SHEILA MCMENAMIN | IMPROV COMEDY
Sheila is a lover of trees, hysterical improvisor, and comedy fanatic.
She is passionate about creating more sustainable and environmentally-friendly habits for urban living.
Email Sheila: sheilamcmenamin6[at]gmail[dot]com
How interesting!: Sheila can do a mean Eddie Vedder impression!
What’s your connection to Baltimore?
I work for a tree-planting nonprofit called Baltimore Tree Trust; we work with parks and neighborhoods to plant and maintain trees while developing and employing a green workforce. It’s the coolest! I am constantly thinking about plastic waste and trees. It’s like a radar now that goes off when I am walking down the street: “That’s a dead tree!” “There’s a poorly planted tree!” “There’s a healthy tree!” “Why isn’t there a tree there?!” My job has fueled an almost unusual passion in me to raise awareness about Baltimore’s urban tree canopy and its benefits. Seriously, next time you’re driving around the city or walking through a park, take note of the trees or lack-thereof. Baltimore city currently has only 28% tree canopy coverage but should have 40%. We have love of work to do!
In addition to that, I am always thinking about how we as individuals can have a less harmful impact on our environment. I write for a website called Evergreen Girls on sustainability issues and specific behavior changes we can each adopt to be less wasteful. It’s very simple things, like bringing your own reusable water bottle or coffee cup, refusing plastic straws, and asking local coffee shops or restaurants for more sustainable options. It drives me nuts when I am eating at a restaurant and am served food with throwaway plates or utensils or cups, so I bring my own!
Outside of work, I do a little too much improv comedy through Baltimore Improv Group and Charm City Comedy Project. My troupes are Toe Money, Thigh Meat, and Training for Prom. We perform regularly in the city; come check us out! The tree planting and comedy scene have given me a unique view of just how wonderful Baltimore is.
I took an Improv 101 class with Baltimore Improv Group two years ago, and it truly changed my life! I have made a wonderful group of friends, challenged my inner-introvert to get a little more confident, and had a blast in the process. To me, improv is joy—a room full of adults listening to and supporting one another to create goofy, comedic scenes together. (If you are new to what improv is, think of the short-form show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” or look up some improv footage from greats like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Keegan-Michael Key, just to name a few.) Improv has definitely been one of my biggest connections to Baltimore City; it has opened up opportunities that I had never considered before. For example, earlier this year, I got to share a seven-minute story through Stoop Storytellers. I couldn’t recommend an improv class or show more highly! The community at Baltimore Improv Group and Charm City Comedy Project is welcoming, warm, and fun.
What do you like about Baltimore?
Baltimore is a major port city on the Chesapeake Bay; we should take pride in being connected to this huge body of water around us! There are some great nonprofits working on raising awareness about pollution and the harbor, and many more fun activities being offered around the harbor. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could decrease the plastic waste created in our city, improve the health of the harbor, and simultaneously work toward a major waterfront green space for recreation that all city residents could access via effective and thoughtful public transportation?! I have dreams about this!
In addition to that, getting involved with the Baltimore Improv Group and Charm City Comedy Project completely changed my experience in this city. About two years ago, I took the plunge and signed up for my first improv class; it was something I had always wanted to try, but I was always too scared to say ‘yes’. But once I started, I really learned the power of saying ‘yes’—that’s the cardinal rule of improv!
Ever since then, I frequently get together with a group of hilarious, kind, and thoughtful people from all over the city, and we create never-before-seen comedic scenes based off of a suggestion from the crowd. Improv has taught me so much about myself, and truly has altered how I interact with others and with the world. You do not have to “be funny” to do improv–you just have to listen to and support your scene partners. It’s a blast, and anyone can do it!
Before every improv show, we huddle with our troupe mates backstage and do a pre-show ritual, patting each other on the shoulders and saying, “I got your back.” This show of support and sense of community is what keeps me so connected to this scene. This group of improvisors, and the crowd that supports us, is what is so great about our city. There is such a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and interests together in one room, and we make each other laugh!
New Baltimoreans should definitely check out:
Baltimore Improv Group: Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) is the place to go for all things on improv-comedy in Baltimore. The wonderful teachers lead everything from two-hour intro sessions to affordable improv workshops for those who want to dip their toes in, or seven-week courses for those looking to commit to something more long term. BIG holds improv comedy shows every night of the week at their theater in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.