By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

The National Comedy Theatre, Downtown Mesa’s home for improv and sketch comedy, has fallen on hard times, due to the coronavirus crisis. Unable to host classes or secure a loan, the organization is holding online lessons to keep brand—and its bottom line—alive.

“We are doing our best to move our offering as much as possible online,” says Krissy Lenz, NCT director.

“We’re as new to this as everyone else. We haven’t presented classes for kids online previously. We have classes for kids and teens through Zoom on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at various times. Each class is about an hour long. We’re teaching the fundamentals of a positive mindset and quick thinking. They’re no-stress, no-pressure fun games and activities.”

All of this is meant to teach kids the fundamentals of improv. The classes are $20.

“It’s about being open and trusting,” Lenz says. “They’re learning to listen carefully and thoughtfully to other people’s ideas and agreeing to work together as a team. They’re building new things together, which I think is important, particularly right now when things are uncertain. It calms us to know that we can deal with the uncertain.”

Lenz fell in love with improv when she was 14 and in a teen class.

“Anything you can imagine is possible,” she says. “You don’t need sets. You don’t need props. You can create anything from nothing. It’s so wonderful and freeing and fun and imaginative and exciting. I caught the bug and never stepped away.”

A Chaparral High School graduate, Lenz improvised with her friends there. She says the talent helps her stay calm during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t know what our shows and classes are going to look like,” she says. “We’re just going forward with our best ideas and growing our ideas and adapting to change in this new environment. Nobody could have been prepared for this.”

National Comedy Theatre has been in the Valley since 2008. Previously, Lenz and her husband, Doran, owned a National Comedy Theatre branch in San Diego.

“We’re from the Valley, but we moved to San Diego and became part of the team there,” she says. “He was the director there for a number of years and then we decided to move home and start our own branch.”