Victoria Dym is an improviser based in Tampa, Fla. She will debut her solo improv show, The Haiku Lady, on Thursday, October 21 at the 2021 Countdown Improv Festival. In this spotlight interview, Dym discusses the genesis of the Haiku Lady character, the process of workshopping her first solo show, and her hopes for the future of improv comedy in Tampa
The Haiku Lady made her debut at last year’s Very Normal Festival as a series of hilarious interstitial bits. What inspired you to expand it into a full-length solo show? What can audiences expect to see when you take the stage on Thursday night?
Victoria Dym: The short answer: I love the Haiku Lady, and so did many that saw her bits during the Festival came to love her, as well. She is a champion of the absurd and the small-syllabled. The Haiku Lady lives moment to moment, observation by observation, truly an improvisational existence. She is the artist in all of us trying to make it in a capitalistic society, during a pandemic. She deserves to be heard! And Thursday night she will be heard. There will be at least five characters, at least seven on-the-spot Haikus, and hopefully, at least five big laughs from the audience. If you know anything about haiku, you know the significance of 5-7-5, and structure.
This is your first solo improv show! What has the process of putting it together been like?
VD: It’s been Hell. The rehearsal schedule is unbearable. Honestly, it was terrifying at first. I do not know where I acquired this adage about improv that I use when I teach, but something like “All you have in improv is the floor and your scene partner.” And now, in solo improv, all I have is the floor! But at the same time it is terrifying, it is freeing. Solo improv is the penultimate creative form, much like writing but without the editing. I also took online classes from Anthony Francis, the master at solo musical improv, and Jessica Lynn Johnson at Soaring Solo, out of L.A.; I also watched solo theater and one-woman shows online, specifically The Hollywood Fringe Festival.
Last year, the Haiku Lady was in the running for a plum sponsorship by none other than Subaru. Are you courting any other major car manufacturers this time around?
VD: Without giving too much away, the word “courting” is relevant. Since The Haiku Lady loves cliffhangers, suffice it to say, her journey on the Countdown stage continues almost immediately after her Very Normal appearance, so we will see. And this is real, The Haiku Lady’s show falls in the middle of The Annual October Haiku Challenge this year. Coincidence? I think not.
We produce this festival in Tampa (a city in which we do not live!) year after year because of our love for the improv community here. It’s been a challenging year for the Tampa improv community with the closure of The Box. As the pandemic begins to wane (we hope!), what do you hope for its future, both in the near and long term?
VD: Dear Aunt Gertrude’s last performance was on March 7th 2020 at the Box. Subsequently, the theatrical community darkened as a whole during the pandemic. The Box did not survive, however, nor did most of the teams. Many players have moved on to Chicago and other cities where improv theaters are being reborn. In the near term, Erica Maity, an import from the Portland improv scene, has started a jam, Synchronized Swim, twice a month, at a new space, the MAR, in St Pete. What really is needed in Tampa to bring back and sustain an improv scene here for the long term is a venue that offers, classes and drop-ins and the chance to showcase improv as an art form.
You co-founded the Metanoia Retreat for Writers, Well-Being and Right Whales. What is it? What other projects are you working on?
VD: The Metanoia Retreat for Writers is a moment to reset, to celebrate our ever-changing interior landscapes and our relationship to the Earth. Metanoia is the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self or way of life. Participants in this retreat will find community, awareness, conversation, the ocean, amazing cuisine, laughter and inspiration for their writing. For current submission guidelines email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: https://www.facebook.com/MetanoiaRetreat.
In terms of other projects, I have been cast as the Park Ranger, in Wordier Than Thou’s Read No More, a literary scare, 10/29 & 10/30. For tickets: https://www.wordierthanthou.com/shop/readnomore2021
In November, watch online as I read with other Tampa notables for The Writers Harvest to benefit those who are food insecure via the Metropolitan Ministries.To donate and watch: https://hillsborougharts.org/events/the-tampa-writers-harvest/
Finally, who does the Haiku Lady think should be inducted into the Countdown Improv Festival Hall of Fame?
VD: First year, it was someone’s father, and last year it was another someone’s daughter. Maybe, this year, a mother? Don’t know is my answer. That is why you must attend Saturday’s performances to find out, silly!!!