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Improvisation enhances lawyer’s skill set

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off-clock-logoAs a theater major at the University of Notre Dame, Katrina Gossett always thought she’d be spending more of her time performing than prosecuting. However, life took one of its unexpected detours, and today she’s a mid-level associate in Faegre Baker Daniel LLP’s business litigation group.

“I actually did mock trial in high school,” she said. “I did it more for the theater aspect, but I did play a lawyer, and I really enjoyed that. But I still didn’t think I’d ever be an attorney; I thought I was either going to be a teacher or in Hollywood.” She paused and smiled. “Actually, if Hollywood comes calling, it might be hard to turn that down.”
 

comedy-gossett-katrina-1col.jpg Katrina Gossett (IL Photos/Eric Learned)

When Gossett eventually ruled out teaching as a career path, she thought back to her time in mock trial and decided law school would be a good option for her.

But she couldn’t escape her roots entirely. When the ComedySportz World Championship came to Indianapolis in 2011, it inspired her to take improv classes and eventually to audition for the local ComedySportz team.

ComedySportz is an all-ages improv comedy show formatted like a sporting competition. There are two teams of “act-letes” who perform on a “field,” not a stage, while a referee mediates. As the night unfolds, points are scored and fouls are called – such as the infamous Groaner Foul, called against an act-lete whose joke is so stupid or “punny” that the audience audibly groans. Gossett explained that there are also winners and losers, although it’s hard to imagine anyone losing when the ultimate goal is rampant hilarity. ComedySportz operates in 24 cities in America and Europe and has been around since 1984, making the Indianapolis team part of a proud global tradition in gut-busting belly laughs. It’s not hard to see why Gossett was eager to join the fray. But that’s not to say that making the leap into improv was an easy decision. Even seasoned actors often have a smidgen of stage fright.

“Even though I did theater in college, improv terrified me,” Gossett admitted. “I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be funny enough, so I kind of held back. But I decided to stretch myself because I still have the theater bug in me, so I have to find ways to feed it.”

After enrolling in classes with ComedySportz, Gossett discovered that she actually had a lot of the skills needed to be good at improv, like the ability to think on her feet and to “just go for it.” Most importantly, she learned to stop worrying and just let it happen.

“I learned that you’re not actually trying to be funny,” she explained. “You’re trying to perform and the funny just happens. I think once you let go of the idea that you have to be funny at all times, then you can kind of breathe and actually do improv.”


comedy-gossett-15col.jpgKatrina Gossett performs with Ben Fraley, left, and D.J. Murray, center, at ComedySportz in Indianapolis.

Once she had plenty of practice under her belt, and bolstered by positive feedback from her classmates and instructors, Gossett auditioned for the team last May. She made the cut, and she has been part of the regular rotation since December. Despite juggling a busy schedule, this is what she wants to be doing.

“I decide I’m going to make time for it, and the time appears. It leaves me very little time for sleep and vegging out in front of the TV, but I’m having a blast doing it, and it’s where I want to spend my time outside of work.”

Even though this is a relatively new hobby for the attorney, her enthusiasm is contagious and it’s hard for even devoted introverts not to be a little captivated by the charm of improv. It’s difficult to resist the idea of being someone entirely different – several someones actually – each and every time you mount the stage.

“I love the freedom of it,” Gossett said. “There are no limits when you’re doing improv. You can be anybody. So I could be an old man, I could be a toddler, I could be an elephant that can talk. There are absolutely no restrictions. I also feel that, being a person who uses a wheelchair, a lot of people put limits on me and think that I can’t do this or that, and it’s an opportunity for me to step out of that.”

Perhaps unexpectedly, Gossett also thinks that the time she spends at ComedySportz actually complements her work as an attorney, noting that the skill sets involved often overlap.

“How to react and interact with other people, all of that is very important in litigation,” she explained. “You have to collaborate, you have to respond, be quick on your feet and be ready to answer anything in the courtroom.”

Gossett encourages anyone who is interested to give improv a shot. She claimed that most of the skills necessary to do improv can be learned and notes that ComedySportz offers classes at all levels, including those for beginners to help you “get out of your shell.”

“Besides,” she added, “you get to play pretend for a few hours, and how many adults get to do that?”•
 

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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