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Wednesday Wow: N.C. Native Ross Bryant in The Improvised Shakespeare Company

January 29, 2014
Ross Bryant

Ross Bryant

There is no doubting that North Carolina is sort of a star factory when it comes to churning out talented performers. One of the state’s up-and-coming talents is Ross Bryant, who will take the McGlohon Theater stage with The Improvised Shakespeare Company Feb. 6 and 7. Not only does he work with ISC, he’s also taken the Chicago comedy scene by storm, making the “10 People That Make Us Laugh” list by TimeOut Chicago.

I recently got to know a little bit more about the actor-comedian. Check out some highlights from our chat:

Tell me more about your history with North Carolina.

My family moved around the Southeast throughout most of my early childhood. We lived in Wadesboro, N.C., while I was in elementary school, and then moved to south Texas. As I was about to enter 10th grade, we moved to the Outer Banks. My folks have lived in Manteo ever since. I continued to move around within North Carolina; I attended my senior year of high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, and went even further west for college at Appalachian State in Boone. I feel really lucky that I got to experience so much of the mountains and the beach before I recklessly abandoned both to move to the flat, frigid Midwest.

Do you think your N.C. heritage and upbringing has any effect on you as a performer?

I try to be polite and hold doors for people at the venues we perform in.

What inspired you to get into performing arts in the first place?

I think it was a moment in second grade when my teacher caught me singing something under my breath when I was supposed to be answering questions in a workbook or something. She asked me if I’d like to sing my song for the entire class. Looking back I realize that she did this to shame me into silence. But, ham that I was, I hopped out of my seat with an enthusiastic “YES!” and proceeded to sing my song to a bemused audience of 7-year-olds. Backfire, Mrs Pritchard. Backfire.

I think the thing that made me want to get really serious about performing was seeing plays at NCSA when I was in high school. I aspired to work at that level.

How long have you been with Improvised Shakespeare? What’s your favorite thing about it?

I’ve been in the ensemble of Improvised Shakespeare since 2006. It sounds like a sappy cliche, but truly my favorite thing about performing with ISC is that I get to improvise with people who make me laugh so hard.

Why should I come to the ISC show?

People should see ISC because it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. An improvised play where the audience sees a first-and-only performance. So each show is quite literally unique. One thing I love about the show is that it manages to juggle being very smart and very silly at the same time. If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, you’ll recognize and enjoy our homage to him. If you’re not a Shakespeare fan, you’ll enjoy the pure comedy of the improvisation. Also, we wear billowy pirate shirts.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened during one of the shows?

I’ve done this show literally hundreds of times, so it’s hard to pick just one. Though watching Sir Patrick Stewart kiss one of my cast-mates during a show where he sat in with us ranks pretty high on the list.

Is there one thing you want people to come away with after seeing the ISC show?

That they want to see it again! I feel like some people want to see it again to find out if there’s a trick or a formula to what we do (there really isn’t); other people want to see it again because they know it’ll be completely different each time. Also I’d love for people leave our show eager to seek out more improv and more Shakespeare. I think something that’s cool about ISC is that we can be ambassadors of comedy to theater fans and vice versa.

I know you’ve worked on many other things. What other project has been your favorite?

This past year I became a cast member of The Second City Mainstage. That was a dream come true.

Anything else I MUST know about you?

I’m looking forward to having some Carolina BBQ. Chicago has amazing food … but they have yet to master the vinegar-based pulled-pork sandwich.

Join me on Feb. 6 and 7 when The Improvised Shakespeare Company brings its improvised, totally unscripted, Shakespearean antics to McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square. I’ll be there, cheering on fellow N.C. native Ross Bryant. Thou shalt not misseth this! Buy your tickets now.


Feeling lucky? Email us at and tell us which classic Shakespeare piece is your favorite, and you’ll be entered to win two tickets to the performance on Thursday, Feb. 6. You must enter by Friday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. The winner will be notified via email.

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