Sydney Gross is an Edmonton-based theatre artist hailing from Regina, Saskatchewan. She holds a BFA in Technical Theatre Production from the University of Alberta. Since graduating in April 2012, she has worked with a variety of companies for a variety of shows in a variety of positions. Some highlights include being the sound designer for Age of Arousal (The Maggie Tree/Blarney Stone Productions), set designer for SNOUT (Catch the Keys Productions) and for Whiplash Weekend (Teatro La Quindicina), designer and actor in the Snow Globe Festival (Promise Productions), and costume designer for Sartre’s Shorts (Surreal SoReal Theatre). Syd has also designed numerous shows in the Edmonton Fringe. Syd has been a technician with Rapid Fire Theatre since 2010 and is so proud to be part of such a dynamic, interesting, and hilarious improv family.
TV Shows: I don’t really watch TV. I do like Orphan Black and Sherlock, though. And I’ve always loved Charlie Brown.
Movies: I could watch the same 20 movies for the rest of my life and be satisfied. On that prestigious list are titles such as Wayne’s World, Little Miss Sunshine, Heathers, Clueless, Mary Poppins, and Purple Rain.
Actors: Most of my favourite actors are pals in the theatre and improv communities within and outside of Edmonton. There are too many to name!
Video Games: Uh… does Ski Free count?
Authors: Roald Dahl, Michael Ondaatje, Charlotte Brontë, Cassidy McFadzean, Dakota McFadzean, Charles Burns, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Richard Scarry.
Music: SO MUCH. Select Absolute Faves include: The Arcade Fire, Bill Callahan, Rah Rah, Camera Obscura, St Vincent, Faith Healer, Kate Bush, Bruce Springsteen, Built to Spill, Switches, Ted Leo, Broken Social Scene, Prince, The Sweathearts, Neko Case, Royal Canoe… I could go on for a long time.
Websites: Wikipedia, CBC, The Weather Network, Facebook (everyone’s ultimate weakness)
Food: Any vegetables from the Farmer’s Market, my mom’s baking, the Grick Middle from Farrow Sandwiches, The Happy Veggie Sandwich from The Green Spot in Regina, SK, & the Melbourne Benedict from Friends & Neighbours. And tea. So much tea.
Words to live by: “The currency of love is focused attention.” I read this on Twitter. Thanks, Twitter!
HOW YOU GET INVOLVED WITH RAPID FIRE?
I moved to Edmonton in September 2009 and the only people I knew in the city were a couple of family members and some folks from Improv Camp. The Improv Camp folks were all involved with Rapid Fire Theatre, so I started volunteering there and sometime around 2010 I became a technician with them… and I’m still kickin’ around!
WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL IMPROV SCENE?
I’m a pretty big believer in the Canadian Improv Games philosophy: Co-operate with one another, learn from each other, and have a good time. I think if you’re listening and being as giving as you can to your fellow improvisers and the audience, and also enjoying and cherishing your time on stage, the audience will feel that too. I’m also a fan of the classic story structure: location, character, problem, stakes (what makes that problem important), and a conclusion.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS YOU CAN OFFER AUDIENCE MEMBERS ABOUT GIVING SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVISERS?
I think that suggestions inspired by your daily life can be really good fuel for a fun scene. Even if all you did that day was bus to work, sit in a meeting, buy a coffee, cruise Facebook, then come to a Theatresports show, you’ve got so many potential suggestions for a cool scene: “Transit,” “Board Meeting,” “The Second Cup Line,” “Creeping on Social Media,” or “Eating Too Much Licorice,” to name but a few.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SHORT FORM VS. LONG FORM AND VICE VERSA?
As a technician, I love both short and long form for different reasons. Short form scenes and games often allow me to be a bit wackier in my lighting and sound choices. I love games that require sound effects or music from the booth, or specific lighting states. When I tech long-form improv, I’ll usually dial it down to only a few lighting looks, but there are certain Chimprov troupes (such as Press Start, or The Tavern) that are really fun to experiment and go wild with.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR IMPROV STYLE?
I haven’t improvised on stage in a long time, but from a technician point of view, I guess my style would be making sure peoples’ faces can be seen and using as much colour as I possibly can without being too distracting from the action on stage.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT IN THE BOOTH?
I have a lot of memorable moments working in the booth; it’s hard to pick just one. I do love it when I call a scene perfectly (usually on a “blow line”— when an improviser on stage says something that is a good button to end the scene on); especially if it’s a short and sweet scene. Sometimes the audience doesn’t expect a scene to end when I call it, but it can add to the energy/humour of whatever was happening on stage and get a really positive response. I love it when that happens.
WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF RFT?
Outside of teching for Rapid Fire Theatre, I do a whole host of other theatre-based work, including (but not limited to) set, costume, and sound design, wardrobe running and maintenance, scenic painting, some lighting, some props work, and more. I also spend a lot of time at iHuman Youth Society as a Theatre Facilitator and extra hand for assorted projects going on in and outside of the building. I also love spending my spare time crafting, playing my piano, reading, walking around the River Valley, eating brunch, and enjoying the amazing arts and culture Edmonton has to offer.
HOW DOES IMPROV COME IN HANDY IN YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE?
Improv is probably the most important thing I’ve ever learned. The skills I picked up over the years — from competing in the Canadian Improv Games to watching and teching tons of shows with RFT — help me every single day. Improv has helped me to be a more positive person, to think on the fly, to not take myself too seriously, and to generally be a kinder and more thoughtful person when I interact with others. I think everybody should take an improv class or workshop if they can. It’s a wonderful way to gain some important life skills!
DESCRIBE WORKING FOR RAPID FIRE IN A SINGLE SENTENCE:
Riffs for life.