Stop looking at me! (a.k.a.: why I do improv)

Starting improv during my sophomore year in high school was more of a nightmare than a blessing. And I say that because any sort of stage presence or spotlight was literally the stuff of my nightmares. I was incredibly shy. Even ordering food from fast food places scared me.

An old friend took me by the wrist and led me unknowingly to the theatre, where the first day of improv practice was being held. I cried after that first class, and never wanted to go back. I talked to my mom. She said I needed this. So I stuck through it.

That first year I earned the Most Improved Performer award out of all 300 students in the league.

The following year I did even better, and grew to absolutely love improv, earning the Most Valuable Performer award out of 400 students. In that time, I auditioned for America’s Got Talent with Jest Serendipity, Kopy’s main stage group. My last year I went down as a runner up for MVP, an All Star, and the most decorated Jester ever.

Graduating was amazing, but the realization that Jesters was over for me hit hard. That’s when Kopy introduced me to a new improv group that had just come to Las Vegas called ComedySportz (CSz LV). This meant improv could continue to be in my life.

It was a whole new style of improv, with similar games but added intensity, professionalism and speed - we play fast! It was the challenge I needed and longed for. Growing with CSz LV has led me to see the bright future I have with improv and the countless opportunities to come.

One of those opportunities came when I was recently voted to go to Indianapolis to represent Las Vegas in the ComedySportz Women’s Weekend along with CSz LV co-owner, Lana Green. I couldn’t have been more thankful...and nervous.

I’m not the typical jubilant outgoing person who does improv, so flying to another state, farther than I had ever been, added yet another level of nerves. Meeting all these nice women that love to hug and yell really... added yet another of anxiety. I knew that once I was able to get on stage I would feel comfortable again, since that was the only thing I know how to do.

Everyone there embraced me and...I’m not a hugger. But they gave me the initial space I needed and let me blossom into what one lady called me: a “firecracker”.

What I learned from that trip wasn’t just improv related. We talked about real life things that happen as women and as people; it opened my eyes to see ComedySportz in a whole new light - a community of thoughtful, interesting and funny people working to do great things.

I’m so incredibly thankful for the opportunities given to me, and for having said yes to doing improv, even through my fearful tears. And I now order fast food at full volume.

- written by Tirza Winesett  

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