In improv theatre, there’s a “yes rule.” Every idea must be treated as if it were a great idea, and you have to always say yes. And by doing so, you learn to support and collaborate with other artists so that as a team, you help each other grow together.
This rule is a way of life for Ashley Melzer, the talent coordinator for Hopscotch Music Festival. She began doing improv in 2010 while struggling to perfect a screenplay. By this time, she’d completed film school at the University of Southern California and graduated from the folklore graduate program at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Feeling weighed down by the screenplay, she decided to take a class at DSI Comedy Theater. And after adopting that “yes” mentality, it wasn’t surprising when one class turned into a whole set of classes, and she became a company member within a matter of months. Now, Melzer performs on Friday nights at 10 p.m. with Mister Diplomat and is the associate art director for the theater.
She attributes her next adventure — one that will take her across the pond to film a documentary about stone wall masonry in Wales — to the personal growth she’s gained from her work in improv. She says, “Me five years ago would be terrified to make this project that I don’t have scripts for or a beat sheet for, but because i’m an improviser and know better how to recognize something when it’s happening, I think I’m better prepared to be out in the field.”
As the talent coordinator for Hopscotch, Melzer works directly with the bands throughout the weekend. She calls herself the “happy information giver,” the one who provides the bands with all of the connections around Raleigh. These bands don’t realize, however, that Ashley has an entire set of her own talents. This artist is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, comedian and teacher.
And what exactly draws her to improv? She says, “because improv, in a really positive way, is all about failure.” This concept, combined with the “yes rule,” can change your entire outlook on life.