The Jobs Report: I Teach Improv
12:30 pm, February 6th | by Sarah Devlin
This is the latest installment in an ongoing series we’re calling The Jobs Report. In light of depressing statistics about unemployment, especially for recent college graduates, the task of finding a job you love — or finding a job at all — can seem insurmountable. We want to challenge those numbers and offer an antidote to the depressing data, so we’re asking women we know who have found jobs they love to share how they got their gigs and what challenges and rewards them about their careers. Previous installments can be found here.
Nicole Drespel lives in New York City.
1. When and how did you decide you wanted to teach improv?
I knew by the end of my first class as a student. Lennon Parham was the teacher. She’s supportive and smart and encouraging. It was difficult not to look at her and think “I want to be this cool.” Plus, I was always super nerdy about improv, and teaching seemed a particularly good use of that nerd energy. Nerdergy?
2. How did you get the teaching job(s) you have now?
I coached improv independently for about two years. Coaches are hired by teams or practice groups to run their practices. Will Hines, Academic Supervisor at UCB, brought me in so he could observe a practice session. He hired me a few weeks later.
3. What’s something challenging about teaching improv that you didn’t know about before you started?
Oh, I really, really thought I was a concise explainer and note-giver. But it turns out that in an attempt to reach sixteen different brains, I will sometimes say the same thing four different ways when one simple explanation would suffice.
I’m also regularly surprised by how nervous I get on the first day of class. Before I know my students – and they know me – I’m so desperate to instill confidence in them that I somehow lose all authority I’ve built up thus far in my career (irony?). I’ll be standing in the front of the room, explaining an exercise I’ve done a hundred times (and described fifty) and I could not tell you the next sentence that will be coming out of my mouth. I teach improv, so I should be cooler with that.
4. What’s something great about teaching improv that you didn’t know about before you started?
I didn’t realize how much it would re-invest me in the improv community. I’d been pretty active as a coach and improviser before I started teaching but teaching made me double-down on how many improv books I read and shows I see. I’ve also been surprised by how quickly my own community grew. After a year teaching improv, the number of people I’m emotionally and creatively invested in has doubled. As they continue taking classes and forming teams, those people are becoming active members of the community themselves. That’s pretty great.
Do you know a woman who has a cool job that she loves? Are you that woman? Nominate yourself or someone else to be featured in The Jobs Report at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Photo via Shutterstock]