Kelly Kollias ’15

Mary Carpenter: The Queen of Comedy Combat!

Tower Hill students will perform Comedy Combat on Friday, October 25th at 7:30PM and Saturday, October 26th at 7:30PM! The improv show, directed by our very own Darla Max, features many of our talented students battling it out under HILARIOUS circumstances.  Tower Hill students will work with Mary Carpenter, a talented woman who has been involved in Comedy Combat every since she joined the local Philadelphia ComedySportz crew in 1992!  I was fortunate enough to sit down with Mary and learn more about her.  Check out the interview with her and gear up for the shows!

Kelly Kollias: What/Who inspired you to get involved in Comedy Combat?

Mary Carpenter: Darla Max. I love working with her. Also, the students. I love working with high school students, and teaching improv is one of my favorite things to do.

KK: How did you find ComedySportz in Philadelphia?

MC: I had lived in California for two years and moved back to Philly, where I grew up. I was hoping to save some money and move back to Chicago, where I went to college to work in theater. Shortly after I got back to Philadelphia, there was an audition for the city’s theaters.  After the audition, I got a call from ComedySportz. That was 21 years ago, and I’ve been with them ever since.

KK: I see you’ve been involved with ComedySportz since 1992! What keeps you coming back to ComedySportz for more every year?

MC: The people and the audiences. The folks in ComedySportz are excellent improvisers and some of my best friends. And the joy the audience gets from the shows is the best reason to hang around.

KK: What makes Comedy Combat and improv better than other forms of acting (plays, musicals)?

MC: I love improv and think it only strengthens all other theatrical forms. I don’t think one is better than the other per se, but each makes the other stronger. Improv is a unique ensemble art form where the possibilities are literally limitless in terms of what a group of people can create together. And it is one of the rare art forms where the audience is so directly involved. The audience is as much a part of the show as the performers on stage.

KK: What is it like working with Darla Max? Is this your first time working with her?

MC: I met Darla many years ago in the Philadelphia theater community. She and I also worked together in ComedySportz, and I have sought her advice on many occasions. She is great and so passionate about theater and teaching.  She is open to every idea and is a great collaborator.

KK: What is it like working with students at Tower Hill? Have you worked with other high schools in the past?

MC: I teach Middle School at Abington Friends School and have worked with the high school students there and with students at other schools as well. Tower Hill kids have been great with Comedy Combat. Curious and daring, they love to try new things. I’ve also been very impressed with how supportive they are of one another, a very important skill for improvisers.

KK: Do you have a favorite acting game you like to play with the students to warm them up before rehearsal?

MC: I don’t have a favorite. I usually like to do three different exercises: a physical one, a mental one, and another to bring everybody together.

KK: What is your best/funniest moment you have shared with Tower Hill students? With your fellow ComedySportz actors? With Darla Max?

MC: The funny thing is, I rarely remember moments. I remember laughter and I remember those moments when performers, audience, and the improv gods align to create a moment that makes everybody go “wow,” a moment that can never be reproduced but is forever memorable.

KK: Are there any sneak peeks or “top secret” information you can share about Tower Hill’s upcoming Comedy Combat Show?

MC: Only this: get ready to laugh.

KK: What is your favorite Comedy Combat “move”?

MC: I love the games “Da Do Rap Rap” and “Two Chairs.”

KK: What is a fun fact about you that not many people may know?

MC: I spent a year in theatre school in London.

KK: Have you ever been embarrassed, shy, or nervous when getting up in front of a big crowd? If so, what helped you conquer these emotions?

MC: If I didn’t get nervous, it would mean I didn’t care. Of course I get nervous. I don’t have a surefire method for conquering nerves. It’s been years of experience and the simple fact that I need to do my job. The audience didn’t pay to see me nervous; they paid to have a great time. So, I mostly just tell myself to get over myself and do my job.

KK: What is the best advice you were given as a young woman pursuing theater? What is the best advice you can give students planning on getting involved with the theater and pursuing it further in college and as a profession?

MC: For me the best advice was, “Make the scene about the other person.”  It gets you out of your head and into the story and keeps you active.  You’ve got to absolutely love it because it is not an easy profession. Don’t get into it for money or fame; those are not guarantees and won’t sustain you even if they come. You must do it because you love to tell stories. And it is good to be able to do many things: direct, act, build costumes and sets, write.  Each element makes the others stronger and makes you more versatile.

Thank you so much for your time, Mary. Be sure to catch her refereeing our teams next weekend at Tower Hill’s Comedy Combat performances!