Tuesday, November 15, 2011

iO West artistic director James Grace in brief

JamesGrace, Artistic Director of iO West, is known to many as an authority figure, the location where the buck stops, the guy in charge, albeit a hilarious guy in charge.

I sat down with him recently, and briefly, in the iO West office to get a glimpse of the man behind the machine.

SKK: What was the moment you first discovered you loved performing improv?

JG: Improv as we [perform it] now? I started in high school. I went to a high school that fostered our development, and they brought in different workshops: Shakespeare, improv, and other artistic classes. So in high school, I got a taste of improv, and I loved it.

SKK: What has been your favorite on-stage experience so far?

JG: Oh, there have been too many to list.

SKK: What led you to begin teaching improv?

JG: I started coaching when I was 18 back in Chicago, and I really enjoyed working with people, passing on what I knew and learning from them. It was part of my learning process back then; it was part of my growth as well as theirs. And I would say that that continues to this day, about 10 years later at the age of 28. You're constantly learning from the people you're working with. So it's a really unique experience to pull something out of someone and then also grow as a result.

What has been your favorite in-class experience so far? In-class or as a result of class?

JG: Well it's been over 20 years of teaching, so I don't have a specific [experience in mind], but what I really love is having taught someone and then later getting to play with them on stage. So I love the relationships. You meet someone, you help them develop, you learn from them as well, and eventually new relationships and friendships are born from that.

SKK: Lastly, for everyone reading this blog who is trying to figure out what shows to see first, which are a few Harold teams you think are particularly successful, and why do they work so well? You can include your own.

JG: I think that King Ten is one of those teams, and part of the main reason is the relationships that they have on stage. They're a team that's been together a long time, and yet they're using the basic improv rules to create great work onstage.USS Rock n Roll is a team that does exceptionally good group work. They have great writing energy. They can find something, heighten it, and build it to the next thing.

I would highlight those two as two of our strongest veteran teams, but there are also a number of newer teams coming up. Trophy Wife is a team that's very connected and does consistently outstanding work. [It's] also a team that is not afraid and is challenging itself to grow.

James Grace's bio:James Grace, the Artistic Director of the iO West Theater, has performed, written, produced and directed comedy for the stage, web, television and film.

Credits include Super Troopers, Beer Fest, Real World Hollywood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Reno 911, Mr. Wrong and many more. He has performed and taught improvisational comedy for over two decades.

James currently teaches Work Out Classes and Harold - Level 5.

- Shawn Kathryn Kane

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