalanche of suggestions. The chat box and you get to read and see all of them. So yeah, this format does have a lot of advantages.
What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you’re doing? where you’re at? How do they get involved? What do they do to get started? How could they be more like you
know, know that is only one of me. Please give advice.
But Jokes apart. I know a lot of theaters around the world are doing these sort of jams and mixers. We do them as well. We do jams or mixers, which are kind of the sort of workshop tasters they’re about an hour long. About 12 to 15 people. One person I sometimes host them, a lot of people host them different topics. All somehow related to improv, to improvise poetry, improvised music, so on and so forth. Just go for those. It is daunting, but you have the power to just turn off your camera and leave if you don’t feel like it. So that’s something that you can always exercise. If you do have the fear of what of this is not something I like wearing. If it was the real world, just hoping and leaving from a room would be considered rude. This is not so much. All of the etiquette, things are on your side. So just sign up for these jams and mixers. Go for them. See what it’s like. I am 99% sure, but it’ll be great because it’s more often than not, it is a non judgmental, safe space where you’re just expected and allowed to fail as gloriously as you want. So yeah, just find those. If you If people want some recommendations, I have a few all over the world because I’m in touch with a lot of people who are doing improv all over the world. So yeah,
yeah, send me those links. I’d love to. I’d love to be sure to add those links to our posts so that people who are into it can find opportunities to connect. That’s so awesome. Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you all so much for being on the podcast and chatting with me. I really appreciate having this discussion with you.
Thank you, Amy for having me. It was super fun and I didn’t even realize time flew by because you’re such a wonderful person to talk to. Oh,
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