Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things going in the Windy City ?
Beth Melewski: Great! We just opened the new e.t.c. show and I've got my whole summer ahead of me! Woo hoo! Spring is also such a great time to be in Chicago so all is good.
DS: When did you decide to go into improv and sketch comedy? When did you have your “ Second City ” moment? Or IO moment?
BM: I did short form improv is high school and really never looked back. I've always loved performing but the improv bug really bit me that last year in high school. I remember being at iO and watching amazing teams like Valhalla and People of Earth and wanting to be a part of that community.
DS: What was your improv training like? Is there any particular thing that an instructor said that has really stuck to you?
BM: I had amazing teachers. Craig Cackowski, Jack McBrayer, TJ Jagadowski. They all had a part in forming my identity as an improvisational actor. I took classes and basically started performing as much as possible. Stage time is so important when you're first starting.
DS: When did you join the Second City National Touring Company--and how long were you touring with them?
BM: I started touring in the fall of 2003. I toured for about a year and a half before I went on one of the Norweigian Cruises with Second City for 8 months. Sort of like the touring company but on the water! I saw so many amazing places on tour and on the ship. It's truly a fantastic way to see the world.
DS: Was the show in Denver similar to what we are seeing in 2010 with limited runs in Laguna, Miami , Arizona , and Boston ?
BM: When we got to Denver we took an existing show from Second City, "Red Scare" out there and performed that for six months. Then once we got such an amazing response we were given the green light to write our own show and we ran that for another six months. It was a full year and we had such a fantastic time in Denver. So it was a little different in the way that it was a much longer run.
DS: When you were promoted to the ETC stage, what was your initial reaction?
BM: I was so surprised! I wasn't expecting it at all which was probably why it happened. I had been laid off as a copywriter a few months prior and was actually interviewing for ad jobs. They called me in to talk about "some projects" and then they asked. It was a real fun shock.
DS: What’s the experience been like to be performing on the ETC stage?
BM: It is truly the best job in the world. I remember Frank Caeti saying that it's the most creative freedom you'll ever be allowed and he wasn't lying. You can try anything up there. And the schedule can't be beat. It's truly a dream.
DS: Studs Terkel’s Not Working won a Jeff Award with a such a talented cast. Congratulations on that. How did the Mainstage cast members react when the ETC revue won? Was there a bet placed before the awards—similar to those of governors and senators before a huge sporting event?
BM: No bets. Hehe. Maybe St. Clair because he's a gamblin' man. The mainstage was awesome and gracious. We just had a ball that night drinking and partying. The awards were a ball too.
DS: What is Dual Exhaust? How do you find time between ETC and VD to perform with Dual Exhaust?
BM: Dual Exhaust is a two person show that I perform with the amazing Zach Ward. Zach moved to North Carolina about 5 years ago to start his own super successful theater so we haven't performed together in awhile! I miss him though and I hope we can reunite soon.
DS: What are some of your favorite characters to perform as during a show?
BM: I love playing the weirdos. I also tend to gravitate towards playing men.....probably in my desparate attempt to understand them. Hee.
DS: What's the process like when it comes to writing a new revue? How early do new scenes start joining the running order? For the new revue, The Absolute Best Friggin' Time of Your Life, when did this process start?
BM: The process for the current show started in Feb and we just opened 5/2! New scenes go in as soon as the director thinks they are ready and that's pretty fast. It was strange because I thought I would hold onto those old scenes much more, but I was fine with swapping out the new for the old. It's exciting to turn over an old show.
DS: On a related note, did it feel different to do the process without Andy St. Clair, Amanda Blake Davis, and Tim Mason?
BM: They were definitely missed, but it was so much fun to have three new cast members! The energy is just so different and I love that.
DS: What do you usually tell new improvisers when they are just starting out?
BM: Keep at it. It's NOT going to happen overnight. If you really care about this work, follow your gut, don't be afraid to bust your ass. And don't be entitled. People work years for this stuff and it's not going to happen right away.
DS: What's your first memory of Second City and what would be your favorite?
BM: My first memory is seeing the review Paradigm Lost. The theater seemed so big back then and now it's amazing to think that I work there. My 2 favorite memories are walking out of the building after I got hired for e.t.c. I remember what I was wearing and I remember who I called and I walked for a really long time. Hehe. My other memory is opening night for Studs Terkel. It was my first review and I was so giddily nervous the joyful feeling was amazing.
DS: Andy was quoted in the AP during the 50th anniversary celebrations about having to sign an autograph for an audience member and was flattered when they said they can't wait to see him on SNL. Has this ever happened to you?
BM: People say it a bunch, but dis' mama probably too old. Hehe. I just am so pleased when people enjoy the show and enjoy what we do on stage.
DS: Thanks again for joining Chicago Improv Celebrity News. Is there anything else you would like to add?
BM: Thanks Danielle! Hope to see you in Chi soon!