In the lead up to our next Cool Story Bro at Room to Play Independent Theatre in Paddington, Big Forker Jim is interviewing a few more of our players about improv, life and anything else that may come up.
This time it’s Big Fork Theatre co-founder Rosa Sotille, who spoke with Jim about THE SYSTEM~!, early Theatresports experiences, sports, rapping, while laughing a whole bunch. For this interview, fellow Big Fork Theatre co-founder Taylor Edwards was sitting at the other end of the room, listening in.
Jim: Hey Rosa.
Rosa: Hey Jim.
We just had an exciting Big Fork meeting!
God it was long!
It was 3 whole hours.
It was pretty productive though.
Yeah we got a lot finalised: we’ve had a busy few months.
It’s a lot of work, this running the theatre company thing, plus also having a full time job. Man the arts is BS sometimes.
That’s going to be the pull quote from his interview.
Well no the arts isn’t BS, but the system of our economy does not function in a way that encourages the arts. It’s messed up!
Well, we could spend all day discussing what’s wrong with the system, Rosa.
But let’s go back in time a little bit-
That will not improve the system, going back in time-
No, back to before you were a mainstay of the Brisbane comedy community. What got you into improv?
Well, Taylor and I, we went to High School together. Taylor is a champ.
So you’ve known Taylor since Grade 8?
Yep. So we were both obsessed with comedy and all our friends were obsessed with comedy, and we just sort of stumbled upon improv one day. Maybe it was an Impro Mafia show? It was something Theatresports-y. So we saw that enjoyed it and then discovered that we could do Theatresports through school so we did that. It was a bit of a mess though, we-.
Taylor (interrupting): Tell the story about our Theatresports success!
OK, so our drama teacher who was running Theatresports at our school was a bit useless. He was obsessed with Serious Drama but there was interest in Theatresports from a few people so he kind of had to do it, but you could tell he wasn’t pleased.
So we entered the High School Theatresports competition that’s still in existence today in Brisbane. Our team was Taylor and I and two other girls who were a year younger than us. Anyway, we turn up to the comp, Taylor and I, with my mum in tow, real pumped, ready to go. But then the other two girls AND OUR COACH just did not show up. So Taylor and I were there in our school uniforms just waiting for someone to tell us what to do or where to go. Eventually we stumble onto the place, and find the organisers and we’re still keen, right, so we say, “Look, nobody else showed up but we still want to perform” and they were like, “are you sure?” and we were like, “yeah, it’s fine.” We were REAL keen.
So we performed and we had to pick games, and we were so psyched, and we picked just the worst possible games from two people to do.
(Taylor and Rosa begin laughing, like, a lot).
Like on purpose?
I think so – like games we thought that it would be really funny to see two people do. So we did stunt doubles.
Can you explain Stunt Doubles to those that aren’t familiar?
So stunt doubles is a game where whenever a character on stage is about to do a physical activity, another person does the stunt as if that action warranted a stunt double.
So how did that work with just the two of you?
We were out own stunt doubles. It was madness. We got some good laughs though.
“Look at these poor girls, flailing about.”
But we didn’t make it through! I maintain we were funny! We think that they thought that we didn’t actually have a team and were just two sad weirdos that had just rocked up randomly. “Next time we’ll come back and bring a team, we promise”.
What happened to your teammates?
We still don’t know. I don’t think we ever followed up.
(Taylor and Rosa both laugh uproariously)
That’s good though, that your first improv experience was a happy failure
It was a total happy failure. My mum loved it.
(The laugher subsides, finally).
So that was my first interaction with improv, but then I called involved with politics at uni for a few years there and comedy kind of went by the wayside for a bit.
What brought you back?
I remember watching a bunch of UCB stuff, and then reading Tina Fey’s book, and I was like “What am I doing? Why haven’t I done improv yet? What’s happening in my life that this isn’t what I’m doing?” So I looked up some improv classes and the rest is history. Chris (Martin, fellow Big Fork Theatre co-founder) was actually in my level one class. And then Taylor did her level 1 a semester later.
So what do you do when you’re not improvising?
I’m always improvising (deranged noise). No, that’s not a serious answer. I’m a union organiser, I have a law degree, which was a total waste of time.
We’re the only two Forkers with law degrees, I think.
WHY DID WE DO IT? God it was terrible. By the end I was just doing it out of stubbornness.
“I don’t want to throw away 5 years!”
“This will not beat me!”
“Shaun Micallef has a law degree. Shaun Micallef has a law degree. Shaun Micallef has a law degree.”
He was an actual lawyer!
Andrew O’Keefe also.
Not as inspiring.
No, I guess not. So how long have you been improvising now?
Post High School Theatresports, since 2011, on and off. I moved interstate for a year in there somewhere where I didn’t do much improv. I guess I’d say it’s been a big part of my life since 2013.
