September 13, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Amy Marquez’s Improvisational Comedy

What are you working on—on the side?

I work with a long-lived improvisational comedy troupe in San Antonio, TX, called The Oxymorons. They’ve been around since 1989. I actually “interned” with them during the summers when I was working on my undergraduate degree.

I began performing improv when I was 19. I co-founded the Texas A&M University improv troupe, Freudian Slip, in 1992, and studied at ImprovOlympic in Santa Monica, CA, in 2000. When I moved back to San Antonio in 2007, I met back up with The Oxys. They remembered me and asked me to come back and “play.” I’ve been performing with them since then.

My other side projects are writing articles and posts for user experience (UX) publications, and working on a book along the same lines as the articles I write.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

My career is really time and energy consuming. I’m very passionate about UX, and have to remind myself to step away from it to spend much needed time with my children and husband. But I also need to feed that part of me that is unfiltered and can let the ideas fly. So I make time for improv. I love theater, I love performing, and although improv is very physically and emotionally demanding, it’s also the lowest time commitment form of performing. By nature, there’s no rehearsal. And I can perform with the troupe on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on what I’m able to fit into my schedule.

With writing, I’m finding it harder recently to focus much time on it. I really enjoy writing, but lately my work has been so intense and mentally draining that the energy I usually have to write is sapped by the end of each day. I’m working on that, though.

Why have side projects?

Even though my career is very creative, I need an outlet for the performance side of creativity. My brain literally feels like it operates more slowly the longer I go in between improv performances. There’s just something about improv that makes every decision faster and easier to make. I feel like I can filter through ideas, dismiss the ones that don’t work, and accept the ones that do work, much more quickly when I am actively involved in improv. It’s also very cathartic. Think of all the emotions the average person has to hold in or modify on a daily basis in order to be socially acceptable. You can let all of that go in improv.

As for the writing, having been in the design profession for over 15 years, I feel like I have valuable insights to offer. If I can help other designers who are newer to the profession learn from my mistakes or experiences, then I’ve passed along something that, hopefully, they will pass on.

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Diptych courtesy of Amy Marquez.

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Read too my Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire) answered by Amy Marquez and her interview about family, improv, and empathy.

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