4 Ways I Made The Most of My iO Graduation Shows

As of October 12th, 2014, I had the honor of being amongst the first to graduate from the improv program at the new iO Chicago building on 1501 N Kingsbury St. and it felt like I was becoming a small part of improv history. Realizing this, I decided to really make the most of my 7-week run at the Student Graduation Show (nothing crazy, just a few things to help me make the experience extra special), and decided to share those things in case they can help/inspire other young aspiring improvisers.

1.) I Gave Myself a Goal Each Week

The graduate performers should arrive on time, warm-up, and most importantly, have fun.

Like many others, I have a personal weakness on stage: I tend to get in my head. So, in order to prevent me from thinking too much on stage I decided to give myself goals so I could continue to improve as a performer. My goals were fairly simple:

  • Week 1: Go out into the audience and utilize the space.
  • Week 2: Use the stage windows.
  • Week 3: Have a genuine scene with a fellow player.
  • Week 4: Be really physical. (I threw up an octopus tentacle made of another improviser’s arm, so I think I nailed that one).
  • Week 5: Make my scene partner(s) feel important.
  • Week 6: Make a strong effort to play with Erin and Kathleen (the only other girls in our class) as much as possible.
  • Week 7: “Yes, And…” the hell out of “Yes, And…”!

This approach isn’t for everyone but I will say this: One of my teammates told me that he became a little inspired by my goals and began doing it too.

2.) I Stayed to Watch Other Groups Perform

You may (or may not) be surprised at how many performers stay to watch each other’s sets. It really goes to show that the improv community has some of the kindest, most supportive actors around Chicago. Some performers didn’t have their set until 10PM but would show up early simply to support their fellow graduates. I tried to stay for every performance at least 3 times during the 7 week run. This was my chance to watch the people I have trained alongside with for the last year and enjoy seeing how far they’ve come. (I remember laughing so hard one week that my stomach felt like it did 50 crunches.) Watching my classmates stick around to watch my class made it much more enjoyable to show them the same support.

3.) Reconnected With Classmates from Levels Past

Going through the iO curriculum I got to meet many great people. This would most likely be the last chance that all of us would be gathered in the same place at the same time, so I made a little effort between sets to walk around and say Hi to my classmates and catch up a little.

4.) “Say Cheesy!” Group photos and Selfies

Now, I don’t know if other Graduation Shows have done this, so this might not be that original of an idea, but since the beginning I would take a class photo on the last day of each level. And after my set on the 6th week it occurred to me that this would be my only chance to get almost every single person in the program in one huge group graduation photo.

Throughout the entire final show I did my best to hold back my tears but as soon as the final show ended, a fellow improviser reached out for my hand to pull me up on stage.

They remembered.

Everyone excitedly gathered on stage for the big photo. And I ended up crying anyway. Hugs and hugs and more hugs and laughing and some tears (mostly mine) and more hugs, and finally, a photo for the ages:

sheila-5bs

It was the little things I did that made a big difference in my final 7 weeks. What does the future hold for me and the rest of our graduating class? I don’t know, but I’m ready for a suggestion of anything at all.

 

Sheila M. Gagne is a voice actress, writer, and improviser from Chicago, IL. When she is not performing she watches a lot of cartoons on Netflix.

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