WHO WERE YOUR ACTING/IMPROV INFLUENCES, ROLE MODELS? As a kid, I loved Carol Burnett. The first show I watched religiously was the Carol Burnett Show, and I even lobbied to name my dog after her. Then in second grade, my teacher sent home a note with my report card that said "Cara is like having a 7 year old Gilda Radner in my class." I'm not sure she meant it as a compliment but I still think it's one of the best things anyone has ever said about me!
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN IMPROV? I am originally from Los Angeles and my improv beginnings were inauspicious, to say the least. I was a huge fan of The Groundlings and finally got up the nerve to take a class. After my third class, the teacher took me aside and told me I was terrible and should never do improv again. Luckily, 10 years later on a whim I took another class in New York and things turned out much better.
WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF PERFORMING? A lot of people say to me, "you must have to think so fast on your feet," but what I love about improv is not thinking at all. My mind is usually totally blank and then I react. It's like a totally different experience than daily life where you have to think and plan everything. And love performing for an audience - their reactions and energy make a huge difference - even if there is only a modest crowd. Size doesn't always matter!
DETAIL, CHRONOLOGICALLY, YOUR IMPROV RESUME/CAREER? 1999 The Groundlings - student 2011-present Quickthinking! Improv - student and performer 2012 Boom Patrol - perfomer 2012-present Tom Soter's Sunday Night Improv - student and performer 2013 Magnet Theater - musical improv student
WHO WERE YOUR TEACHERS? Before being unceremoniously booted from The Groundlings, I had two great teachers, Roy Jenkins and Jennifer Joyce, but my true improv mentor is John Swist, who picked me up and dusted me off after a ten year hiatus and gave me the opportunity to perform after a few months in his Quickthinking! improv class show. If I ever feel like I'm in an improv slump, I go to John's class to get back on track. John also invited me to join a group, Boom Patrol, and brought in some great improv coaches to work with us, including Chris Griggs and Brett Weane. Chris Griggs then introduced me to Tom Soter's Sunday Night Improv where I've had the chance to study under Tom and the wonderful Carol Schindler.
WHAT DO YOU GET FROM DOING SUNDAY NIGHT IMPROV? IS IT FUN? Sunday Night Improv is always fun, and great chance to work with some of the best improvisers in town. I remember one of my first SNI shows, there were only two people in the audience and one of them was trying to trip us up and kept making the same suggestion every scene, but my fellow cast members didn't bat an eye - they made it work every time. That's when I knew I was working with the best of the best. I confess sometimes i don't even want to get up for a scene because I'm having too much fun watching the other cast members perform There have been many Sunday when I didn't feel like trekking to the upper west side, but I always leave feeling exhilarated.
DESCRIBE YOUR MOST CHALLENGING IMPROV MOMENT? During my my Magnet musical improv class, we were taught four possible song structures, but during the performance, my scene partner set up a song structure that was impossible to follow and I totally froze. After trying to make up for my silence with some pretty sorry dance moves while he sang the verses and the chorus, I finally managed to belt out a pretty good bridge and luckily the audience was none the wiser.
YOUR MOST REWARDING IMPROV WORK? Not to get too sentimental, but I have to say my most cherished improv moment was shortly after my mom died. No one in my family was feeling particularly jolly during that time, but my dad was in New York and came to see me perform in Sunday Night Improv and it was just a really great show where we were all on fire that night and I could hear my dad laughing so loud. Like really, really laughing. It really was a great experience for me.
DONE ANY WORK IN TV? FILMS? SCRIPTED THEATER? With the exception of being in a music video when I was 12 that was probably never aired outside the Soviet Union, I've never been on TV. I was Anita in a rousing production of "West Side '89" in junior high school (my school was too cheap to pay the rights for West Side Story), and then performed in two way way way off Broadway productions of Shakespeare's Two Gentleman of Verona and Midsummer Night's Dream in the late 90's. I am currently taking beginning acting with Mark Grenier at the Barrow Group.
WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO GO WITH THIS? I do improv purely for the love of it. Like any 38 year old single woman in NY, there is a part of me that aspires to be Tina Fey, but in general I do improv just for fun. My day job consists of very serious humanitarian work, and I love totally switching gears and laughing and making people laugh when I have the chance. I just love the opportunity to perform and continue learning, and quite frankly the lessons I learn from improv - like saying yes and taking whatever comes at you - are just great life lessons in general.
WORST IMPROV EXPERIENCE? I can't really think of a worst improv moment - some of the worst "mistakes" have turned into comedy gold. I guess I'd say my "worst" experience was going to a musical mixer alone one night and singing the MOST amazing song about falling in love with a unicorn while tripping on mushrooms... and no one I knew was there to see it.
SEE CARA DOLAN AT SUNDAY NIGHT IMPROV ON FEB 16 & FEB 23!