Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Two Madhouse staffers take on the world of improvisation
Ashley Moyer in the Studio A Theatre
Ashley Moyer in the Studio A Theatre

When Molly Luetke and Ashley Moyer got involved with improv classes through Glass City Improv, they didn’t know that saying, “Yes, and…” would be so life-changing.

For Molly, it meant a confidence boost that spills over into her professional life. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone into meetings at Madhouse that I’ve anticipated to be uncomfortable, and I’d be super-anxious about them. And since taking improv classes, I’ve been able to respond much more quickly and confidently than I used to,” she said.

Beginning in January 2018, Molly signed up for classes as a way to push herself out of her comfort zone. “I don’t do a lot of things because I’m scared. That’s pretty common in my life,” she said. She felt that doing things she’s not comfortable doing would help her to grow as a person. “It’s also opened up my network to tons more people who are super-smart, curious, and are also doing this because it scares them to do it.”

Despite having a background in theater, Ashley took a little coaxing from Molly to get involved. “Molly said, ‘You should really check it out.’ And I didn’t for months and months, and then finally I signed up for a class. That was a year ago and I was hooked,” she said.

At first, Ashley was nervous because everything she’d done in Toledo had been centered around art and graphic design. “I remember in the first class I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is a mistake,’ but after a few classes I thought, ‘Oh, this is the best,’” she said.

Ashley with Emily Garrow
Ashley with Emily Garrow
Molly Luetke in the Studio A Theatre
Molly Luetke in the Studio A Theatre

Do they get anxious before a performance? “Yes. 100 percent,” said Ashley. And some say that if you’re not nervous, you’re not doing it right. It’s part of the whole experience. “I get nervous before class,” said Molly. In addition to being nerve-wracking, performing is “a total adrenaline rush,” said Molly. “It goes by really fast.”

“When you’re in a scene, you let go of your inhibitions,” said Ashley. Calling herself “socially awkward,” she credits improv with making her more relaxed around people she doesn’t know well. “Normally, if I was uncomfortable and didn’t know anyone, I’d resist situations where I’d have to get to know someone,” she said. She credits improv with making her better at being more at ease in social situations and with clients.

For Molly, taking the first class was an unusual experience for her in that she has a lot of friends and colleagues in Toledo. “I walked in and it was a class of about 15 people, and I didn’t know a single person,” she said.

Throughout that first class, she spent much of the time scanning the room for someone she could befriend. “It was the weirdest, uncomfortable situation ever, and by the end of the six weeks, we were in love with each other,” she said.

Pushing herself also made Ashley come to enjoy classes more each week. “Performing is fun and it’s always a rush, but my favorite thing is to be in an eight-week class because one night a week it’s such a release,” she said. “There’s almost one time of every week that I’m in a class where I just laugh to tears.”

Michael Brown & Molly get funky
Michael Brown & Molly get funky
Bradley Jenkins & Ashley during a recent performance
Bradley Jenkins & Ashley during a recent performance

Being competitive with other improvisors doesn’t enter into the equation for either Molly or Ashley. “I feel no desire to be the best, and there are so many people who are incredible, and I just feel excited to perform with them,” said Ashley.

In fact, after having several classes under her belt, she realized that part of the experience is to prop others up. “It’s okay if you’re improvising with someone that it may not be second nature to. I realize that they have other strengths, and my job is to try to support them and make them look good,” she said.

And making others look good while performing has taught them both about being more collaborative at work. “It helps you be more open to things and also helps creatively,” said Ashley. Molly said that being involved in improv reminded her of what it was like to be on the basketball team in high school. “I remembered what it was like for everyone to have the same goals and be supportive of one another,” she said.

“At Madhouse, our style of working is somewhat similar to improv, and that’s the way of working that I really thrive in especially because I’m not a competitive person,” said Ashley. “And I think our work is better because of that.”