XVR27's Improv Interviews - Dawn E. Emanuele - Improv-Specific Questions & Answers

Whose Improv Is It Anyway? : Original On-The-Spot Satire

An Interview With Dawn E. Emanuele

Improv-Specific Questions & Answers

ChivalRuss: How about more recent (post-school) acting.

Dawn E. Emanuele: OK, well, this is a little complicated, because I was in, like, Brownies and Girl Scouts and then I ended up stopping that. In fifth grade, they found out that I was dyslexic, a mild dyslexia, and I bounced around through so many schools that I was so quiet that they just passed me on. And that went on until the fifth grade when I had a teacher named Miss Therese Pfeifer who was just an amazing inspiration. I won art awards and writing awards not only locally, but nationally, because of this woman and her encouragement for all of her students. And I had her for fifth and sixth grade. And she made us square dance and she made us sing in front of the school and she gave me that confidence that I could do things, and she sat with me and two of the boys in my class and taught us how to read a first grade book and by the time I was in seventh grade, I was almost at a seventh grade level. Because of private tutoring and because of the help she gave. And I started coming a little more out of my shell and then, when I got to high school, acting started because I wanted to hang out with my friends. I started out as a go-fer. And then before I knew it, I was a stage manager. And then the next play we did, I was acting in it and I was helping with the costumes and I was doing the make-up. And then we had to find the props. And then I was the director's assistant and I was in charge of line counts and making sure everyone got on stage and cleaning up and permission slips, and it was like... I was the one that people went to. So I did some acting in some smaller plays and I was very passive about things. And they started up a ComedySportz...

ChivalRuss: ComedySportz?

Dawn E. Emanuele: Comedy and sports and the last "s" is a "z". And that's a lot like Second City or "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", but it's two teams that play against each other and it would be, like, two high schools - two high school teams against each other. We were the Buffalo Wings one year, and the next year, we were like the Whatzits or something like that, I can't remember right now.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yeah, I grew up in Milwaukee, I was born in Green Bay but we only lived there until I was about a year old. Umm, I've lived in Milwaukee for the last twenty-six years then. I was born November 5th, 1974. And in high school, I had a cousin who was in ComedySportz as a professional, actually got paid to do the performances and I always thought that it was interesting and fun, but when I went to sign up for it, it was full. So, I missed it because there were too many people. Well, within a couple of weeks, so many people had dropped out, I was on the team. And, by the end of the season, I was the captain.

ChivalRuss: Was your cousin still on the team?

Dawn E. Emanuele: No, I was trying out for the high school team. He was actually an adult who had been doing it who, on Friday and Saturday nights, would do performances where people would pay ten bucks a head to drink and eat and laugh their butts off.

ChivalRuss: Which, of course, made a big mess for the cleaning crew.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Oh, of course, completely, but y'know, they got paid extra if they cleaned up too. And so, it was one of those where it was like I started out kinda small on the totem pole and I kind of soared right up there. I was in Explorers, which is actually a division of Boy Scouts, so I was officially a Boy Scout (of Boy Scouts of America) and I started off just as a nobody and before I knew it, by the end of that year, I was president. So it's like this big creative rush where I ended up joining something small but, given the chance, I end up just taking off. That happened a few times where I start off as a job, even the job I currently have now managing a restaurant, I started off three days a week - I could walk to the place - and the next thing I knew, I was management. So I have nothing wrong with this progression in my life. Then after high school, the year after that I stayed on with ComedySportz and I went back and helped out with the drama department and with the ComedySportz team. I also worked with the Milwaukee Players, which is a professional theater group. I did props and set building, where we take huge sets from Biloxi Blues and Much Ado About Nothing to work with.

ChivalRuss: You wanted me to ask you about Much Ado About Nothing...

