My First Experiences Being Part of an Improv Troupe

YUM! Photo by Michael Astrauskas
YUM! cast members, from L to R: Dillon Thomas, Heather Field, Hemant Sharma,
Adrian Bosada, Jean Nachiwala, Casey Trujillo, Nilay Shah, Dominica Malcolm
Photo by Michael Astrauskas

Since my last update about my first 8 months in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve been getting even more involved in the improv scene. In that post, I wrote about wanting to audition for Leela’s PIE program, and that their PIE group YUM! had been one of the first groups I saw in San Francisco, before I even knew about Leela.

Though I hadn’t had the requisite Improv III class under my belt, I auditioned with Leela at the end of March, and was subsequently cast in YUM!, much to my surprise and delight! I was able to take the Improv III class in the lead up to our first show, whilst also rehearsing weekly with the latest cast (pictured above), as well as going to weekly duo classes with a separate partner, Syeda Huq. Whilst I am still going to these duo classes and YUM! rehearsals, I wanted to write a bit about my experiences with YUM!, as it’s really had a profound effect on my life. Then, at the end of this post, you’ll have the chance to watch us in action, as our first show was uploaded to YouTube.

YUM! Photo by Michael Astrauskas
YUM! Photo by Michael Astrauskas

The thing that has struck me most about working with YUM has been the level of support I’ve received from my fellow troupe members. I was particularly touched by how Adrian and Dillon — the only remaining members from the troupe as I first saw them last year — supported me when I participated in the Lady jam at the end of the Femprovisor Festival in May, before I’d had a show with them. Heck, we’d only had two rehearsals together by that point. It’s really meant a lot to me to have felt welcomed by those I see as being far more experienced than myself. Especially since I could probably have described myself as being a fangirl for YUM! once I’d seen them perform for the first time. I’m pretty sure they were on the line-up for the first Leela show I went to, and why I’d dragged myself out to see it.

We’ve been connecting really well together, and I feel like our current format with truthful monologues has really allowed us to bond and trust each other quicker than we might have otherwise. Of course, the atmosphere of Leela in general also lends itself to that truthful fun.

Immediately following our first show, or rather the morning after, we were able to gather together for a group retreat, which took place at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, followed by spending the night at Dillon’s place, where half of us stayed up until 6am. Words cannot really express how incredible of an experience it all was, but it certainly helped us feel closer to each other. We’ve found in-jokes and catch phrases, that in part came out of our first show, and has just continued to grow.

YUM! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
YUM! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

After barely two hours sleep (for me — the others who stayed up until 6am with me seemed to get a little more sleep than I did), we snuggled up with each other on Dillon’s bed and an air mattress to have a last minute discussion on what our photo shoot would entail, as we were scheduled for a session at 1:30pm. A couple of us didn’t really have time to go home due to the distance we lived from Dillon’s place and San Francisco, so that factored into things. I ended up having to rush to a clothing store with Adrian once we arrived in San Francisco, and we were lucky I found an outfit that fit with our plan for “scholarly look” on the clearance rack in only a couple of minutes, and that it fit perfectly once I tried it on. Meanwhile, Jean drove Casey, Hemant and Nilay back to San Francisco, and they’d been tasked with getting dictionaries for the shoot, but when they couldn’t find enough, ended up getting Dr Seuss books, which we all decided via whatsapp actually worked even better for us. It blows me away just how easily everything has come together for us. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more connected with a group of people than I do with YUM!.

All up, I just feel so incredibly lucky to be working with such a talented, open, and honest group of people. Our director, too — Christopher DeJong — has been great. He’s really encouraged us to open up with our truths, and dig deep with our emotional vulnerability. The exercises he’s given us during rehearsal have been great to help us focus on the things that we as a group have decided we want to work on, and I think that’s a really important attribute to have as a director.

So, now, feel free to watch our first show!

Our next shows with this current cast are on June 13th, along with Sketchy Alley and Couples Counseling, and June 27th alongside That One Troupe and Sketchy Alley. Both shows are at the Ninth St Independent Film Center in San Francisco, starting at 8pm.

Tickets are available online for $15 or $20 at the door. See Eventbrite for the tickets: June 13 and June 27.

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