How Star Trek improv has helped me to boldly go

By Velvet Wells

When people ask about the origin story of The Dandies and the troupe’s Star Trek improv show, Holodeck Follies, I note that Star Trek and improvisational comedy share something in common: both give protagonists the space to boldly go on adventures.

How I boldly go in Star Trek improv

As captain of the USS Pelican (each time we have a new ship, the audience gets to name it), my character, Tachyon Field is responsible for the ship and crew, as well as the outcome of any adventures. Regardless of who damaged the ship, blew up the planet, endangered a species, the responsible responsibility falls on my character’s shoulders. In real life that would be a lot of stress; but, with improv comedy, we can explore all of those risks and dangers without real life repercussions. Where you and I might hide or run away from Species 8472, it is not only Tachyon Field’s duty but pleasure to face that challenge head on. I love to create performer verbal and physical challenges such as songs and slow motion fights.

I also love to face the audience head on. When I perform Star Trek improv, I see the whole room as my stage, often going out into the crowds and engaging with audience members directly. While some performers view this as bold, for me it’s part of the fun of improv. I love having to incorporate anything an audience member says or does into the story – even if it’s out of the Star Trek universe!

I get joy from audience interaction because it is a way for me to give people the gift of boldly jumping into the story. People have willingly become dragons on the spot, shouted and cheered in Klingon, and sung along with one of my made-up songs. By the end of the show, other audience members are looking for their chance to have a spotlight moment.

How Star Trek improv has helped me boldly go in other shows

In 2018, I started performing solo improv around Toronto. I also started performing stand-up comedy. I took on both challenges, because I knew I wanted to develop a solo theatrical production and needed varied experiences of performing alone.

Recently, I performed at the 2019 Black and Funny Festival at Huge Theater in Minneapolis. This festival celebrates black excellence and featured troupes from across America and Canada. Of the groups that came down, I was the only one bringing solo improv to the festival. In addition to performing, I ran a workshop on audience interaction, and joined a performer panel called “Making Space Taking Space”. The weekend fed my goal of learning to, and enjoying the act of, taking space. In other words, being bolder on stage and off.

In general, doing solo improv and stand-up has given me greater trust in my talent, sense of humor, and ability to engage an audience on my own for long periods of time.

My next adventure – and how it’ll influence my Star Trek improv

Now, I’m preparing to tour my first solo theatrical production, Personal Demon Hunter across Canada. This is the scariest and most exciting thing I have ever attempted. As bold as that adventure will be, I have already had great practice with Star Trek improv and my most recent trip to Minnesota.

New improvisers are given the advice “experience as much life as possible in order to bring a rich performance to the stage”. Star Trek is about finding new life and boldly going. The work that I have done over the last year and a half has prepared me to boldly go off on this solo mission so I can come back a more resilient, wiser, bolder Captain Tachyon Field.

Want to see The Dandies boldly perform Star Trek improv comedy at the next Holodeck Follies?

Feed your Star Trek improv craving with the next Holodeck Follies! You can catch the show at Comedy Bar on Saturday April 13th at 8 p.m.