I don’t like improv. I love it.
I’ve been telling stories my whole life. It started with playing Barbies with my friend Josette Campbell next door. Josette liked defining what the barbies were doing ahead of time. I always wanted to give them a voice and “just see what happens next.” I didn’t know it then, but I was improvising. I’ve been doing it ever since.
When I stopped playing with Barbies, I started writing stories down. I still heard the characters speaking in my head. So I listened to the voices and just wrote down what they said. Eventually I would discover this was called “Playwrighting.” I did that for a long time. I wrote comedy, musicals, and gothic dramas with a modern twist. I also discovered that I liked being other people, and so an acting career was born.
Along the way, my love of “just seeing what happens next,” turned into a love of improv. Some amazing friends of mind, Elinor Holt and Karen Johnson Diamond, were starting an “actors night off” thing called Dirty Laundry. I was honoured to have been on the ground floor of Calgary’s Only Completely Live, Completely Improvised soap opera, and played with them for 16 incredible years. My favourite thing about the improvised soaps were the genres we got to play around in. From there I discovered long form narrative improv and got caught up with a bunch of amazing kooks called The Kinkonauts. I was hooked. By year 14 with the Kinkonauts I was performing weekly, coaching teams, teaching improv to new students, and facilitating improv with businesses who wanted to communicate better with their teams. My super talented friend Sara and I joined forces and became our own music-ispired duo, All Request Heartache. I was all in.
It All Comes Together
I had kids in there too, and that took up a lot of my time. I still liked writing though, and I’ve always had a concurrent love of music. From the Big Band music my folks listened to, to 50s rock and roll, then to ABBA and the Beegees, New Wave, pop music, and eventually folk and Americana, and local heroes. Music is the gut punch that tells your soul how to feel about what you’re hearing. I discovered songwriting as a way to keep telling stories, keep having a voice for the people in my head, and imbue them with emotional punch through music.
The Moral of the Story
Someone once told me, “Nicole, sure you’re good at everything. Which means you’re not great at any one thing.” And that bothered me for a long time. But I realized that all the experiences I’ve had along the way – everything that I’ve done, for love or money – has made me who I am, and given me a huge well from which to draw. I’m good with that. If you are too, then come on, and “see what happens next.”