This is going to be a sappy-ass article about being young, lost, and finding a home. I’m not going to hold back, not even a little. So adjust your diet for this load of cotton candy emotions accordingly.
When you’re 19, you think you have a pretty good understanding of who you are as a person. You know things about you will change, like your favorite food or which version of Law and Order is your favorite (SVU, btw). But sometimes it takes a seemingly life shattering event to allow yourself to change things up. Sometimes you don’t even know that’s what’s happening.
During my sophomore year in college at Bowling Green State University, my first long term boyfriend broke up with me. We had been dating since high school and at the time, it was the worst thing to ever happen to me. It was sort of messy. I threw my promise ring in the trash in front of him and everything. I had built so much of who I was around the life I thought he and I would live. That was a damn mistake but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.
A couple months later, I had moved onto the ‘I’m Free and Will Show Him Just How Badly He Messed Up’ phase, where I was dating new people, trying new hair styles, that kind of stuff. Then I found out the improv troupe that had just been invented was having try outs. I was always pretty good at the improv exercises in high school theatre so I decided I’d give it a go.
I owe everything I like about myself to that brand spankin’ new troupe, No Name Basis.
I was in NNB for three years, the last of which I became the troupe director and coach. I came out at the end of it all with stellar public speaking, quick thinking, community development, teamwork, and creativity skills. Improv can do that for everyone who gives it a shot. By becoming a couch and troupe director, I learned how to lead people. I learned how to teach and give feedback. And suddenly I was better at my job because of the stuff I learned at improv practice, trying to make my friends laugh. I was suddenly writing better scripts because I spent so much time coming up with mini plots off the top of my head and sensing how people would react in those situations. It made me a better employee, a better writer, a better filmmaker, and a better person.
Let me tell you about this troupe.
It’s not the most popular improv troupe on campus and it isn’t the best trained one either. But from the very beginning, it was a family. Don’t get me wrong. We worked hard, especially after the “bad years” to learn the craft of improv and become better improvisational comedians. Every year rendered new folks with old folks leaving, but once you’re in No Name Basis, you’re always welcome. Always.
The craft was important. We were/are a learning-based troupe. But above all else, above the shows, above the comedy, even above the fundamentals of improv, your teammate came first. We took care of each other both on and off the stage. We supported each other in our other activities. We helped each other move. We fought. We argued. We got over it. And when you truly love and care about the person standing next to you on stage, pretending to be your dairy farmer uncle milking a sea cow, something special happens. Magic happens. By god, you become his distressed but gullible niece ready to turn whatever comes out of that creature into ice cream. The audience can feel your chemistry. When it’s good chemistry it feels honest. And when it’s honest, it’s funny.
So No Name Basis is 5 years old now. I’m watching the people I taught improv to teaching it themselves. I am a giant, emotional baby so can you imagine how much that affects me? The stupid amount of pride I feel? It’s overwhelming. I’m sure to the newbies I’m like that weird aunt that just fawns over you even though you barely know each other. But NNB has become its own entity at this point, with its own culture and personality. A colorful band of misfits who want to learn.
So, thank you No Name Basis. For helping me realize I was funny. For giving me confidence. For making me brave. For the insane amount of laughter. For the jumpstart to the right side of my brain. For all the amazing friends I’ve made. For giving me a home I will miss now that I’m finally moving on.
And thank you Vince Gibbs for starting it all.