This college student found a way to combine two passions: music and improv comedy.
Comedian, musician, actress. Megan Simon is all three, and ever since high school, people have been well-aware of that. “The Yearbook staff came up to me and said, ‘Hey Megan, you won two superlatives and you have to pick one: ‘Most Likely to Win a Grammy’ and ‘Most Likely to Win an Oscar.’ I chose the Oscar,” she says.
Simon performs with Water Park, a five-piece musical improv troupe from Austin’s The New Movement. They performed their set last night as a part of weekend-long comedy event Hell Yes Fest, which concludes tonight. “We do a kind of narrative format where one person’s the protagonist,” Simon says. “The protagonist goes through trials and tribulations, and in every scene we have a really fun pop song that we come up with on the spot.” When the timing seems right, one member of the troupe launches into a song, and the rest follow suit. “There’re three guitarists, and I’m easing my way into playing guitar with them,” she says.
Simon’s musical and theatrical background is largely connected to the small town of Kerrville, Texas, where she attended high school. “I was known as the ‘alternative girl’ because I didn’t listen to country music,” she says. At age 11, Simon picked up a guitar for the first time, and her collection of musical instruments later grew to include a keyboard, ukulele and glockenspiel. And in Kerrville, where there were something like four kids in the theater department, Simon had plenty of chances for the lead roles in her high school’s drama productions. “I never really felt that confident about them, though,” she says. “After being rejected to five different acting schools, I realized that serious dramas probably aren’t my thing. I like playing goofy characters; I like comedy.”
Simon made the decision to attend Texas State University in San Marcos in Fall 2010, but she discovered The New Movement prior to starting school. On a Wednesday night that summer, she and her father made a trip to Austin. “I took a free class of theirs and then stayed and watched the show,” she says. “I was immediately charmed by it. This is when Chris Trew was still here, and I talked to him afterwards.” Simon told him she was considering a few theaters, but Trew convinced her that The New Movement was the one for her. A few months later, Simon was taking classes. “There’s a comfort level with The New Movement,” she says. “The students get into all of the shows for free, and I’d say that 50 percent of the crowd is alumni or current students.”
But it took a while for Simon to find her own balance between her first hobby, music, and her love for improv. Her guitar-and-vocals cover of Pete Townshend's “Let My Love Open the Door” has now amassed over 35,000 views on YouTube, though she admits that it’s been a while since she’s updated her YouTube channel. Comedy keeps her busy. “But the musical improv ties it all together and fills that hole,” Simon says.
Musical improv wasn’t an initial interest for Simon, but when a musical workshop from Chicago came into town, Trew recommended her as an accompanist. “I played guitar and got to take it for free since I was doing the music,” she says. “I’m watching it, and thinking, ‘He makes some really good points. This could be a really funny thing.’” Several of Water Park’s current members attended these workshops too, but Simon didn’t know them yet.
“Water Park actually formed without me,” she says. After several initial rehearsals in the spring, Water Park began to perform their set, and Simon was among those in the audience. After one of these shows, Water Park asked her if she’d be interested in rehearsing with the troupe some time. There was no hesitation for Simon. “The whole time I was watching it, I’m thinking, ‘This is amazing. How do they do this? How do I become a part of this without asking?’” she says. “I thought I’d never be able to do that. I was blown away. Now, I know all of their secrets.”
Hell Yes Fest concludes tonight with a full slate of stand-up and improv comedy shows at Cafe Istanbul, The Shadowbox Theater, The New Movement and the Hi-Ho Lounge. Check the schedule for details.