Quick! What’s young, funny, and fast on its feet? Who knows, but the improv comics at Comedy Sportz Improv Theatre (CSI) would likely have a snappy answer.
Dominic Wall and Nathan Fleming are two of the best. These Richmond teens show the character, discipline, and positive spirit that set them “On the Rise.”
Dominic, 19, is one of the original members of CSI’s High School League Team. Today, he’s a first year student at Liberty University in Lynchburg. He’s been gracing the stage at CSI since 2004.
Christine Walters is Owner of Comedy Sportz Improv, but more like a second mother or witty sister to her performers. Her loyalty and affection come across in everything she does to run the city’s only commercial improvisational theatre. She’s been in the business for more than fifteen years, and can spot exceptional talent.
“When I met him, I wanted him in my troupe,” Christine says of Dominic. “He just really understood improv and he understood how to play the game and to be silly with a person. He had that spark.”
Last year, Christine and a group of performers traveled to Rock Island, Illinois. “It was our world competition and I had more than a few [team leaders] ask me how they could get a Dominic. They wanted him to move to their city.”
She remembers the excitement of one performance in particular. “Here was this 18 year old playing this huge theater that was packed. Dominic lifted the manager up and it was one of those glorious, improv moments. He’s an amazing performer and improv student.”
Dominic is generous with his time, and seeks opportunities to share his gift with other youth. This summer, he’ll work as a teacher at Kidz Camp, an event for children and teens ages 8 through 14, starting in June at CSI. Improv demands a wholly positive attitude that CSI and seasoned improv performers refer to as a “Yes, and…” attitude. It requires trust, teamwork, and openness to others, traits that build strong character.
“Comedy isn’t just a quick laugh,” Dominic says. “I came to learn that. Life can throw you curve balls all the time. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Life isn’t always fun. You have to be able to think quick on your feet. You have to know how to adapt.” As a teacher at Kidz Camp, Dominic says, “I’ll be teaching them how to have a “Yes, and…” attitude, how to not be shy. How to talk to people. How to be respectful, especially when people are talking. It’s a funny way to teach lessons that they need for life.”
Those who excel as improv comics use the same skills in life. Most teens at CSI will point to better grades and relationships since their beginning improv. Dominic says, “I encourage all kids something they enjoy and are good at to try improv.”
Nathan Fleming, a tenth grader at Powhatan High School, is a new performer at CSI. He visited the club for a birthday party in 2006. “A year after that, I tried out,” he says. Christine recalls, “He had this devilish smile.” She emphasizes the young man’s cheerful integrity and points out, “He’s growing his hair to donate to locks of love.”
Nate currently performs in high school shows. Commuting from Powhatan – nearly 40 miles from CSI – presented an early challenge to Janet, Nate’s mother. But when she saw the young man’s dedication to performing, there was no question that she’d get him there. To save miles of travel, Janet made a decision: “I said, I’m going to work with him.” She applied for a job as a waitperson, known as a “Bubba” at CSI. “They hired me. They were kind,” she jokes. With this arrangement, mom and son get to work together, Nate onstage and around the club, Janet serving a full menu to audiences.
“I’ve waited tables before, a long time ago,” she says. “Customers are awesome. They come in with a funny bone. It’s a unique group of people.”
Does Mom want her son to pursue comedy in college, perhaps even professionally?
“Gosh yes. He has such a talent with comedy and off-the-cuff remarks, since he was in elementary school.” Janet says Nathan started telling jokes in the third grade.
Nate is a rising star on the league, but he takes it in stride. “I think my strength is the team I’m part of. It’s a lot easier to bounce things off of other people than to think of them yourself.”
When the 16 year old isn’t sharing the stage with teammates, he enjoys soccer, basketball, tennis, and filmmaking, his favorite pastime. When asked which he sees in his future, filmmaking or comedy, Nate considers, “I’m thinking about maybe both.”
Now that’s a “Yes, and…” attitude.