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J: Improv wise, you have been with a lot of teams. Your current UCB improv team Standard Oil has a mix of seasoned veterans and newbies. How is it changing teams?

PM: I think it might be my fifth team at UCB. I was on my last team for a long time. Any time your team gets broken up and you get onto a new team, thereís a sad feeling of (laughing) ĎOh, I guess Iíll never see you guys again!í But then you have to get immediately excited for your new team. You mourn the loss of your old team, but you get very excited about your new team and start thinking how it will be interesting to perform with a new teammate, or it will be an interesting combination. Maybe the new combination will work better than the old one was. 

I like to perform with all different kinds of people, even if I was on the old team a long time and loved it. You may get lazy as an improviser if you know one castmate will always come in and do a certain type of thing or trust another person to do something else, and then you end up less active as an improviser. Performing with a cast you havenít performed with before keeps you on your toes, and you want scenes to be good for everyone. You donít want to think, ĎI just called it in and sat back and let you do all the work or I was pushing my agenda and didnít listen to you.í I think it makes you be a better improviser.

When you get onto a team with all new people, sometimes you have issues with being too polite. Youíre like, ĎNo you, no you, you sir, after you, go right ahead!í You have to get over that pretty quickly because thatís not good for anybody. Having more veteran people with newer people makes it exciting for veterans too. You want the experience to be good for someone whoís never been on a team before. You want them to feel, ĎThis is exciting and I enjoy doing this and this is great. Instead of, ĎOh no, that was horrible!í When I was first on a Harold team, every show I hated myself. I would think, ĎOh God, now I have to wait two more weeks to redeem myself!í Instead of thinking about the show or team as a whole, I would think, ĎIím not funny, Iím terrible, I donít know how to do this!í You get over that. Once you do it for so long, you become more team-minded as opposed to your own individual concerns. The team might have a great show and you didnít feel good about it, but at least we had a good show.

J: Harold Night seems like a big event each week. Do you still get nervous, since the house is always full?

PM: I donít. It took a long time for me to get to that point. I used to get really nervous. I would be terrified. I had really terrible stage fright. I would think, ĎWhy am I doing this?í Why am I doing this to myself? But once I got out there and did it, I would be happy about it. Now I donít get nervous at Harold Night at all. I donít think about whether something was the right move or if I understood everything. Thatís all stripped away. The theater is packed, there are people on stage and also standing in the back. When I first started, the Harold shows didnít sell out every week. The more people there, the greater the energy from the audience. If there are less people watching, thereís more hesitation to react from the audience.

The worst that can happen is if I have a bad scene, my teammates will help out. This supports better choices and makes me enjoy improvising more, and makes the shows better. The audience doesnít have to sympathize with a cast having a difficult time on stage. The audience sees us having fun and knows weíre enjoying it.

J: When youíre improvising, do you come out thinking you want to work on a particular technique in improvisation games?

PM: Iíll think that. Sometimes Betsy Stover and I will be thinking, ĎToday Iím going to work on grounding the scene or Iím going to work on environment.í Maybe itís in the back of your mind and you might do it, like Ďoh Iíll go get a drink of water.í  Or Iíll try to notice the drapes or something. But once we start doing that, then weíre very much in the moment and what ideas weíre generating together. Iím ready to receive whatever you want to dish out. Anything I said prior to that, usually goes to the wind.

I donít end the show thinking, ĎI really did work on environment, I did great.í I donít even think about it after. Once the show gets started, once you generate ideas in the opening, once Iím in a scene with someone, Iím very much in the moment. I try to disregard that there is an audience there and I try to pay attention and think about the situation weíre in together. I try to really listen.

J: In one of the reviews for your one-woman show, the reviewer basically said, watch out for her to move to L.A. Why New York instead of L.A.?

PM: Itís tough because many others in the theatre have moved to L.A. or are moving there, including a lot of friends of mine. Everyone I know who lives in L.A. now says, Ďyou gotta move out here.í I think about it, but when I started taking classes at UCB, in 2003, just for fun, I didnít think I was going to be an actor, comedian or writer. I lived in New York before, I didnít move to New York to become a comedian. It was just by chance. I really love the theater here. Itís a different feel than what I just guess L.A. theatre is like. There is excitement on Harold night and on Maude night. Itís a lot of fun to perform at the UCB Theatre.  New York is awesome for everything else that it has. There is so much to do, itís steeped in history and itís cool.



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