Sam Stralak began improvising in 2009 with his high school team coached by Rapid Fire veteran and Associate Artistic Director Joe Vanderhelm.
In both 2011 and 2012, Sam competed in the CIG (Canadian Improv Games) National tournament in Ottawa. By the fall of 2012 he had joined Rapid Fire in its inaugural season at the Citadel Theatre downtown, since then he has coached Jr. high teams, taught workshops and proudly given back to the high school improv community by taking part in the CIG Regional tournaments and judging NAIL (Northern Alberta Improv League). When he’s not onstage Sam enjoys walking through Mill Creek ravine with his two dogs, trying new restaurants and watching movies.
Feel free to say hi next time you’re at a show, he’s super into high fives.
TV Shows: Game of Thrones, True Detective, The Newsroom, Veep, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation
Movies: The Dark Knight, really anything by Christopher Nolan, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds, RocknRolla, Snatch, Gravity, Fargo, District 9, Lord of the Rings, Mad Max: Fury Road, Shaun of the Dead, Little Miss Sunshine, I could go on forever.
Actors: Tom Hanks, Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz, Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain, Leonardo DiCaprio, Morgan Freeman, Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet, Michael Fassbender, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, again I could go on forever.
Video Games: Halo. It was the first Xbox game I ever played. And it was cool because I wasn’t allowed to play violent video games yet, but my uncle let me play it anyways.
Authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, can you tell I don’t read a lot?
Music: Kanye West. Big time Yeezy fan here. Also David Bowie, Frank Ocean, London Grammar, Justin Timberlake, Daft Punk, Miike Snow, The xx, Jack White, The Neighbourhood, Glass Animals, and Frank Sinatra.
Websites: Netflix and Wikipedia. Certainly two of the most important websites there are.
Food: Pizza, Fried Chicken, Breakfast, and the hot chicken sandwich from the Red Goose restaurant.
Words to live by: I have a theory that you can make any sentence sound profound by writing the name of a dead philosopher at the end of it. -Plato
As a procrastinator, improv skills have saved me a great many times.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH RAPID FIRE?
It started in High school, going to Theatresports at the Varscona and watching the Rock stars of Whyte Ave. work their trademark magic. Among them was my improv coach at the time, Joe Vanderhelm. I owe a lot to that brilliant man, but mostly the inspiration to do what he does and do it as best I can. Probably the coolest thing about Rapid Fire is its fostering nature, the sharing of an art form unlike any other. When I graduated I auditioned and so began the dream that is sharing the stage with my heroes.
WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL IMPROV SCENE?
It’s about having fun and being honest. The irony is that if you’re thinking too much improv gets harder — improv is at its best when you’re acting faster than you can think, staying one step ahead of the things that scare you. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS YOU CAN OFFER AUDIENCE MEMBERS ABOUT GIVING SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVISERS?
Keep it simple but imaginative. Try putting an adjective in front of whatever you’re going to shout. Like spooky. What sounds more fun: “bathroom” or “SPOOKY BATHROOM”?
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SHORT FORM VS. LONG FORM AND VICE VERSA?
Short form is definitely fun because of its fast-paced nature. You can try a hundred different characters in one show or invent a game on the spot and if it doesn’t work, just throw it away and try something new. Short form is definitely exercising quick wit and reaction. Long form is fun for different reasons; it totally practices your storytelling abilities in a more sustainable way. It focuses more on commitment and discovery – but that’s not to say it can’t also be fast paced or experimental.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR IMPROV STYLE?
People have said I’m a sniper. I like to snipe jokes whenever I can. One of my favourite games is ‘Hockey Moms’, I literally get to sit in the audience and yell about what is happening on stage. I also play little kids a lot. So I guess you could describe my style as a ‘toddler with a gun.’
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT ON STAGE?
It was my very first Bonfire Festival and I was in a show with five senior players, I was the only rookie. At first I was terrified, I felt like David surrounded by Goliaths. But it turned out to be one the best shows I’d ever do, being so supported and encouraged by improvisers I look up to. That’s what I remember most, feeling like I was part of the coolest thing in the world.
WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF RFT?
One of the things I do is help our general manager, Karen, with the bookkeeping and accounting. Making sure the Canada Revenue Agency is appeased with the numbers from the stage clowns of Edmonton. But I guess that is still technically ‘inside’ RFT. I do things outside RFT… really. Like stuff. And things! With people!
HOW DOES IMPROV COME IN HANDY IN YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE?
I don’t usually realize when my skills as an improviser are helping me out when I’m actually using them, but it dawns on me when somebody else brings it up. When I hear other people talking about being nervous for something like a job interview or public speaking, that’s when I realize, I feel more confident dealing with that sort of stuff. Also as a procrastinator, improv skills have saved me a great many times.
DESCRIBE WORKING FOR RAPID FIRE IN A SINGLE SENTENCE: