Only a handful of folks in Tampa Bay have been involved with improv outside the area. One of those folks is Sarah Davis, who has a plethora of knowledge about the greater improv scene around the country and improviser friends everywhere. We talked with her about why she decided to finally take improv classes, what it's like to teach improv, and what it's been like to perform and help out at Unscripted.
How did you get started doing improv? What's your story?
I do a lot of work on the internet that led to my having a fairly large social circle in New York, and many of those friends did improv. After a few years it had become such a part of my own life that I realized it was time to at least give it a go myself and see if I liked performing. I signed up for classes at American Stage shortly thereafter and went straight through the program. After that I joined the House Team Separate Checks, started leading the monthly women’s drop-in Double Dutch, and performing with the indie team Paidd in Ke$$h. I’m finally taking things full circle this year as I’ve started teaching at American Stage.
What have you been involved with at Unscripted? What's your favorite memory so far?
I’ve performed in both the Showcase and the Cagematch since the first season (with both of my teams), and I’ve volunteered for a few seasons, running both tech and box office. It’s always a blast to perform there, meet other comedians from around the state, and watch them perform. I also spent this past Valentine’s Day painting the theater for the (then upcoming) Westworld show, and we had a great time talking about improv, joking about our super romantic evening, and pouring paint on the floor - just a great example that no matter what’s going on at UT, it’s guaranteed to be a good time.
What's your personal approach to improv?
I try to pay as much attention to my teammates and scene partners as possible, and find my personal point of view as quickly as possible so that I can use that to inform my actions for the rest of the scene. I tend towards playing the straight man in most scenes, but when I break out of that I tend to go very emotional because it’s an easy thing for me to hang on to. My favorite is when I get to do both of those things at once.
If you had to choose one memory about doing improv that sticks out in your mind, what would it be?
Off the top of my head, I’d have to say the first Cagematch show that Paidd in Kessh did this season at Unscripted. Some of the guys came out with really big, physical acting in the first scene, and they were set up as Home Depot employees. It was so much fun watching them be so over the top in their physicality that we ended up carrying it though most of the rest of the show because we were all (both the audience and team) laughing so hard. It was next to impossible to not break on stage, but so worth it. Definitely one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done.
What sort of advice would you have for a new person who wants to be part of the Unscripted community?
I would say just jump in feet first! Everyone is so welcoming and supportive, and there are so many ways to get involved - even if you’re scared about the idea of performing at first, you can volunteer and get to know the community and I promise that in no time you’ll want to take classes and start performing too. It’s too much fun.
What do you hope for the future of the theater and the St. Pete improv scene?
Ideally I want to see Unscripted continue to grow, in performance and education opportunities and in audiences. I think it’s really exciting how much has happened in such a short time, and that more and more people in St. Pete are getting to know how magical and hilarious long-form improv can be (in addition to the fun of short-form). I love seeing more stand-up and sketch happening, the talent in this area is really incredible. I think UT is fundamental in creating a real comedy boom in St. Pete and it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of.
It’s Sarah with an ‘h’ :)
You can see Sarah perform on Friday nights with her teams Paidd In Ke$$h & Separate Checks in the Comedy Cagematch & Improv Showcase. She also teaches the Double Dutch women's drop in workshop 3rd Thursdays at American Stage in St. Pete.