Senior Ensemble Member

Joleen Ballendine

Joleen is an improviser, actor and writer based in Edmonton, Alberta.

She is a mainstage cast member of Rapid Fire Theatre, Canada’s third oldest improv company. She started with the company in 2007 and in 2017 she became the Director of Education after running the Outreach program for over a decade. She is also the co-director of the Sphinxes Outreach Program which aims to empower and employ female, trans, and non-binary improvisors by giving them the tools to teach improv and then deliver the workshops to other marginalized voices.

Joleen performs weekly in Theatresports, Maestro, and serval long-form shows. Notable shows include Improvised Dungeons and Dragons directed by Edmonton’s own Mark Meer, Colin Mochrie and Friends in the Edmonton Fringe Festival, and she’s an original cast member of the hit show Off Book the Improvised Musical. Teaching and performing improv has taken Joleen all over Canada, the US, and Europe. She tours regularly with comedy partner Amy Shostak in their high energy, risk-taking improv duo Rä Power.

Improv isn’t Joleen’s only passion, she also writes and acts. She is a two-time Canadian Screen Awards nominee for both her performance and writing in the Canadian sketch comedy show Caution: May Contain Nuts on APTN. Alongside writing partners Gordie and Joey Lucius, Joleen was selected for the NSI Totally Television program in 2020 for their half-hour comedy, Lupita. The series is in development and hopefully will be available to a wide audience soon. The team of three is also working on a new half-hour sketch comedy show called thirtyONE which is also in development. She has written plays, musicals, sketch comedy, web series, and sitcoms. She thrives at telling stories whether it’s on the stage, on television, or verbally to anyone who will listen. Joleen is proud to be an Edmonton-based artist.

They blended a Big Mac Meal together and made us drink the sludge. The moment I took a gulp I puked on the Varscona stage in front of a sold out theatre.

Joleen Ballendine

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?

During Halloween Theatresports, two or three years ago, the last punishment we were dealt was Zombie McDonalds. They blended a Big Mac Meal together and made us drink the sludge. The moment I took a gulp I puked on the Varscona stage in front of a sold out theatre. The worst part is that Tim Mikula didnt see that I had puked in the cup. He was being all cocky drinking the goop and serving himself seconds, and then he took my cup and drank my vomit! It was pretty bad.

HOW ABOUT YOUR GOLDEN MOMENT?

Some of my best moments have been with DOT DOT DOT, Jesse McPhee’s and my long-form CHiMPROV group. There’s nothing like creating a 45-minute story and having the audience scream and cheer at the ending.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT LONG-FORM VERSUS SHORT-FORM IMPROV?

Long-form gives me more of an artistic thrill. Long-form is more challenging in the way that story is the most important and you need to make your characters really matter, because youre going to be with them for a very long time. Storytelling is one of my strengths.

Short-form took me longer to get good at it. It relies on making joke after joke after joke. My sense of humour can be very different, so figuring out your audience quickly is the key to short-form.

WHATS THE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL IMPROV SCENE?

Heart. I know that’s really cheesy, but I tell my young students, you’re not a character. Youre care-actor. The audience has to care and believe you. As much as we love getting laughs, its always better to have the audience go, awww. That’s a lot harder to get out of them. They’re there to laugh they don’t expect to have their heart broken.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR TEACHING ENDEAVOURS?

I do a ton of teaching. I’m a freelance artist so I make my living off this shit. Thats a good quote eh? Through RFT Im the head of the At-Risk-Youth Program, and I’ve taught classes with students as young as six all the way up to the GeriActors a senior theatre group. One time at the Nosebowl there were three generations of people that I had taught sitting in the audience. They were a whole family. I had taught the mom in an adults workshop; the grandfather in the GeriActors and the granddaughter was actually on stage performing. We took a picture together it was sweet, and goes to show that improv truly is for everyone.

CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING THAT NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT YOU?

I have two toothbrushes. One lives in my shower, and the other lives by my sink. This allows me to brush my teeth in both locations. I always make sure I have two.

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