This week we caught up with long-time Tampa Bay improviser Tricia Christen-Rivas! Trish has performed on nearly every stage in the local area and taken classes everywhere. A true Tampa Bay improv vet, she shares with us what got her into improv and her unique approach to scene work.
What's your favorite restaurant in St. Pete?
Hmmm. Pretty much anywhere where I can dine outdoors. Most recently, however, I have become enchanted with Lolita's Wine Market right next door to the theater. Last weekend I took seven friends there and we had great food and drink, excellent service and a very friendly atmosphere.
What's your favorite thing to do in St. Pete on a nice day?
Walk. Just walk around, stopping into places that interest me - art galleries, second-hand stores, cafes, a park bench.
What's your day job?
Massage therapist, self-employed. However I am in the process of transitioning out of my practice in order to focus more on acting, modeling, and of course improv.
What drew you to improv?
I grew up with four funny and practical joking brothers, all of whom were great story and joke tellers. My brother Jimmy was the best - an absolute natural comedian. I always wanted to be like him, to be able to make people laugh, but my joke telling always fell flat. Still, I harbored the secret fantasy of doing stand-up comedy. About 6-7 years ago, I saw an announcement for improv classes and thought that experience might help me with my stand-up aspirations. I was surprised when I absolutely fell in love with improv itself, especially the ensemble nature of it.
Where did you learn to improvise?
My first classes were with Ricky Wayne and Gavin Hawk at American Stage. I studied with them for more than 4 years. I also did an improv intensive at iO Chicago. Then I studied with PDC, and am currently continuing training at The Spitfire Theater. I would be remiss if I did not mention the skills I have learned at various festivals and workshops. I value the sessions I have had with Jeff Quintana in particular.
What's the most memorable moment you've had on stage?
Ha! Interestingly enough, it was a "prize-winning" stand-up routine I did at Spitfire. A real confidence builder.
How would you describe your personal style or approach to improv?
I care a lot about relationship in scenes. The stronger that base, the more free I feel to explore and heighten. I also like to stretch my character work. In the past, "game" has been a bit of a challenge for me, and I continue to learn from others. My time at Spitfire has taught me to focus on my strengths and play from there.
What makes a good scene in your opinion?
Relationship, character development, heightening, for sure. Then the willingness to be vulnerable and daring - just throw that shit out there!
If improv didn't exist, what do you think you'd do instead?
I'd continue to focus on acting, modeling, stand up comedy. And I must always have time enjoying life with my dog. And my orchids.
What are you looking forward to right now, in general?
Right now, I'm looking forward to completion of my current home remodeling projects. And I am planning ahead to spend a month on the Olympic Peninsula next June. It's my favorite place on the planet!
How would you describe the Spitfire community in 5 words or less?
Brilliant training. Committed. Supportive. Caring.
If I've never been to Spitfire and I'm not sure if I'd like improv, what would you say to me?
You gotta get there! I'll go with you. We'll laugh our butts off!