By midnight Saturday night, my smile muscles were hurting. This past week between us, Gary and I had seen eight troupes, two Ewing teams, a Student Lottery, the sketch review Sixth Floored, been to two classes, the Jam, and a workshop, all capped off with the inestimable Lady Town Friday and Saturday. Even then, I hated seeing the lights go down on Jaime Moyer and Maribeth Monroe at the close of their set on Saturday night.
It was the Grand Opening of the brand new location of the World Famous Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What a treat to experience the best of the best of what DCH has to offer.
For a couple dozen of us, Jaime Moyer’s Saturday workshops were a highlight. Jaime is an old friend of DCH. Her Lady Town cohort, Kate Duffy, originally scheduled to teach a workshop, had pressing concerns that kept her from making the trip. Jamie, already tapped to conduct a class for experienced improvisers, graciously agreed to hold another session for the fledglings.
Not only is Jaime a gifted improviser and actress, she is an inspired teacher. (Don’t you just hate people who can do it all?) Her two-and-a-half hours of solid direction, practical exercises, and on-the-point notes were priceless.
Jaime set out to help us improve our listening skills. Frankly, “Yes, and” scares me. Even though our instructors drill the concept into us (“Do not plan. Do not write a script in your head. Do not have expectations. Stay in the moment. Listen and respond.”), I still tend to initiate scenes in a feeble attempt to control them. I need to learn to trust my scene partner and trust myself.
All of Jaime’s exercises were terrific, but I thought one was particularly effective. One student takes center stage and performs a simple action. A classmate steps forward to interpret the action. A wave of the hand might elicit, “Ben, you missed a spot,” or “Thanks for washing the car, son.” Turning the pages of a book inspires, “Mom, let’s look at the photo album,” or “Cheryl, I see you’re copying that report.” The scene partners exchange a line or two followed by a tap-out and a new interpretation of the same action, to be repeated a dozen or more times at breakneck speed. The initiator must listen carefully, because she has no idea how her simple action will inspire each successive scene partner. Remember the exercise “Expert”? It’s like that, only the game changes with each tap-out.
For me, it was nerve-racking—all that thinking-on-my-feet. But I came away impressed that I had done a pretty credible job of staying focused and responding in the moment. A lot of the credit for that goes to Jaime’s consistent and unconditional support. She left us feeling like we could all be great scene partners.
To Amanda Austin and crew: It was a fantastic weekend. The new theater and training center are awesome. With all the headaches you’ve suffered these last months, I don’t know how you managed to bring it all together, but you pulled it off with grace and a hell of a lot of style. Thanks for providing us such a special place to learn and play and for nurturing our wonderful community. Many happy returns!
Carron Armstrong is currently in Level 3 and has been obsessed with improv and DCH ever since she discovered that someone can actually take classes to learn this stuff. She is currently negotiating to purchase the naming rights for the brand new stairs added to ease access to the stages of DCH’s Main Street theaters (Thank you, Amanda and Kyle). During the day, she’s a lawyer.