I was so excited to interview my dear friend Max Schaefer, who studied with Viola Spolin and Paul Sills. Max had great tales about his experiences learning improv from Viola and working with Paul at Playback theatre. He is high energy and a living example of “yes, and”. We had a lot of laughs and hope you will as well!
Max Schafer leads Spolin workshops around the world. He is the author of “Viola Spolin’s Theater Games for the Classroom” Multimedia CD. He has studied under and was directed by Viola Spolin. He was stage manager for Paul Sills. He also studied with Carol Sills, Aretha Sills, Alan Arkin, Dick Schaal, Avery Schrieber, Bob Moyer, and Gary Schwartz. Max teaches Spolin improvisation around the world. He has been a distinguished certificated classroom teacher for over 40 years. He is a computer programmer and software publisher. He is a toy inventor and president of a toy company. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan. He now lives in Los Angeles. He runs a Music Improv group. His current Spolin workshop in England on Zoom can be found at https://www.eventbrite.com/…/online-improv-elective… Max runs the World Spolin Network, Musical Improv Network, and Dance Improv Network on Facebook. His “Art Rods” can be found at www.funartrods.com. Paul teaching Spolin games at The Nursery on June 13. This workshop filled up quickly but be on the lookout for Paul Click here for The Nursery Theatre You can follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/max.schafer1
Meet Oluwadamilola Apotieri, a wonderful humanitarian, improviser and so much more. Listen to how he got into improv, became a pioneer of virtual improv, teaching kids, playing in the virtual space versus in person, using theatre as a tool for social justice and more. We met through our mutual friend, Beth Boynton, RNOluwadamilolaspeaks of his childhood and passion for playing and performing. He put on his first show at age 7 and by 9 years old had his own TV show. As challenging as the pandemic is, it has also provided some amazing opportunities. He is part of the team that organized the online edition of the yearly Nigerian Children Theatre festival. This is taking place May 27 and May 28 and there’s still time to register. This is an exciting festival that you won’t want to miss! He and his team have been rehearsing online with a small group of delightful Nigerian students over the last couple of months.
I first saw Mithra Vankipuram on Jay Sukow’s podcast and she blew me away. We had such a great chat and she speaks openly about her journey in the arts and in engineering! Two quotes from her that I really love are “to remember to suspend disbelief” and “improv lives in the eyes”. Mithra and I talk about the challenges of “performing for the audience,” and seeking approval as opposed to seeing them as a part of the environment. As she said, “My job in improv is being receptive to information around, opening my body and mind to all possibilities.”
Meet the high-energy Avish Parashar and hear how his career in comedy and improv led to his brilliant motivational improv workshops. Our mutual friend, Peter Margaritis, introduced us and I was so pleased as we had a great time.
Before we met I watched him at Avish Parashar – Ding Happens and was captivated by his take on the “Yes, and” concept when working with corporations. He talks about his improv origin story and how he knew he wanted to be a creative artist. We spoke about the challenges of being a “gig” worker and the uncertainty of that work. His improv background has helped him to continue to explore possibility thinking in his corporate gigs. He shared how he was able to market himself to become a sought-after motivational speaker. His newest project is his podcast where he and his friend Mike Worth will be doing a long-form movie genre with short-form games.
What a great joy meeting LeWayne McQueen. He is one of very few Native American improvisers in the U.S. I know you’ll enjoy his great energy and humor as much as I did! One of the things he loves to do with Deboope Newe to put his urban Indian culture into the improv itself, put some language, and sometimes singing on display. His mother passed when he was 18, after seeing him compete in the first annual four directions talent competition. We talk about how this loss changed him. He ran his own independent improv show and class for eight years before the pandemic started. He performs with Mancandy, a musical improv show that fluctuates between full musicals and improv musical review style shows.
On March 15, 2021, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Anne Beatts about her life, adventures, writing for SNL and Square Pegs, and breaking the barriers that existed for women comedy writers. I am so grateful that I said “Yes, And” to this wonderful opportunity. It was such a fun visit and we had planned to chat again but sadly, she passed just a few weeks later, on April 7, 2021. Anne was a force of good humor that paved the way for funny women writers. Anne was the first contributing writer on National Lampoon Magazine. That was where she met SNL future cast, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and John Belushi. (see the film “Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon”). Later she lobbied for John to be cast in SNL and Lorne said, “No, he’s trouble.”
“My most important professional accomplishment to date is the ability to keep working with absolutely no skills whatsoever.”Colin Mochrie
An improviser always says yes and how grateful I am that the terrific Colin Mochrie said yes to sharing his story on Improv Interviewswith all of us! Colin is, of course, best known for being in the cast of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” which aired first in the UK and then with Drew Carey in the states. Colin and I met at the premiere of the film Act Social Filmdirected by Sean Mulvihill which Colin also stars in. had a lot of laughs during our chat and I discovered what a genuinely authentic and loving person he is.
He shares wonderful stories of his life as an improviser, comedian, and devoted family man. Although I thought we would only have a half-hour, we ended up speaking for an hour and even playing an improv game! Check out The Alphabet Game with Colin & Margot
What a fabulous time I had chatting with the effervescent Laxmi Priya! We chatted about her work and I learned so much from her! I’ve also studied with her and I heartily recommend her to everyone for a lively and joyous experience!
Laxmi is a Playback Theatre performer and has been improvising for a decade in and around Bangalore, India. She performs with The Adamant Eves (India’s first all-female improv company) and is a co-founder of Citylamps Playback Theatre.
What a delight to get to know Stephen Davidson! Stephen is a totally joy-filled improviser who is the Artistic Director of The Improvised Play, Improvable, QI: Queer Improv, Carmen: A gender-swapped Film Noir Fantasy, and of Zeal: The Pride Improv Festival. Stephen is the author of two books about improv, Play Like an Ally and Improvising Gender. Stephen teaches improv independently and through Improvable, with the Free London Improv Project, City Academy, and Hoopla Improv. He has taught and performed all over the world. We chat about his improv origin story and so much more. You’ll understand why his students love him.
Velvet Duke is truly a multi-talented presence in the Improvisational Theatre world today. In our interview, he shares his love of theatre and performing. Here is what his improv colleagues have to say about him. “Velvet consistently works to look at things from different viewpoints and has one of the most widely accessible broadcasts I’ve ever seen.” Michelle J Gilliam. And from improv legend, Jay Sukow, “Velvet Wells is amazing! He’s a ball of fun and a very talented performer and teacher. He is such a great ambassador for, and a leader in, the improv ecosystem.”