We’ve been meeting the people in our Neighborhood, but now it’s time to get to know our own a little more. Sam Haldiman is one of the instructors in The Torch Theatre Longform Training Center (which, by the way, I am almost a graduate of! He totally taught my Level 3 class.) and a performer in Searching for X and The Foundation. He also started Improvised Book Club, which I am a big fan of. Though I still haven’t finished the next book…
He is a huge part of The Torch in every capacity, and has been one of my favorite people to talk about improv over a beer. Or two. I asked Sam Haldiman a few questions about improv and Phoenix, and all things Torch:
Tell me a little bit about your path to improv. What was your first experience with it, and how did you decide to pursue it?
I did some improv in high school theater and had a lot of fun with it. My first exposure was short form which is quick paced games. A few years after school I did a few dinner theater shows that had a loose script and gave me the opportunity to try different things and interact with the audience. That experience reminded me how much fun improv was. At that point I started looking for an outlet and I found the Jester’z. I took their classes there and was soon asked to perform in their weekly shows.
I spent about three years with the Jester’z doing more short form improv. That was when I learned about a summer intensive workshop at iO theater in Chicago. Myself and three friends enrolled in the program and spent the summer of 2005 shacked up in an apartment together learning a new twist on improv, long form.
I fell in love with the art form, the city and the people there and decided to stay for awhile. I was very fortunate because I applied as an intern and got it so I didn’t have to pay for classes and as a student I got to see shows for free as well. I went through the program and eventually got placed on a house team. My education didn’t end there though.
What are the biggest lessons you learned through iO? How do you see those lessons in action with your work for The Torch?
I was the only person who was kept on as an intern after they finished classes so I continued to take classes. This time I took classes with different instructors. Some classes I took 3-4 times because the instructors were amazing to watch both on stage and in a classroom setting.
I think one of the biggest lessons that I learned from my time in Chicago is that you don’t need to be large and loud on stage. All it takes is committing to something and sticking with it. I also think that if you believe in what you say and do on stage wholeheartedly, no matter how ridiculous, the audience will want to take that journey with your character.
What made you choose Phoenix?
I always had in mind to return to Phoenix. This is where my roots are and I could see too many good improvisers leaving like I did but none of them were coming back. I wanted to have a city that people would come to knowing that we do just as good of shows and classes if not better than the major destinations.
PIF 8 was my wake up call for that. While I was gone these things were already happening. At that point I made my decision to return. I was welcomed with open arms and was able to bring my knowledge to the Torch Theater to be one of the many talented people who keep this passion alive every day.
What is your favorite non-improv related activity?
Although I spend a lot of time with the theater I still try to find some time to do other activities. With enough time though I think everything I do eventually spills over into the improv world. One of my favorite things to do is read and now those two worlds have collided with one of the shows I do called Improvised Book Club. I enjoy hanging out with friends and playing games on my Wii. Who knows what’s next though maybe my next show will use videogames in some way.
Where do you see the Phoenix improv scene in 5 years?
The next five years will be great for the improv community. We already have several teams forming in the classes and with the move into the new theater we will be able to expand our classes and shows and give more opportunities for people to put up their shows. The long form scene in Phoenix is basically untapped at this point. There is an obvious desire for it because the community has grown tremendously just in the short time I’ve been back in Phoenix. All we have to do is let everyone else know what they are missing out on.
Finish this sentence: “Improv is like ___________ because it is __________________.”
Improv is like mustard because it is fun.
Never a truer statement, folks. Sam is to improv as fun is to hot dogs. I think. Wait… Anyway, you can meet and learn from Sam Haldiman by signing up for the Summer Intensive!