The multi-talented Monica Gaga caught up with us to talk about her one true love; improv. She also spoke to us about HELL YEAH! The comedy show which Monica produced, hosted and starred in along with London’s hottest queer female improv talent.
Tell us a bit about you and what you do
I’m an improviser, performer, facilitator, youth worker and self-proclaimed champion for diversity in improv.
Let us stop you right there… There might be a few people wondering what improv is, can you tell us?
Improv, or improvisation, is spontaneous theatre. It’s no scripts, being in the moment, playing and trusting other people who are on the stage with you because no one knows what’s going to happen next.
A lot of people do improv to perform, while others just do it as a hobby. What are some of the benefits of improv?
It’s fun, a great way to meet people and a chance to play. Something we, as adults, lose as we get older. It exercises that part of your brain that comes up with creative solutions which can help you personally and professionally. Through improv you can build on confidence, communication skills and creativity. It’s therapeutic, but not therapy so in that way, I see it as a form of self-care. Improv is a secret weapon that we don’t want to keep a secret.
For any of our readers that would like to get into your profession, what advice would you give to them?
Go for it. Sign-up to an improv drop-in, workshop or beginners course. Go and sit in on an improv jam, go to see some shows and check-out what’s online. Any improv school that is worth its salt is there to look after you. Once you are there immerse yourself in it all. Make sure you experience things that are not like you too – it’s through diversity that we grow into fully-rounded improvisers.
You do a lot to push for more diversity and equality in improv. What’s the inspiration behind that?
Whenever I see a gap in improv and the improv community I think about how much I love improv but how I want it to be better. We always talk about safe spaces, but how do you really know if a space is safe until you enter it? Having people on stage that you can relate to acts as a great indicator that a space may be safe for someone like you. I want to see more diversity in improv, so I have decided to not wait for space, but to take it.
What would you say to other queer women looking to take up space in their field, whatever that field maybe?
For me, I found that to grow I wanted to start from a safe space. I say go find your people. Obviously for everyone, it’s different, but for me, it’s people of colour, queer people, or those that identify as female. I didn’t realise I needed them until I found them. It was in spaces like that I felt like I could push my boundaries, grow and unapologetically take up space.
You’ve made a space for queer female improvisers… tell us about HELL YEAH!
HELL YEAH! has a cast of the hottest kickass female-identifying queer improv talent on the London scene. The cast are already unapologetically and fearlessly taking up space in improv. The show is a chance to showcase what they have going on.
HELL YEAH!’s first performance is this Friday, what can we expect from the show?
HELL YEAH! is kicking off the digital line-up of Pride events hosted by Omnibus Theatre’s 96 Festival From Home.
It will be a completely improvised rollercoaster. Inspired by the suggestions of the live audience with a cast featuring Rosie Bergonzi, Kemah Bob, Sadie Clark, Laura Evelyn, Francesca Renee Reid, Katie Schutte and me. You may have seen us on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Prime Video, Netflix, at Shakespeare’s Globe, Soho Theatre, Boulevard Theatre, in Bafta award-winning shows, doing Ted Talks… the list goes on!
Expect mayhem, expect laughs, expect tears, expect the unexpected and a great night in! If you have never seen improv before make this your first show.
This is your first time producing – what’s it been like?
Exciting, busy, eye-opening and so far fun. The Omnibus has been amazing to work with.
What are your plans for HELL YEAH! beyond the show?
I see HELL YEAH! as a platform for strong queer talent. To act as inspiration for the up and coming generation of improvisers. Improv is ready for a change!
Now… a bit more about you! Are you seeing anyone at the moment?
Yes, I’m in a relationship. And luckily we haven’t killed each other in lockdown!
What is your coming out story?
I came out a couple of times. I was kind of laughed at because people were like ‘stop being ridiculous’. I had a conversation with myself and just told myself I can be many things. I am, among many other things, a queer, black, African female. I became comfortable enough with that to take up space. I feel like the concept of coming out is a little bit problematic: in fact, I’m here, I’ve always been here, it’s just that other people can now actually see and accept it.
Who’s your celebrity crush and why?
I don’t have a celebrity crush but I get crushes very easily and quickly. So I have a few crushes in the improv community, but I’ll keep those to myself for now!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Take a break.
Thanks for chatting with us, Monica! Follow Monica on Twitter and Insta @msmonicagaga.
If you liked this interview and want to read up on more inspiring Queer women head over to our live interviews page.
Love Team Nonchalant xx
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