One of the most exciting things that came from the opening of the new iO Theater was the creation of The Mission Theater, a space curated by TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi. With The Mission Theater came the creation of a new ongoing sketch revue directed by the duo, two of the most respected improvisers in the city, who have brought together an amazing cast of talented performers to craft a sketch show birthed from improvisation.
I emailed with cast member Laurel Krabacher about her experience creating and performing in the show week after week at iO.
Harrison George: What was your experience auditioning? What you were expecting and what did the audition consist of?
Laurel Krabacher: The audition was with a group of 8 people. They called us up for two person scenes and then we did a montage. The callback was a group of 16 people. They split us in to two groups and we each did a montage. We had about an hour to go over the scene with our partner, and then we performed them. During the whole audition process they emphasized on playing close to yourself and to exist in the scene moment to moment. It was nerve-racking for sure, but I remember TJ and Dave were great about putting us all at ease.
Harrison: I heard rehearsals were very intense: 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for multiple weeks, correct? How did working that schedule affect the show?
Laurel: Doing improv for 25 hours a week on top of the improv I was doing at night was insane. I was mentally exhausted at the end of each day. I would just go home and stare at a wall. It pushed me harder than ever. I think just going and going helped get stuff out of me that I didn't even know was there.
Harrison: What were your initial observations/thoughts on TJ and Dave's style? What you expected? Surprising?
Laurel: They are two of the nicest people I have ever met. And they are fun. They pushed us hard and they were honest, but never in a way that hurt us or the show. Dave would often say exactly what I needed to hear. Like, “This is about the time when you get worried that you aren't in enough things or your things aren't good. That's okay, that's normal.” I let out a sigh of relief when he said that.
Harrison: TJ and Dave co-directed this show. How was it having two directors?
Laurel: It was great. It felt like a lot more got done that way. We would often split up- TJ would take a group to work on one scene and Dave would work on a group with another scene. They each had their own style but they were always on the same page.
Harrison: How did you feel working with a cast that was not only new to each other, but working in a brand new theater? Was it freeing to be doing something no one had done before? (compared to say, doing a Houseco show at Second City, where 9,000 people have done that in the past)
Laurel: It felt really special. I felt a lot of pressure because I wanted to make TJ and Dave proud and I wanted to be a good person to work with. They were very organized. Catherine, the producer was wonderful. Everything felt professional and taken care of.
I really like how they casted the show. All very intelligent, kind people that you don't mind spending 25 hours a week with. I like that we had vets alongside new people. I think it brought a great perspective to the show.
Harrison: What were the biggest challenges during the rehearsal process and while the show was going up?
Laurel: The biggest challenge for me was the pressure I put on myself. I do a great job of making myself feel like a piece of shit sometimes. It was nice to have Lawrence around to put up with my crazy-person tears and to make me food and tell me that everything was going to be okay.
Harrison: How did you feel about the improv to sketch process? Any thoughts on the act of re-improvising a scene?
Laurel: The improv to sketch process was new for me. It was fascinating. Sometimes a scene would be amazing improvised and then complete crap the second time around.
I think there might be something to remembering the energy that you put in to the improvised scene and remembering it when you improvise it the second time around. I think I feel a lot of things physically and so I would try to remember how I was feeling physically the first time around and recreate it.
Harrison: The show’s dark tone is something that really surprised me. Was that discussed at all as the show came together?
Laurel: We brought in ideas that were dark and we all tended to like darker things. We knew from the get-go that we wanted the show to be more than just laughs. We wanted it to be about real people.
Dave kept having us brainstorm things that bugged us throughout the day and we had a lot of discussions on our thoughts about the world and life. We definitely realized that the show was going to be dark. And I loved that.
When TJ and Dave told us the title was going to be 'Trap', it made a lot of sense. All of the characters are really trapped emotionally or physically. It definitely leaves people thinking and that what art is supposed to do, right?
See Trap now through the end of the year, Thursdays to Sunday at 8pm at The Mission Theater at iO. Tickets are $20 and $10 for students and performers. You can get more info and order tickets by clicking here.