You’ve done it. You’ve graduated from the Dallas Comedy House Improv program, you’ve put together a team of like-minded improvisers almost as brilliant as yourself, and you’re ready to take DCH, and then the world, and then the universe, by storm.
But wait! A couple practices in, you realize that you don’t have a teacher and a TA to hold your hand anymore. You need guidance. You need assistance.
That’s why we’ve created New Troupe/Old Troupe. It is a vehicle for new troupes (together a less than a year) to get their burning questions answered by troupes that have been together for more than a year. If you have been together for precisely one year to the day, I have no use for you. Sorry.
For the first installment of New Troupe/Old Troupe, I culled questions from Preschool Fight Club, and delivered them to .f.a.c.e., or the estimable Jason Hensel from f.a.c.e to be exact.
Here’s a little secret about Preschool Fight Club: I’m in it. But in the interest of unbiased journalism, I did not write any of the questions:
PFC: What's the most fun change you have made to keep your troupe energized?
JH: The most fun change we've made is something we've been striving for over the last four years, namely having more audience/performer participation in our shows. For .f.a.c.e., we want to explore every possibility for a show. So, really it's not a change per se. It's more the evolution that's energizing.
PFC: What is the most important, or one of the most important, things, you've learned from being in a troupe for a while that you didn't learn in class?
JH: One of the most important things I learned is how to have tough conversations and how to navigate different personality types. For the most part, since we're all improvisers we're flexible. At the same time, we're artists and artists have certain ideas about their art and how it should be presented. Those ideas might clash in a troupe, so knowing how and when to compromise is a necessary skill for any successful act.
PFC: What is the most important thing improv has taught you about life?
JH: Improv has made me more aware of how many people take things so seriously in the non-improv world (aka, the real world). It has also reinforced my belief that everything is fleeting and we should make the most of our time in the present moment. And if you're living in the present moment, it's much more fun to be positive and to like each other.
PFC: How do you continue to grow or push forward as a troupe without burning out?
JH: I believe what keeps .f.a.c.e. from burning out is that we purposely request only one show per month. Also, since our format is all-encompassing, the possibility of who will be performing with us during a show makes it something to look forward to and be excited about.
PFC: What's the right level of practice? How does your troupe prepare for shows?
JH: I think the right level of practice is at minimum once a week. It's more than practice, though. It's keeping in contact with your troupe members on a consistent basis, developing a group mind even if you're not in the same room. That's why Facebook Messager, for example, is so great. You can keep a dialogue going and learn about each other that way sometimes better than you can in a two-hour practice. And if technology isn't your bag, go out to dinner or lunch once a month. Or have a group outing to a museum or laser tag. Improvisers do not live on practice alone.
PFC: Has anyone seen my sweater from a year ago, will you ask them that for me?
JH: Sorry. It's been destroyed. Someone held a thread then walked away.
There you have it. Of all of Jason’s tremendous insights, none is more important than the advice implied in his last answer: when you’re around DCH, hang on tight to not just your sweaters, but your cardigans, pullovers, tunics, and especially ponchos.
If you are in a new troupe and would like your questions answered, or if you are in an experienced troupe and would like to answer questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the author at email@example.com.
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.