Attorney in the Day, Improviser at Night—Our Barely Legal Rookie, Liz Grofic

Posted On:03.05.2015

By Liz Grofic, Rookie Improviser

I moved to Atlanta in 2010 after graduating from law school in Washington, D.C. I didn’t know anyone in the city except my then-boyfriend, and I didn’t know anything about Atlanta except the Olympics were held here in 1996. The first thing I did was find a theater so I could volunteer. I missed theater being in my life, and since I was done with law school I finally had time to explore what was out there.

I emailed a few theaters, checking to see who needed help. John Brandt, the house manager at a scrappy comedy theater called Dad’s Garage, emailed me and told me to wear comfortable shoes and show up Friday night by 7 p.m. Dad’s Garage was hosting the World Domination Tour where improv teams from all over the world came to play. It blew my mind. I saw short form improv, long form improv, duos and teams from Canada and Italy. It was a whirlwind and it impressed me because of the creativity and breadth that could be discovered from a simple suggestion.

I have been at Dad’s Garage almost every weekend since then. I started out as a volunteer, seating patrons and watching the shows. Laughing and loving every single minute along with the audience. Eventually, I took classes so that I could explore improv myself.

During this time I also started my career as a prosecutor, representing the State of Georgia in criminal cases. This meant that I negotiate plea deals with defense attorneys, speak to Judges because of a motion filed, and go to trial. A trial can be one of the most stressful experiences because it isn’t a matter of winning or losing. It is a matter of convincing people who aren’t familiar with the facts and persuading them to agree with your position. In my case, that means I am asking the jury to convict a person of committing crimes and then to convince a judge to follow a sentencing recommendation.

Law school teaches you a lot but it doesn’t teach you how to actually stand up and do your job. Most of what you need is learned by jumping in and making mistakes. That is where improv has been an invaluable asset to such a rigid job. Having to make quick decisions, speaking in front of groups of people, knowing how to keep people’s attention are all skills improv has helped me hone.

Dad’s Garage is more than just a place where I have learned skills that help me professionally, it is also a place where I have found friendships and a creative outlet. Since becoming a part of the Dad’s Garage family I have been a zombie extra in Songs of the Living Dead, house managed multiple nights, met Colin Mocherie and Tim Meadows, received a Volunteer Award, and as of August 2014 accepted the offer to be a Rookie Improvisor.

I’m floored that now I have an opportunity to workshop and improvise with people who I watched for years. This past year I was given the opportunity to Assistant Direct a show with Artistic Director Kevin Gillese. The scripted-improvised hybrid “It’s A Wonderful Laugh,” takes the original story of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and turns it on it’s head. It was an incredible learning experience and a joy to be part of the show.

Sometimes I am asked by other lawyers if I’m going to give up my job and “be on SNL,” or they tease me about being on stage. Mostly I get support from my colleagues because they can see how important it is to me. I can’t hide how passionate I am about this art form or how much fun it is to just play. It is the best way to relieve stress from the serious nature of what I do during the day, switching hats and being able to have fun with my friends. It’s really allowed me to have meaning in my work and meaning in my play. Now all I need is to get a dog and I’m all set.

X