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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. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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