HerCampus: What made you interested in joining CUP (Contents Under Pressure) and doing improv?
Lara Johnson: I’ve done community theater since I was in middle school. Before that point, I was really quiet and I didn’t talk to a lot of people, but for some reason I decided I wanted to do theater, and I got up on stage and I hammed it up a whole lot and I got a lot of laughs and I realized “Oh, this is a thing I can do!” I also was in an improv group in middle school, but I didn’t do it in high school. When I got to Rhodes, I saw the freshman week show and thought “Yup, this is it, I’m going to be in this group.”
HC: Has CUP changed life at Rhodes for you at all?
LJ: Sometimes I feel like I’ve put more hours into CUP than I have into classes! We say in the group how we should be getting credit hours for all of the work we put in. It’s really a break I get every week- I have two hours to just mess around and have fun with my friends, and once a month, we get to do that in front of a big group of awesome people. It’s been a huge emotional and creative release for me. There aren’t a lot of places where you can just feel comfortable doing anything you want, so it’s been a great experience.
HC: How do you keep from getting too nervous before an improv show?
LJ: Honestly, you go into this weird cathartic state, and then after the show, you have no idea what just happened. Improv is the kind of thing where you just have something weird inside you that can do it. There are a lot of people who are really funny and really creative, but they just can’t be put on the spot. We do get very nervous before the show, but then we get into it and it all works out in the end.
HC: Do you have any advice for prospective members of CUP next year, or people who might feel too nervous to try out?
LJ: I would say a lot of what goes into improv is not caring what anyone thinks, and that includes people who are in CUP. If you’ve auditioned before and haven’t gotten in, know that we are not the end-all-be-all of what is funny or cool; there is always improv, stand-up, and so many other creative avenues for humor. But, for people who want to be in CUP next year, just keep being you! What we don’t like are people who are trying to perform in the way that they think we want, when we’d so much rather just see your own humor.
HC: You are also very involved with film at Rhodes. What made you interested in that?
LJ: I’m a huge geek- I’m wearing a Star Wars shirt right now! I watched Star Wars in fifth grade, and I had my mouth open the entire time. Usually when I see something that I like, I want to make that thing myself and make it my own, and film ended up being a way for me to do that, and a way for me to recreate what I saw in the world. I’m an art major, and film is the medium I typically use.
HC: Have you taken any film classes at Rhodes, and how have these enhanced or changed your appreciation for film?
LJ: I have taken film classes at Rhodes. Rashna Richards, the head of the film minor, is a great teacher, I’ve loved taking classes with her. What was also really good, outside of classes, was The Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies. What they do is give you a grant of three thousand dollars, and over the summer you research and complete a project. I made a documentary on geek culture in Memphis, so all summer I was paid money to follow around geeks, cosplayers, it was the best! I think that was as much an opportunity for me in the film program as any other class.
HC: You mentioned Star Wars as an inspiration for going into film, but what are some of your other favorite movies.
LJ: Star Wars is a big part of my life. Science fiction movies are definitely my favorite. I really like the director Alfonso Cuarón, who directed the third Harry Potter movie, as well as Children of Men and Gravity. I also really like TV. Some of my favorite shows are I Love Lucy, and Broad City. I also started watching 30 Rock in middle school, which was around the time my own personality started forming, so Liz Lemon and I are basically the same person in terms of personality!
You can see Lara and the rest of the CUP gang at one of their improv shows every month.