There’s nothing better in life than when a former Ewing Troupe can pass along their wisdom to a newer Ewing Troupe. I mean nothing. Not your wedding. Not the birth of your children. Getting a Dorito over-coated with Doritos powder comes close, but is still not enough.
So I’m very humbled that I was able to coordinate Gray Wolf, the house Ewing troupe of the last semester of 2017, with Sunglow, one of the most legendary Ewing troupes in DCH lore. Sunglow is Ahmed al-Kadri, Kenzie Taff, Shayne Philibert, Shawn Mayer, Beth Yankuner, Connor Posey, Wes Davis, and Chad Richards. Gray Wolf? Why, that’d be Jennifer Dutschmann, Kaleigh Finn, Georgia Grey, Mark Herrera, John Logan, Cyndi Morales, Jeremy Rivera, and Dane Robertson.
GRAY WOLF: How do you work on getting out of your comfort zone as a group?
Shayne: Encourage each other to do weird stuff. For example, Kenzie just did this awesome pipeline bit where she ate 4 corncobs on the stage.
Ahmed: As a group, try something new. Practice with a format that’s nothing like your current format. Like a game show or dramatic opera ‘prov.
GW: What has been the best way to get feedback?
Shayne: Encourage open feedback, and don't take it personally.
Chad: Directly from the coach and immediately after it’s done. We asked a coach to give us notes on a show we filmed once and he just said, “yeah, I’m not gonna do that.” It was awesome.
Shawn: Depends on who's giving it. For example, my mom has no idea what she's talking about.
Kenzie: Verbal notes are best, typically after a warm-up or run during practice. Having someone who watches your show let you know their thoughts afterwards are always great too.
GW: What do you do as a group when you feel like you didn't have as strong of a show?
Wes: I think as you grow as a troupe, this gets easier. It's never fun to have an off show, but generally you begin to realize that it's over and you never have to do that show again. We will usually circle up, talk it out, identify what happened that threw us off, agree to work on that next practice, and then we get back to laughing together.
Beth: There are no mistakes, only opportunities. We acknowledge what we didn’t like and try to figure out a way to avoid having it happen again.
GW: What are some ways to have presence at DCH?
Ahmed: Be at DCH more. Watch more shows, go to the special events DCH offers. Do a Pipeline or Block Party bit! I also love being a tech and that helps.
Chad: Make an effort. When you’re a student, you’re just naturally at the theater to see shows and be seen, but that stops when classes stop. I also love being a TA and that helps.
Wes: Intern. Even for one term, it's a great way to meet everyone
GW: How often do you practice?
Kenzie: We practice weekly, even if we don’t end up having a “formal” practice we will do brunch or coffee just to hang out.
Connor: What Kenzie said. We get together every week, even if all we do is sip coffee and gossip about ALL OF YOU DCH PEOPLE!
GW: How do you balance improv and life?
Chad: This is so hard and so underrated. I’d say don’t be afraid to personally take a week off from improv if you feel like you need it.
Shawn: The same way I balance my diet. I only eat hot lava cakes from Domino's.
Kenzie: Like Chad said above, don’t be afraid to take some time of your own off. The way I balance improv and life is that I don’t join troupes unless I’m able to be 100% invested. Which is why I’m currently only in Sunglow. It’s hard to say no when a friend or fellow improviser asks you to be a part of something, but if you don’t have time or energy for it don’t do it. You only live once. Make your time your own and just do what’s best for you.
GW: How do you find inspiration for improv when you feel in a rut?
Wes: Ruts suck. Plain and simple. But here's the first step: realizing it's going to be over. For me, I think the first step is realizing that the show isn't about one person, it's the whole group. If you think you had a bad show, but the audience liked it and the group feels good… Well then you had a good show. Also, be open with your troupe about how you're feeling. A good group will help lift you up and try to bring you out of it. Also what Ahmed said.
Connor: Do more improv. If you’re in the right troupe with the right people, ruts are short and sweet and over pretty quickly.
GW: I've noticed how quickly and succinctly your shows are paced. Any tips on a more manic and energetic pacing?
Beth: Take risks. Don’t be afraid to get weird.
Chad: I’m always surprised at how quickly things can spiral into beautiful insanity. I think it just takes one person making a really bold move and then everyone else supports it. One person breaks the ice and we are off the races. Shayne and Kenzie are great at making that energy move at the top of a show.
Kenzie: Let your inner freak flag fly. Let yourself become possessed with the little comedy devil that lives inside of you. DON’T CARE WHAT PEOPLE THINK. Think fast, trust your gut!
Connor: BE FRIENDS. It works with us because we are friends. We’re more than friends, actually. We’re basically a cult. Get on that level with your troupe and you’ll be fearless on stage.
GW: What do you do as a group when you hang out outside of DCH?
Ahmed: Dallas is a great city, there always something going. One of my favorites when some of us did Yoga and beer.
Connor: Lots of times we hang out in fragments. Two or three of us here and there. Usually food and beer is involved. Why don’t we go for hikes, guys? Let’s all go for a Sunglow hike!
GW: How has Sunglow changed after your Ewing run?
Chad: I think everyone is constantly changing as a performer and that changes the group. I don’t remember us being completely zany a year ago.
Kenzie: I think we are a lot more comfortable in our skin than we were during our Ewing runs. We’ve grown a lot in confidence and that works wonders on stage.
GW: What was your favorite part of the solar eclipse?
Shawn: The sacrifice.
You can catch Gray Wolf in their last Ewing Night show on December 28th at 9:30P, and then on Wednesday, January 17 and Thursday, February 15, both at 9. Sunglow performs every Saturday at 7:30 in January and February.
Kevin Beane graduated from the DCH improv program in 2016 and is in the DCH troupe Preschool Fight Club. He also cohosts Quizprov, with occasional DCH shows, and performs in the Dallas-area troupe Autocomplete. He likes sports, eating, sleeping, board games, poker, euchre, and procrastinating. He hails from Akron, Ohio. You can also read him in TheatherJones.com, where he is the DFW comedy beat writer.