Today we chatted with Spitfire student & mainstage performer Carly Lehman! Carly shares a little bit of her love for the Sunshine City, as well as how getting over awkwardness brought her into the improv world, performing in pubs for free Molson, juggling swords, and how things on stage can change in an instant.
What's your favorite restaurant in St. Pete?
I love, love, love, Brick and Mortar! Just order their espresso rubbed short ribs and chocolate cake for desert. You will wobble home in pure full delight! They also have an impressive wine list.
Whats your favorite thing to do in St. Pete on a nice day?
When the sun shines I put on my walking shoes and walk around downtown and the Edge District. I stop for craft beers along the way and multiple snacks. We are so lucky to live in a walkable downtown. We have so many murals and my favorite thing to do is to discover a new mural, which happens pretty much every time I walk around the city.
What's your day job?
During the day I work as an online ESL Instructor and as an Instructional Designer. I love to teach and create exciting material for learners.
What drew you to improv?
This may surprise you but I went through a long awkward phase in middle school. When I took my first after-school improv class I was like, "Oh it's okay to be awkward and also no one cares that I don't have Abercrombie jeans." I felt empowered to be myself. The first laugh I ever got from an audience was the best feeling I had ever had.
Where did you learn to improvise?
I was first exposed to improv in middle school. I started performing with my first team in Prince Edward Island at my university. We were called "The Suspenders" and I had never met people so hilarious and inspiring. They paid us in drink vouchers to perform at the university pub and I gladly inhaled Molson. The rush of getting on stage and the rehearsals where I laughed so hard I had to excuse myself were my favorite part.
What's the most memorable moment you've had on stage?
One of the most memorable moments I have had on stage happened recently with my duo partner Mike Barbieri. I came into the scene ready to be a concerned mother to her child. I patted Mike, who was crouched on stage, and asked him what was wrong. I quickly realized that Mike was not my son but a possessed Cabbage Patch doll. I quickly threw my plan out the window and acted instead as a concerned child with him. It reminded me that everything can change in an instant on stage. I think that's a powerful life lesson. We really can't control anything and we need to be open to change.
How would you describe your personal style or approach to improv?
I try to approach improv with a sense of openness. When I first started doing improv I was like, "You have to be funny no matter what, say that joke." I have found that my funniest scenes have happened when I am completely open to my partner and I accept their suggestions and help create a world with them.
What makes a good scene in your opinion?
A good improv scene is one where the performers are having fun with each other. Their joy is contagious and sucks you in as an audience member. When you have fun on stage you are more open to your scene partner and the scene just works itself out. Nobody wants to watch someone who is completely in their head and counting down the seconds until the scene is over.
If improv didn't exist, what do you think you'd do instead?
That's a scary thought! I would definitely be a street performer. I already have a 10 foot tall unicycle and three swords to juggle so it is an obvious choice.
What are you looking forward to right now, in general?
Right now I am super excited about learning Surreal Improv. I have seen some talented performers at Spitfire get surreal and it is amazing to watch as an audience member. I am also very excited to meet new performers who join the Spitfire family. We all have different backgrounds and day jobs but when we get silly together and create amazing scenes, it is pretty wonderful!
How would you describe the Spitfire community in 5 words or less?
Exciting, Supportive, Rewarding, Silly, Liberating.
If I've never been to Spitfire and I'm not sure if I'd like improv, what would you say to me?
You will like it I promise! Improv is pure magic. You get to see something that has never been played and will never be played again. You will leave laughing about a scene between two worried parakeets or a dysfunctional family that loves clam chowder. The next time you go you will see something completely different from a new inspiration. You will find yourself laughing and even relating to characters that are being created before your very eyes. Also beer is like 3 bucks, so you won't break the bank. Just go, you will love it!
You can see Carly perform Thursdays this Fall in the Spitfire mainstage show Weirder Stuff, in The Duo Show with her team The Farce & the Furious, in The Spitfire Open with Cult Classic & High Heels Toes Up, and in Whose Line St. Pete on Saturday nights.