What keeps you coming back to comedy and improv?
It’s super fun! Improv is one of the most enjoyable and fun things you can do, and it’s still enjoyable to me. There’s no planning involved, and I’m normally I’m a real neurotic person, so it’s very cathartic.
That’s been a recurring theme of these interviews: “I’m very neurotic and improv helps me deal with that.”
Well I’m neurotic but I’m also not a planner. I hate learning lines, so improv is way more fun for me that actually seriously acting, and you still get to perform, or you get to perform more often actually, which is a real drug. Also it’s people laughing at dumb things, which is my favourite thing in life.
Do you still get nervous on stage?
From time to time yeah, especially like if I know people in the audience who haven’t seen it before. People seem to like the shows we do, touch wood, but there’s always that risk that this could be the time it all goes wrong. The problem with nervousness in improv is that when you’re nervous you do too much to compensate, which I’m certainly guilty of, from time to time.
Oh yeah, that’s very true. I am right there with you on that. Do you have a best or favourite moment in improv so far?
I think, just because of how important it was for me developing as an improviser, was when Taylor and I first did our two person show. We started becoming interested in longform improv, and wanted to do something together. I guess we did a class with Jess Lampe through ImproMafia, which was our introduction to the Armando, and it was a revelation. And around the same time Impro Mafia were running a show called “The Big House” which was their longform improv night run by Jess and Britney (White), and it was a battle show. Anyway, we formed a team for that with a bunch of other people, and it was fine, but still not totally satisfying, so we said to each other “We have a lot of the same ideas...let’s do a show with just the two of us.”
And so we did what became Number 1, our twoprov team, and we went on stage in pyjama shirts and we were sports themed for some reason?
(Taylor again descends into laughter from the other side of the room. Rosa follows suit).
Both you and Taylor are famous sports fans.
Neither of us had any interest in sports whatsoever. I honestly don’t know why and we got sports related offers. (More laughter) We were just really excited about creating a format. Eventually the sports related offers morphed into us using random offers as the basis for spontaneous rapping, which we’ve ended up using as our opening every time we’ve done that show. Just freestyle rapping. Originally it was 5 raps inspired by audience suggestions, but we reduced it to 3.
5 is too many raps.
Yep. So the first time we did Number 1 was my favourite moment in improv so far because it was just so exciting. It was just us, we created it together, rehearsed it together, and put on a show. And people were laughing and having a great time, and we pulled off the rapping, and it was just so satisfying to do that show and have it go well.
What advice would you give someone thinking about getting into improv?
Do it. Just do it. Don’t be a weirdo about it, it doesn’t matter. If you have an interest in it, do it. We should have some free public classes coming up, so get amongst that! The thing about improv is that you’re allowed to suck. And you probably will suck until one day you’ll do something that won’t suck and progressively you’ll suck less. So if you wait to do improv, all you’re doing is delaying the beginning of the suck period, which then in turn delays the beginning of the great period, and why would you want to delay that?
A few rapid-fire questions, cause we’re running long here.
Can’t shut me up!
What or who makes you laugh?
Everything! Stupid stuff! Cam does dumb voices that are very funny. Taylor and I will just make weird noises at each other (they do this, then laugh again).
Perfect. Do you have a favourite Big Fork memory?
I think when we did the first chant of “Everybody Dies” at GET IT* INYA. Basically we ended our first ever show, this was GET IT* INYA number one, pre-dating even being called Big Fork Theatre, and we decided to end the show with everyone chanting “Everybody Dies.” I was like: “I don’t know if this is going to work – this could go really badly” and it was also after a really weird piece that we had rehearsed on my front veranda called “Man Gotta Eat,” which me and Taylor had made up on a train station platform a few weeks before. So we ended the show with a chant of “Everybody Dies” and lo and behold, everyone starts chanting “Everybody Dies” along with us. Magic.
The real discovery of GIIY, more so than any great comedic lesson, is that people love to chant stuff.
Where would you like to see Brisbane Improv in the next few years?
I’d really like to continue to grow our community, with new people coming in all the time, with new opportunities for the whole community. It’s possible for improv to become very insular, or lacking in diversity, because once people get into it, they love it, and that can cause a bit of stagnation. The wonderful thing about improv is that it’s so open and literally anyone can do it, so I really want more and more people in Brisbane to be involved in making this a broad community with people from all over the place getting amongst it.
Final question from my previous interviewee, Cam: What’s your favourite part of Brisbane Improv?
The fact that there’s so many talented people who are willing to give up their precious free time to do fun stuff with us. Like the number of people who turn up to the jams on Tuesday over the last year has been really encouraging, and everybody at the jams is so willing to listen and have fun with each other. We have a steady trickle of new people who come to the jams, and the ease with which they’re welcomed by everyone there is really great to see.
You can catch Rosa at Cool Story Bro, check out our upcoming shows for our next performance