I showed up late to my first improv show I saw at the NCT. I was 16 and dropped off by my mother since it was an unofficial group theatre trip and someone else was bringing me back home. I remember feeling that the theatre was small, hidden, and packed with people. I don’t remember the show, but I do remember the feelings: “I want to come back” and “I want to do this.”

I’m now 33 and haven’t been to the theatre in over a year (apparently a situation has been happening across the globe, I don’t watch the news) but I’ve never forgotten that feeling. I feel like old Rose in Titanic, “It’s been eighty four years, and I can still smell the fresh popcorn. The stage had never been used. NCT was called the Theatre of Dreams, and it was.” 

The point I’m poorly making is I’ve spent now more than half of my life growing with the theatre.And like the theatre I’ve learned a lot of accidental lessons. I’ve grown into an adult and the lessons of improv have helped shape me. There are the basic critical lessons “Yes and” and “Active listening” which are crucial (and frankly everyone should learn those). Then there are the weirder lessons like being humble in light of rejection or how to connect with an audience. Life lessons like “it doesn’t matter how much talent you have or if you’re right, if you’re a jerk to people, then people don’t have to work with you.” 

But the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is “accidental hard work.”Accidental hard work means finding something you love, and working at it 100%, but it never feels like 100%. Even when there’s struggle, the agitation becomes a game to overcome or learn. You forget that you’re working at home practicing your pantomime. You forget you’re working on two hours of sleep, and you’re about to perform your third show that night. You forget that it’s work and your boss is telling you there’s going to be burnout, but the burnout never comes. You’re accidentally working hard because the whole experience feels like a dream and you never want the dream to end.

This whole “situation” has made me discover that improv is kinda who I am. My adulthood and improv are entirely intertwined.“I want to go back.” and “I need to do it again.” 

-Gordy Fitzgerald, MainStage Cast