By Barbara Brooks
With two small words — “Yes … and” — Toby Yount has improved at networking, become a better friend and learned to accept whatever life offers. He also has had great success in Denver’s improvisational-theatre scene.
“In improv, ‘Yes … and’ is always true,” said Yount, who in 2016 was named Denver’s “Next Improv Star” in Season 7 of the Bovine Metropolis Theater’s elimination-style competition. “It’s about accepting what’s already there and adding to it.”
Since winning the contest, Yount, a 2017 MSU Denver graduate, has performed regularly: as half of the duo Chocolate Thunder and Vanilla Lightning, with Bovine’s rotation cast and house team, and at other local venues. Last year, he teamed up with Jeffrey Parker, associate professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, in a half-hour duo performance that “thrilled and terrified” Parker.
Parker arrived at MSU Denver two years ago. He was attracted to the University’s commitment to lateral learning — helping students build bridges between the classroom and the real world — and the Theatre Department’s motto, “Equipment for Living.” Having previously taught under a conservatory-style model, where deep training was prioritized over applied skills, he said the change was refreshing.
“Theatre is an eminently useful skill for all areas of life,” said Parker, who won a Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence Award last year and is one of 12 people worldwide certified by two prestigious vocal training programs. “It makes us better human beings and helps in every field. Improv — with its focus on building trust, accepting all ideas as good ones and collaboration — is the most sterling example of this concept.”
“Toby is one of the best partners I’ve ever worked with,” Parker said. “He is present, creative, and has no fear. Where he leads, I will follow. And whatever crazy idea I have, he will make it work.”On June 3, Yount debuted as a director with “Dreamprov,” a show he created and cast in collaboration with Bovine’s executive producer and creative director. Performances are scheduled for June 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Bovine, 1527 Champa St. in Denver.
Yount stumbled into improvisational theatre five years ago, when he attended a free drop-in class at Bovine “just to get out of the house.” A year or so later, he completed his studies at the Community College of Denver and transferred to MSU Denver. Within months, he changed his major from physics to theatre, connected with Parker and added a minor in advertising and promotion.
“Being a theatre major, you could easily be in a bubble,” Yount said, “but not at MSU. The department does a really good job of teaching what you really need to learn to be successful in life.”
In Theatre Career Development I and II — a required course and his senior experience, respectively — Yount “learned what to expect and how to present” himself through a professional résumé, cover letter and head shot, and at auditions. His minor taught him to brand himself based on his strengths and to market his upcoming show.
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