Looking Back on Teaching at The PIT

notes-improv-notebook

I keep at notebook at Simple Studios in my teacher folder that I use for class notes. How appropriate that I literally hit the last page in my latest notebook today - on my very last night of teaching for The PIT. 

I started teaching drop-ins in 2013 & got my first Level 1 in the beginning of 2014. Since then I've taught many classes across three levels, and am proud to have created many curricula and more importantly - cultivated relationships with talented improvisers and kind human beings. 

I'm leaving my faculty position at the PIT for a few reasons - some positive and some not so positive - but the main reason I'm focusing on is that change is calling and it's never good to get too comfortable. I've gotten comfortable. 

I've been doing improv for over 15 years. (More than that but don't try to figure out my age!) I started doing improv as a kid and my talented team of "Half Pint Players" wrote full blown improv and sketch shows - a la Second City - and did runs in both Stamford CT and in New York City.  That was the "initial discovery" chapter in my comedy life - discovering my sense of humor, learning the basics, and most of all: gaining confidence.  Many years later, I arrived in Boston. My 8+ years working at ImprovBoston were an incredible chapter in my comedy career that led me to becoming the performer that I am today.  And, now, the last few years with The PIT has been a chapter in growing as a teacher and becoming the instructor that I am. Also: just 2 1/2 years ago, I quit my day job to work for myself full time... another useful chapter. 

Change is calling and it's never good to get too comfortable. I've gotten comfortable. 

Last summer, I took a class at Reckless Theater just to learn and enjoy for the first time in years. My Reckless course was amazing and gave me a creative kick in the pants I hadn't had in a while! My class was so chock-full of talented performers I would've been content sitting and watching my classmates do scenes the whole time. It was so inspiring, in fact, that it convinced me to audition for a house team at Reckless... In order to be creatively challenged in a new and exciting way - as well as to learn more from the brilliant Christian Capozzoli. (I'm now on a team, Nemesis, that performs there every Thursday night.)

I'm feeling a range of emotions as I walk away from my PIT faculty position. I love the PIT community of artists, comedians and kind hearts. I keep in touch with a lot of my students ("my kids") from over the years and it's been super rewarding to see some of them through their growth and success including placement on house teams at various theaters, acting gigs and so on. I've had some incredible moments with PIT Classes and students over the years.

I'll never forget my 71 year old student who thanked me for my instruction, telling me that I "can, indeed, teach an old dog new tricks." She's gone through every level at The PIT and is one of the most invested students I've ever met. I've saved gifts and cards from fantastic groups throughout the years, like an Aunt saves memories for scrapbooking. My first ever Level 1 made me a bedazzled shirt that says "Hey Gurl HEY!!" on it that I still have today. (Chris Barnes, a student in that class has since written the most incredible comedy musicals, and Mary Alice is on a house team at the PIT!)

First Level One class: "Hey Gurl hey!"

First Level One class: "Hey Gurl hey!"

By far one of the most memorable moments I've ever had teaching an improv class was the Level 3 Class I taught last fall. The last class of our session (which is usually a celebration) fell on Nov 9th: the day after Election Day. We were all devastated by the results. The first part of class, we sat in a circle and went around the room and everyone shared what they were feeling. Shock. Loss. Defeat. Fear. Incredible Sadness. We all cried together and held hands and passed out tissues. There were a lot of tears in that room. I felt the pressure to "keep it together" as the leader in the room but fell way short. I was an emotional disaster as well. Once we got it all out, we got up - and those students ran through some of the best classroom sets I've ever seen. Hilarious and smart and supportive and freeing and funny. It was cathartic and nothing short of the greatest reminder of what improv can do. Their grad show was just a few days later. I had a wedding to attend right afterwards so the class not only showed up also dressed up in wedding-attire, but they brought me a corsage to boot! How lucky I am to work with such an amazing group of people. I'll never forget that Level 3 Class.

Level 3 grad show: Wedding attire and a corsage!

Level 3 grad show: Wedding attire and a corsage!

But nothing is perfect and working in comedy is no different. I learned how to stand up for myself in the past few months in a way I hadn't done previously - knowing my worth, leveraging my talent and experience, speaking up for myself in situations where I wasn't being respected or appreciated. I'm proud of who I've become since I've started "pursuing my passion" full time. It's hard to remind yourself you're worth the time and/or money you ask for. We are so used to grading ourselves lower than we deserve.  Ask any comedian, painter, web developer or anyone else who works for themselves:  One of the toughest things about freelance is that it's hard to sell yourself and confidently know you're worth it.

But my advice and what I've learned?  F it. Be good at what you do. Be the best, if you can. Be super kind to the people around you. Cultivate your talent and cultivate your relationships. Good things will deservedly come your way.

 

A few FAQs I've been getting...

Where are you going?

  • I'll be coaching a bunch the next few months. (Hit me up)!
  • I'll be teaching Hip Hop Improv for North Coast Classes.
  • Additionally, you'll hopefully see some (non Hip Hop) classes with me listed at Reckless Theater in the upcoming year, if all goes well.


What about shows?
Yes I'm still performing at The PIT Saturdays with North Coast.
I also perform on Thursdays at Reckless Theatre with House Team, Nemesis.

I'm also still around the PIT in general! Just not in a teaching capacity!


Thanks

Thanks so much to Jen Curran my PIT Level 3 teacher who, on my last day of class said to me, "I don't have any notes for you. You should teach this class."  I know it can be hard to be a woman working in a male dominated environment and she was one of many who persisted. Thank you so so much to all of the wonderful students and teams I've worked with so far. Let's keep doing it. Let's treat people well. Let's make more art. Let's make people laugh.

 

Love, "Rockin' Raero"