Jenna Felder has grown to be a staple in the St. Pete improv community, taking classes and performing at both American Stage & Spitfire. Her commitment to growing the public awareness of the art form along with her push toward growing as a performer is a strong example of how comedy art is at it's best when it's anchored in community.
How did you get started doing improv? What's your story?
I grew up doing dance and theater, and was looking for an outlet as an adult to get back into taking classes and performing. Improv was always something I wanted to try but never did. In 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After going through a bilateral mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy, I decided it was time to do a bunch of stuff I had only talked about doing but never actually did …. and improv was one of those things. Going thru breast cancer was awful, but it really was the catalyst that got me involved in the improv scene.
What have you been involved with at Unscripted? What's your favorite memory so far?
I am part of the team “Previously On,” which has been a lot of fun. I am also taking classes at the theater with my boyfriend and that has been a really neat experience to do together. My sister also takes classes and it has been great to see her on stage. Last year I helped with the Tampa Bay Improv Festival, and I would say that is a favorite memory. Helping Nick and Hannah welcome all of those improvisors to St. Pete and then having a full house every night was exciting and invigorating.
What's your personal approach to improv?
I bounce between needing/wanting the structure of long form improv and the important concept of “don't think.” I've always been someone who likes structure and rules. So for me that is helpful in improv. But I have also learned that you can't box yourself into those rules. You have to let yourself go and be willing to take a leap into the unknown, trust your scene partners and be willing to fail (also something that is hard for me, but improv is teaching me that it is ok!)
If you had to choose one memory about doing improv that sticks out in your mind, what would it be?
The first time I went to the Del Close Marathon in NYC was a huge eye opener as to how many people are involved in this amazing thing called improv. My team performed at 1:40 AM at some tiny basement theater and it was just awesome to see the support and excitement around improv.
What sort of advice would you have for a new person who wants to be part of the Spitfire community?
Just do it! I've learned that you can't think too much with improv. You just have to do it …. and that's when the magic happens. So I would take the same approach if you’re thinking about getting involved.
What do you hope for the future of the theater and the St. Pete improv scene?
I would love to see the scene continue to grow and for more people to get involved, take classes, and come see shows. Austin has a robust improv scene and St. Pete has the same kind of potential. Improv isn't just about being funny and silly; it can have tremendous impact on community and the economic impact of a city. It is also about personal growth and learning about yourself as a human being. So I hope people realize the possibilities and embrace improv. I would also love to see more women taking classes, joining teams, and performing. (Girl Power!)
Thanks to Nick and Hannah for taking this huge leap and opening Spitfire Theater! We will all be better for it.
You can catch Jenna improvising Friday nights with her team Previously On in the Improv Showcase.