Dawn E. Emanuele: Right, I told you to ask me about Much Ado About Nothing. Well, I had auditioned for one of the lead female roles. I can't remember the name, which is obviously a clue to the fact that I didn't get the part. But part of that is because, I know that they liked me quite a bit because they encouraged me to come and tryout for other things, but we did an improvisational thing. I was supposed to be a young girl who totally had a crush on a boy. He was supposed to be so cute and so wonderful. Well, despite the fact that I am auditioning for a Shakespearian play, my brain goes straight back to the ComedySportz and I just start going on and on about this gorgeous man with sideburns and a tight tee shirt and I get so into it that I had him riding a motorcycle and I took my arms... and I started making motorcycle sounds and I was being, like, incredibly weird. And so, umm, yeah, I didn't get the part. I can't necessarily say that I agree with the girl that was cast but wow, I couldn't have got it for the overacting if that was the problem.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Really, those are the formal things that I've done. I'd love to get back to the theater, but it always seems like just a matter of time. I've done fashion shows, runway, for some stores or some charities, things like that...

Dawn E. Emanuele: OK. Well, making sure that your nose is wiped, you don't have to worry about that. Check that you don't have toilet paper hanging off the back of your heel is probably also a good tip just to think about. So, once you've got your appearance down... When I was little, I used to panic when I realized that everybody in the group was looking at me and I don't know why anymore because it shouldn't make a difference if you're talking to one person or if you're talking to a hundred. You're still going to say what you're going to say. If you mess up, you mess up. Big deal. As long as you don't do some severe Dan Quail kind of 'I'm-sticking-my-entire-leg-in-my-mouth' problem.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yeah. Yeah. And, um, the most important thing that I was always taught about... improvists: don't screw your partner...

ChivalRuss: Unless you're a professional?

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yeah; it's one of those where if you know for a fact that they can't do something like if they've got a bad knee, don't make them kneel down. That's not fair - c'mon, use your brains. Also, if they tell you, "go get my camel", don't look at them and say "No" because that's just a scene killer. It totally just stops everything. You might as well have crickets in the scene in the background automatically. You know, it's not going to help anybody.

ChivalRuss: Challenge, don't...

Dawn E. Emanuele: You just walk over and you get the camel. OK? Or something can happen in the meantime, but...

ChivalRuss: Challenge them, don't get them stuck.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Right, right. Help the scene go along. And you're not going to make yourself look better or funnier by stopping the scene. You know, it's not going to help the scene. It's gonna be better if you help set things up. By refusing to do something, you brake the flow. If someone tells you to eat a cockroach, just eat it! You're not really eating a cockroach, but the audience will react like you are. Besides, since you can't read the mind of the other person, they might have a really funny joke to go with it. If you can make something work, it'll make everyone better. And that's the thing about improv - it's supposed to be fun for everyone. Not just, "OK, I'm gonna hog the good joke, I'm gonna hog the good line." That's just rude.

ChivalRuss: OK, any other specific improv-related tips either regarding specific improv games you've done or things that you've seen work out really well. In other words, things you should do as opposed to what we were talking about before (things you shouldn't do).

Dawn E. Emanuele: Well personally, I'm not the best song person. I'm not the best at on-the-spur-of-the-moment make-up-songs person. So, just for the enjoyment of the crowd, I think it's better if I stay away from the rhyming thing. And, watching a show like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", you'll see them utilizing the best characteristics of each person on the show. Y'know, one person is great at making up songs., so there's a couple of different games where that's what he does specifically. With some people, you can just see their strengths and weaknesses. They might be good at figuring out who the person is that tries to walk through the room, so that's what they do. Play around with the games and learn for yourself what you can do. If you really want to get better, then you do have to practice, but don't just assume that you can do every single game. Everyone does have their strengths and weaknesses. It's about fun. So, it's not going to be any fun if I'm standing up there trying to make up a song and I can't get any. It's just like, "Umm... next."

ChivalRuss: And then you have Colin [Mochrie] who always plays the woman on the series.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yeah (laughing). Y'know, it's about audience enjoyment when you pick on the bald one, but it's in jest. If you know that person seriously has a problem and is looking into hair plugs, you may want to...

ChivalRuss: ...lay off that particular area.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yeah, yeah, because fist fights... although, a pie fight is funny.

ChivalRuss: Any other tips or suggestions about performing, projecting an air of confidence?

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