Sydney Gross was a technician with Rapid Fire Theatre from 2010 – 2021.
After securing a BFA in Technical Theatre Production from the University of Alberta, Sydney worked with a variety of companies for a variety of shows in a variety of roles. After several years of immersion in Edmonton’s theatre world, she went back to school and earned her MSc in Urban and Regional Planning. While making her way as a new urban planner, Syd also stuck around Rapid Fire Theatre and dabbled in some other theatre gigs as they came. With a new career and new cities to explore, Sydney bids farewell to the backstage and the booth for now.
Improv is probably the most important thing I’ve ever learned.
HOW DID 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?
I am an urban planner. I have a soft spot for heritage and am interested in how older buildings can play an important role in current and future city- and community-building.
In my spare time I like to walk around, drink coffee, craft, play piano, eat local food, and enjoy 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.
Riffs for life!