Adam Hoelscher has been a staple of the improv community in Kansas City since before we can remember. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to take a class with him, his passion and his energy is infectious. He cares about making people care about improv and holding it to as high a standard as other art forms. He has a way of giving you that direct note you always needed, but in the most loving way.
These days, you can see him doing improv as part of That’s No Movie, or with The KC Improv Company, you can listen to him as a part of The Culdesac Kids podcast, or you can see him in multiple sketches, and films made by Bird in The Middle Productions.
Is there any single event or person that made you fall in love with improv? Not just what got you into improv but what made it a passion for you.
When I was in 5th grade an amazing teacher/director named Kathy Weinke was teaching a Drama School at East Central College during the summer and invited me to go. She taught the theater games and “Yes, And.” Early principals. We got to write our own one acts through using cooperative writing through improv. She really started my love for the possibilities that both existed in theater and comedy.
Sadly, she passed due to cancer when I was in the 8th grade. Out of her students in that small drama school, I know of 6 that still do this professionally, and a slew of others that found their voice in her classes. From 5th grade on I just never stopped finding classes or working with theaters. Improv was my strongest asset in straight theater so it seemed obvious where I fit.
Over the years, is there anything that made you hate improv? Or just need a break from it?
The impermanence of the product/we put half baked shows on at times with wildly varying stage acumen, and no difference in ticket pricing/event concept. “One improv show is all improv shows” is the kill shot. I heavily believe the idea of improv needs to be removed and replaced with descriptive show titles that are represented as theater.
So, do you believe that improv isn’t a great description of what we do, or just not enough of a selling point on it’s own to draw audiences in? Or is it just that the term improv has a lot of negative connotations that come along with it?
To me, it’s like advertising a band by saying, “I gotta’ come see guitars, drums and vocals!” Those are the instruments that make the music but not the reason you go see it. Improv is our sketch tool not the reason you’re coming. Better definitions of what is different about your show (rock/jazz/punk) and why people should come hear you play it.
Who is an improviser in the KC community that you haven’t gotten the chance to work with much but would love to play with more? Why?
Andy Perkins. I really like watching him work. He puts a lot of life behind the eyes of the characters he plays. Like, I’m fairly sure if I asked him he could write out a character’s life profile for any 3-second bit character he played.
If you had a Kirby-like ability to suck someone up, and absorb their skill set, what improviser’s powers would you absorb? KC or globally.
In KC, I’ll take all of Ashley Osborne, and Kate Haugan’s timing. Please, and thank you. Worldwide, I’ll absorb up Will Hines, and Amy Poelher. Their commitment to character and that intangible believability that allows them to be as silly as they want without hitting that wall of unfunny.
Are there any trends in improv you wish would be dialed back a little? Or a pet peeve that takes you out of a set when you’re watching it?
Playing the mistake. It usually feels like it abandoned what’s been built for a short run joke. Then you have to clamor back to the scene.
For improvisers who are in that 1-2 year part of their journey, where they have taken a good amount of classes, but are wondering, “what’s next?”, what advice would you give to them?
Grab the people you like playing with, and get a coach/director. Even if you never perform you’ll learn so much about your voice, and timing in smaller group that consistently rehearses together.
What do you want to see more of in the Kansas City improv community in 2019?
Event shows, and marketing/promotion. Also, more sketch content and podcasts.
When we’re first learning improv, we tend to lean into our strengths, but as we keep going, we start to work on the things that are more challenging to us. Is there something you find yourself working on more nowadays that you used to not focus on as much? How has it helped or hindered your play?
Heavily working on not having that immediate response but instead letting moments build in tension, and importance. It is a difficult thing because your partner also has to hear the beat, but when it hits right it seems to really shift an audience’s perception on what they are watching.
Do you have a go to GIF or meme you find yourself using?
I like Golden Girls reactions. Mostly Blanch or Sophia.