Dad’s Garage Gave Me a New Lease on Improv Life

Posted On:08.30.2018

By Anna Jones

I procrastinated for a long time to write this blog post. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I did. I tend to procrastinate on things that matter to me. I’m also a professional writer with my own copywriting business (PLUG TIME, EVERYONE GO TO WWW.GIRLCOPY.ORG AND HIRE ME!), which means that about 25% of my writing work arrives well past your standard end-of-day on the due date. The stuff I care to write about gets into my editors’ inboxes sometime around 11:39 p.m., usually.

Photo of Anna Jones and Isabelle Gilbert taken at Village Theatre

ALL THAT TO SAY, I really love Dad’s Garage – like, really, really love the damn theatre, as evidenced by me writing about it, posting about it on Instagram, and being a generally embarrassing fangirl. I first heard about Dad’s while living as a broke, starving actor in Seattle (I’m now a broke, starving sometimes-actor-all-times-writer living in Atlanta). I had gotten cast in the play 44 Plays for 44 Presidents (back when we thankfully only had 44 presidents), which had been produced at one point at Dad’s Garage. My director, Amanda Sox, told our cast all about Dad’s, how it was the South’s premiere improv theatre, and well-known throughout the country, if not the world. The way she described it made it sound magical. Being originally from Georgia, I vowed that if I ever moved back – in particular, to Atlanta – I would take classes at Dad’s in the hopes of eventually joining the comedy troupe. I had no plans at that point to move back home, but that’s me for you – always planning ahead, always outrageously ambitious.

Since performing in 44 Plays, I took the leap into letting my improv freak flag fly, and took classes with Jet City Improv in Seattle, got into The Groundlings classes in Los Angeles, and – SURPRISE SURPRISE – got knocked up and had to move back home (remember the whole thing about me being broke? I had $600 in my bank account when my husband I found out we were pregnant. Ugh – “we.” I hate it when couples say, “We’re pregnant,” like, calm down). So, goodbye Hollywood, hello Marietta and living with my in-laws.

It took me two years to work up the nerve after having a baby to dive back into improv and sign up for classes at Dad’s. I had taken a few other classes and gotten on teams in Atlanta while also co-founding Atlanta’s first all-LGBTQ+ improv group, Queeriety. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply for the Dad’s Garage Diversity Scholarship, as a member of the LGBTQ community and being a still-broke-starving-artist; so I did, several times. I finally got the scholarship on the 4th or 5th try and entered into Dad’s classes at Level 2. I took Level 3 and 4, and a bit after my Level 4 grad show, I was asked to join Dad’s Rookie team. With the word about town being that Dad’s doesn’t have a lot of space on their house teams and the why’s and how’s of being asked to join the company having a vaguely mysterious aura to them, I was fucking thrilled, and of course said yes! My West Coast dream of playing with East Coast improvisers had finally come true! I had single-handedly ended the East/West feud! I AM YOUR PRESIDENT OF THESE UNITED STATES NOW.

Bit of a digression, and I also glossed over a few things, namely, I was ready to leave Atlanta before I had gotten asked to join Rookies. I was taking job interviews back in California – like, literally flying out to San Francisco to interview for positions. I had grown up in the South and honestly, moving back home felt like I was a failure. I felt like I had gotten knocked up and now I was on a slow decline into irrelevance. Being broke and feeling broken takes its toll on a person. But Dad’s changed that for me. Being asked to be a part of the community there, and feeling like I truly belonged, whether it was playing in their Melting Pot show, in classes, or being asked to hop into a Cagematch show, really did kind of save me. It was my very own Homeless to Harvard Lifetime movie, so to speak. I don’t think there’s any shame in acknowledging that we all need validation, and feeling like the good people at Dad’s like me makes ME like me – and it gives me confidence to know that I’m doing good work, even outside of improv. With improv, I know that not one singular thing defines me. I know that in improv, I can be any singular thing.