#MyImprovJourney | Lisa Ploch Swope

#MyImprovJourney | Lisa Ploch Swope

  • Apr 12 2019
  • Written by Kyle Gossett
  • (2 votes)
One year ago, I was watching some guys unload a moving truck. It was early March and my view of Oklahoma was grim. I was homesick for Virginia, even though I had only lived there two and a half years before this move. In seventeen years, my husband and I had relocated half a dozen times, but I had never felt so uprooted before. In Richmond, I had an improv community and I didn’t know how to move forward without it.
I took my first improv class in February 2016 at ComedySportz® Richmond. Some people take improv classes to become better public speakers or team players at work; others are born performers looking for a creative outlet. For me, the class was an opportunity to try something interesting and challenging for eight weeks. My main pastime back then was reading, and my social circle was limited to my husband and two cats. Although I had always preferred to spend time alone, I was open to some socialization outside of work. As the date of the first class approached, though, I became anxious and started to fantasize about it being canceled for lack of enrollment. I had no idea what to expect.

That class was a portal to my new life. I discovered a universe where adults play and where there is no room for cool, guarded cynicism. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and to express my silly side. My classmates and I hit it off and started hanging out after class and doing group activities outside of improv. I had found my people, and at the end of eight weeks, I joined the Minor League, a beginners’ troupe specific to the ComedySportz® brand. I basked in the sense of community I had found. Then in early 2018, my husband’s company offered him an opportunity in Oklahoma. Together we were thrilled, but personally, I felt shattered.


Pictured: Lisa at ComedySportz® Richmond
I was so consumed with the fact that I would be leaving my improv family, I didn’t immediately think to find out if Oklahoma City had an improv scene. Fortunately, my teammates suggested the possibility, and a quick internet search brought me to the OKC Improv website. I enrolled in a Level 3 class scheduled to start shortly after my arrival. Taking classes in a new city could never compare to what I had in Richmond, but at least I didn’t have to quit doing improv.
My first night of class, I experienced every warmup game through a Richmond lens, and I ran a mental comparison. I was surprised to see similarities but I focused on small differences, trying simultaneously to stay loyal to my home theater and to protect myself in case OKC Improv turned out to be a mistake. I worried there would be no camaraderie, or worse yet, that there would be camaraderie among the existing students and I would not be included. I soon realized I had nothing to worry about, though, as my classmates enthusiastically welcomed me without hesitation.
By summer, I was enamored with OKC Improv. And then, two small events won me over
forever: a fall morning of cleaning and a winter afternoon potluck.

One might argue that being recruited to mop and paint on a Saturday is a stroke of bad luck, but when OKC Improv needed volunteers to get its new theater in the Plaza District ready, I knew I was in the right place at the right time. After being in town just a few months and taking two classes, I got to play a tiny part in bringing the new theater to life. Exploring the unfinished space and working side by side with other improvisers, I felt privileged to be part of something special.
The second milestone was a simple holiday potluck for the entire OKC Improv community. There were no stipulations that attendees must be in a troupe or actively enrolled in a class. It was an inclusive, casual gathering. I brought an appetizer, chatted with some people I knew from class, and struck up conversations with people I did not know. I met someone who, like me, was new to Oklahoma and someone else who had taken a class years ago but was on an extended break. It didn’t matter. We were all there because we loved improv and wanted to connect.

Pictured: Lisa Ploch Swope. © 2017 Rick Sleeman
“I got your back,” improvisers tell each other before going onstage. It’s a promise to support one another, to make each other shine, and never to leave a teammate hanging. But improvisers have each other’s backs offstage as well. By welcoming me so warmly, the OKC Improv community had my back. I discovered that my improv family extends beyond any local troupe or theater. Improvisers share a bond, and we don’t have to prove ourselves to be accepted.

I hope to stay in Oklahoma City for many years, but if life has another move in store for me at some point, I will travel with the confidence that there are kindhearted improvisers everywhere. Wherever life takes me, I will look for the local improv community and never be alone.

Website: www.lisaplochswope.com
Twitter: @LisaPloch
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