Brenna Judkins (they/she) is an improviser and artist from San Diego, CA in the United States. She currently plays with the Queen City Comedy team “Smells Like Ghosts”, and teaches their children’s improv courses. She also provides one on one improv tutoring for children. She regularly crafts her own costumes, props, puppets, and visuals arts projects at her home in California, including improvised cartoons and stop-motion videos. She also runs the page Brenna Judkins Improviser and a bi-monthly all LGBTQIA+ improv jam for the global improv community. We had so much fun in the podcast and could not stop laughing!
Join me and the delightful Maria Schaedler-Luera as we discuss her life as an actor and improviser. She studied with the legendary Augusto Boal and continues to teach his work today. We discuss her move to the states and how that impacted her continuing work with diverse and immigrant folks. For many years Maria, a Brazilian-born educator, and artist studied to be an actor. When she was 15, instead of having a traditional quinceanera, the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, she asked for a trip to New York City. After college, she returned to NY to study at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. We talk about the challenges she faced as an actor, who would audition for Latin roles, but due to looking “too white” was cast as European needing German, French and other accents.
Koray Tarhan has an infectious smile and laugh! He is a generous and talented man who brought Improv to his home in Instanbul, Turkey in 2000 and author of the first handbook on improv in Turkish, Dogaclama Icin Elkitabi (2013). We had such a fun time chatting and playing with him and his wife, Zeynep Özyurt Tarhan. Koray works as an actor, musician, and project coordinator at Istanbulimpro and also applies improvisation in business, education, and social projects. He works with children, teenagers, and adults in different foundations and organizations. Koray authors improlog.blogspot.com is the coordinator of Istanbul International Improv Festival and a member of the Applied Improvisation Network (since 2009) which has invited him to present and/or lead workshops at several international conferences. He has also participated as an actor and workshop leader for improv festivals in Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, Beijing, and Ljubljana. Koray is a graduate of Ankara University Theater Department (2001).
Siddharth Venkatesh is a beloved improviser with Improv Comedy Bangalore who has fans all around the world. He loves the “Globalization” of improv in the present scenario, as he gets to improvise with and learn from amazing Improvisers from all over the world. We had a wonderful chat with him and did a fun scene with our friend Landon Kirksey at https://youtu.be/LwOBmU2BTco In early September he co-created the ICB FB Community with the objective of enhancing peer to peer interactions, learning, and supporter of Improv. He loves to play Indian classical percussion, which also has an element of improvisation embedded in it. I know you will enjoy this gentle and fun man as much as I did!
I first saw Cheng Zeng at a Black Improvisors and People of Other Cultures improv webinar. Listen to Cheng Zeng’s story of growing up in a traditional Chinese family and how that shaped his first career path. Because there were no arts or drama in his schools and universities, he studied engineering, with no thought of the arts. He describes getting in trouble with his teachers because he “asked too many questions”. He first encountered Improvisational Theatre when he moved to Bejing. He was hooked right away, as so many of us are!
Will Luera is a champion of bringing theatre art to all people, especially those who haven’t had access or ever hear the words, Improv Theatre! He recently became a CrossFit Coach and adds Conflict Mediator to his resume. Although he grew up in Chicago, for 18 years he didn’t know about Improv! It was only when he went to Boston College to study Physics and Computer Engineering, that he learned about improv. Returning home every summer he would study at places like Second City and the IO. And after college, he was part of Improv Boston and now is the Director Emeritus of ImprovBoston.
Jon Nguyen is an improviser living in Norwich, England. He is a beloved improviser and teacher and has trained with various improv companies such as Dogface Improv, The Nursery, the Maydays, Hoopla Impro, and numerous independent coaches worldwide. Jon’s parents came to the UK in the 1970s after the Vietnam war. He discusses being bullied because of his “difference” and how that helped him develop a great sense of humor and his commitment to education with groups like BIPOC. Jon believes it is the responsibility of those who understand their privilege to help others see it and how they can affect the world in a positive way whether they are young or older minds.
I’m so excited to share the great news that my dear friend Clay Drinko’s book, Play Your Way Sane came out today! Clay is an improviser, author, coach, Dad who writes a blog for Psychology Today about Improv and mental health. This is a wonderful, very readable book for everyone! In Play Your Way Sane, Clay offers 120 low-key, accessible activities that draw on the popular principles of improv comedy to help you tackle your everyday stress and reconnect with the people around you. Divided into twelve fun sections, including “Killing Debbie Downer” and “Thou Shalt Not Be Judgy,” the games emphasize openness, reciprocation, and active listening as the keys to a mindful and satisfying life. Whether you’re looking to improve your personal relationships, find new meaning at work, or just survive our trying times, Play Your Way Sane offers serious self-help with a side of Second City sass.
I know you will fall in love with Stephanie Rae as much as I did in this podcast. Stephanie Rae is an improviser, community organizer, writer who has been studying traditional and musical improv for the last eleven years. After falling in love with the form at the Washington Improv Theater, she moved to Miami, founded Negative Four Months, and created hit shows including Law & Disorder and The Laughter Games. She later joined the Society Circus Players, performing monthly in Coral Gables and in festivals including Miami Improv, Palm Beach, Countdown, and UCB’s Del Close Marathon – in which she conceived and directed a Boyz II Men themed improv show. Stephanie has taught weekly classes for Red Carpet Kids and workshops for teens and adults from around the world.
What a great chat I had with the multi-talented Rick Hall. He is truly a Renaissance man who grew up on a farm in central Illinois, in the town of Carrollton, with a population of 2,484! As a young boy, Rick sang and performed with the Carrollton Community Chorus and at church. He attended MacMurray College and he was planning on being a veterinarian, but after auditioning and getting cast in a show he slowly began to grasp the fact that this could be his career. (He actually played a veterinarian twice on the Seinfeld show!)
His improv career began at the Improv Institute in Chicago. The Improv Institute was founded in late 1983 by John Michael Michalski, who would go on to teach at The Second City in Chicago. The Improv Institute was a staple in Chicago and hundreds of local improvisers played there, including Jane Morris, Jeff Michalski, Jonathan Pitts, and Susan Messing.