Some folks you meet on the road and catch up with them again when you get to the destination. Melanie Leon is one of those folks for us. She's been making the drive from Orlando to Tampa Bay for a few years now, appearing at the Gasparilla Improv Marathon & Tampa Bay Improv Festival. When Spitfire opened up shop, she signed up with multiple teams to come hit the stage in St. Pete. A regular face on improv stages in Orlando, we spoke with her about her experiences performing near the Bay and joining the Spitfire community.
How did you get started doing improv? What's your story?
I started improvising in college. I was a biology major and randomly took a two week improv course over winter break, and fell in love. By the end of college, things had shifted so much that even my honors thesis was improv focused. Since then, I have never stopped and I am approaching my 6 year mark of improvising. Currently, I consistently teach and perform in Orlando, and also have been fortunate enough to take classes and perform across the country, with some of the best.
What have you been involved with at Spitfire? What's your favorite memory so far?
I have been involved with The Duo Show, Cagematch, Improv Showcase, and Whose Line St. Pete. Driving from Orlando can be a traffic nightmare, but it is always worth it. I always love getting to meet the improvisers in St. Pete and hang out with them after shows. There is so much laughter and support.
What's your personal approach to improv?
Besides having fun, I always want to make the world I am creating vividly rich. This means using a lot of physicality, object work, and environmental work. I am always using my body and the stage space, and miming something in my scenes. It adds so much. My biggest pet-peve is a talking heads scene.
If you had to choose one memory about doing improv that sticks out in your mind, what would it be?
I am not the best at remembering specific scenes, but I always remember the feeling after doing a good show. The energy and spirits are high and everyone is in the best mood. There is this rush right after the final blackout and it leaves this positive, radiating energy in the room. And it stays with you all night.
What sort of advice would you have for a new person who wants to be part of the Spitfire community?
Jump in! It is a warm, welcoming community so be confident that you will find your place. Have no fear and try everything with confidence. Everyone will support you.
What do you hope for the future of the theater and the St. Pete improv scene?
I hope the theater and community continue to grow and get the recognition they deserve. It is rare to find a space that trusts you enough to let you try new ideas and forms. One of my absolute favorite aspects of this theater is that I am provided professional stage time to experiment. This is so incredibly important and so incredibly rare. It will make the improvisers that perform here grow rapidly. I hope more and more performers take the leap to use this great opportunity that Spitfire provides.
You all rock!
You can see Melanie perform in Orlando at SAK Comedy Lab with Lab Rats and around the area with indie team Ghost Goats and duo Two for the Road. She also appears at numerous festivals in Florida and across the country.