by Jordan T. Maxwell
I have known Kacey Samiee for a long time. A very long time. A supremely ridiculously long time. There are a mere handful of people in my life I have known longer than Kacey. Half of them are blood relatives. Almost all of the rest are friends with whom I’ve either done a lot of improv, or fallen in love.
Kacey and I have done a lot of improv together.
We met in high school, before either of us had done improv, back when I was still a beanpole and she still had her old nose (funny story, if you ignore all the pain and bloodshed and oh dear God please nobody ever make me think of that story again it’s not funny AT ALL!). We were in theatre together. We were in choir together. We were friendly, but I don’t know if either of us thought of the other as a “friend.”
Fast forward 15 years: Kacey is my sister and one of my very dearest friends. We have been in numerous improv and sketch troupes together, including our current projects Indigo Shift and The Awkwards—as well as The Sicks, The Great Mundane, Start Trekkin’, ROCK! the Improvised Rock Opera, Jukebox Heroes (our duet as Lady Gaga and Robert Smith of the Cure probably sums up all you need to know about how our dynamic works), and, for brief shining moments as a Boy of Summer and Mr. Molson in GGGlee, Girls Girls Girls (Kacey once told me the only reason I wasn’t in GGG was my penis. Other people would have meant this as a flattering joke. I’m fairly certain she intended it as a suggestion…). Oh, and one production of Oedipus Rex. Just saying.
What changed during that time?
Well, improv and college. I started playing with Well Hung Jury my junior year, and Kacey was part of our extended family of friends who’d help out and hang with us after shows. Then, after we graduated, we both wound up at the University of Texas Theatre Department. She started improv around the same time. So naturally we were in each other’s orbits a lot more … and I just started to notice that this cool, shy kid I had kind of known in high school was evolving into this badass warrior both onstage and off. And the more I got to play with her he more I knew I wanted to keep playing and creating and collaborating with her, forever.
It’s easy enough for improvisors to recognize her skill, both in performing and teaching improv. And it’s of course no surprise to anyone what a skilled actress and singer she is. The fact that these aspects have mixed so naturally for her to perform, direct, and teach musical improv was pretty inevitable. It’s also well established in our community how much she enjoys practicing and teaching yoga (or if it isn’t, then I just explained to you why that odd gorgeous girl was bending herself into knots in the middle of the Hideout green room that one time you showed up for a Threefer).
Any one of those could be anyone else’s life’s calling. She excels at them all. But did you also know what a hilarious sketch writer she is? Or how remarkable she is as a lighting designer and technician? Her affinity for brownies and burlesque, for Russian accents and coloring her hair strange and wonderful colors? She’s incredibly smart, innately funny, utterly charming, brutally honest, fiercely opinionated, and one of the most consummate professionals I have ever worked with. She has fun and will take you on that journey with her, but that’s not her goal. That’s just a byproduct of the work. And she is here to get the work done. Getting to work with someone that focused and driven is a gift that makes you raise the level of your own game and talent. If you enjoy me at all when I’m onstage with her, give her half the credit. Because ultimately I’m just trying to keep up.
In the end, though, I think the qualities I keep being drawn to as a collaborator are her support and enthusiasm. The first time I mentioned both Indigo Shift and what eventually became The Awkwards to her, her response was roughly the same both times. “That sounds like a great idea!”, followed shortly thereafter by “I want to be in that!” Which is how I trick her into doing these shows with me, by making her think it’s her idea. In truth, she’s one of the first people I tell any new idea to in the hopes she’ll take some interest (and then come on board and make it better). Any time she’s asked me to play in one of her projects, I’ve said yes before she could finish the invitation. Whenever I’m in another show and the question of “who else should we get?” comes up, her name is the first one out of my mouth.
So, if you ever see a girl who can crack you up with a line, break your heart with a song, strike a pose that blows your mind, or light a space that would make God put away his paints for a while …and you ask me, “Who’s that girl?”, I’ll tell you:
“That’s Kacey Samiee. That’s my sister. Now go get her a brownie.” **
**(Despite Indigo Shift traveling to Hawaii in a little over a month for Improvaganza, this article and its flattering contents should not be misconstrued in any way as an attempt to build up an abundance of good will with Kacey to keep her from murdering me on the plane or for the five days we’ll be there together. That is what the brownie is for. Jeff Amos, you’re on your own. Mahalo!)