Maria Konopken is a graduate of The Torch Theatre‘s training center in Phoenix where she also performs. Maria is in Chicago for the summer, taking classes at iO Chicago, performing, getting into all kinds of adventures, and generally living up the improv life. She loves Space Jam, too. Maria‘s been kind enough to document her journey and share it with us. Thanks, Maria! The Torch Theatre‘s 4721 Blog is proud to present The Big Yes And: Maria in Chicago!
Feels Like Home
by Maria Konopken
One of my favorite things about The Torch Theatre’s stage is its familiarity.
I know where the holes in walls are, the right corner to hide in, and where the ramp is to not eat it on that stage. I have acted, sang, dance, and been injured on that stage. Some of my favorite memories of performing and class are on that stage.
It feels like home.
The Torch’s stage has also been a place where I play with my friends and have my friends and family come see me. As any improvisor knows, explaining what longform improv is can be hard to someone who hasn’t seen it. While you can defend it all day and tell your mother that she is not a part of your act, it is better when someone sees it.
While some of my friends and family saw my earlier shows (again, I’m sorry), it wasn’t until a few months into learning about improv where I felt home on stage and able to explore. The players in Adult Bakery really helped with this as we spent many Sundays together being goofy and baking with one another. Those Sundays turned into spending a few days at the Torch to basically living at the theatre.
Two of those people who have made me feel at home at the Torch were Chris Hooper and Lauren Corl. They have also made me feel at home in Chicago. While I have made great friends here in Chicago, it is nice to have a little piece of home here.
So it was a no-brainer that we would want to perform together at iO’s BYOT (Bring Your Own Team). BYOT is an open mic night for people to bring their teams to perform a 10 minute set on Saturdays midnight. You submit your team, and it is chosen at random to get up and perform.
Chris, Lauren, and I’s plan was to watch a few acts, perform as Quarter Baker’s Dozen, watch a few more then leave as the show may last until 3 am. Some of our family and friends came out to see us perform which was great because they hadn’t seen us perform before.
For BYOT, after everyone has submitted, they pick your team name off a man dressed as a robot. You are given 10 minutes to warm up, and then your team goes up and performs for 10 minutes. As the crowd roared with excitement, the host and robot picked the first team…us. Chris, Lauren, and I looked at it each other like ummm what? But we didn’t have any time to process it-we were up.
As we waited 10 minutes while the BYOT house team performed, we warmed up near iO’s cabaret bathrooms. We were all a little nervous, but we comforted each other by saying this is like the stage back home. This is like the Torch back home. Sure greats like Tina Fey, Chris Farley, and countless others have performed here, but this is just like any stage. The scene from Hoosiers where Gene Hackman measures the basketball court went through my head, along with my dad cheering, and oddly enough that comforted me.
We were ready to go! They announced our name and sober-ish people welcomed us to the stage. Lauren asked for a suggestion and we were off. We were yelling, chatting, and working out with each other on stage. I laughed a lot and we had fun. In Susan Messing’s words, if you didn’t have fun, you are the a**h***.
Those 10 minutes went quick. Was it our best show? No, but we had a great time. Yes, it was a different stage, but we were familiar with each other and knew we each had each other’s back. I am so blessed to have had Chris and Lauren with me that night, and during my time in Chicago. No matter what, I know I can count on them to have fun, laugh, and be silly on stage and off.