Q&A with Nancy Norman: Nursing, doing crazy voices, and joining King Bee
Nancy Norman is a pediatric oncology nurse who uses her sense of humor on the job to cheer up sick children. She is also natural on stage. Just one year ago, with no previous experience in acting or comedy, she took her first improv class, and she’s already participated in WIT’s production of The October Issue and joined the cast of WIT ensemble King Bee. Read on to discover what she loves about improv and how it helps her after a particularly sad or stressful day at work.
What inspired you to sign up for your first improv class? Do you have a background in theater or comedy?
My friend and I went to a Harold Night and everyone on stage was having as much fun as the audience. It made me really want to give it a try. I went home that night and signed up.
I do not have a theater background, other than going to the theater growing up with my family and watching my brother on stage during many of his productions (he is the real actor in the family). The same goes for comedy—the only experience I had with comedy was watching funny shows and movies. My whole family used to watch Whose Line Is It Anyway and we worshiped Wayne Brady!
What was the biggest surprise about your first class?
The biggest surprise about my first class was the automatic camaraderie that I felt among my classmates. That’s what I have enjoyed and appreciated so much about every class and every classmate I have had. I also looked forward to every class so much because I fell in love with improv starting with my very first class.
Your day job is amazing: You’re a pediatric nurse for children with cancer. You recently shaved your head in solidarity with them as part of a fundraiser. How did you decide to pursue this profession? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
I would have to agree with you that my job is amazing; I definitely appreciate how it keeps my life in perspective. I actually was not studying nursing when I got to college. In my first semester, I took one class through the School of Nursing and realized that is what I wanted to do. I called my parents and said, “I think I want to be a nurse” and they said, “I think that would be perfect for you.” The next time they had that reaction was when I called them and said, “I think I want to take an improv class.”
I have always loved kids so I knew I wanted to work in pediatrics. I took an oncology elective in nursing school and really fell in love with the relationships that I made with patients that have cancer. Many patients are (unfortunately) in treatment for a long time, so you get to know them really well (that is the fortunate part). I really value the continuity of care and developing the long lasting relationships. I always say that I fall (platonically) in love with everyone I meet, so it seemed like the perfect fit. I am pretty lucky that I landed my dream job right out of college and I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life!
Do you use improv on the job at all? Do you think health care providers would generally benefit from some exposure to improv, in terms of their work with patients and/or managing their own stress levels?
I definitely use improv on the job! I do a lot of voices/characters at work to make the kids smile and laugh, which makes things pretty fun. I also think it has made me quicker on my feet responding to patients, families, coworkers, etc. I’m a little afraid that I have completely lost my filter and say the first that that comes to mind, buuuut I’m working on it.
I think that all health care providers would benefit from improv! It is an incredible outlet, which I really appreciate. Sometimes I have a really hard or sad day at work and then I go to improv rehearsal and I get to turn off the sad part of the day and enjoy the fun of improv. I would wish that for anyone, but especially my colleagues. For now, my fellow health care providers (and good friends) get their fill of improv coming to Press Play, King Bee and October Issue shows (it is “just what the nurse ordered”).
You were recently cast in the WIT ensemble King Bee (congrats!). What’s that been like so far?
Holy moly—it’s surreal! I am on a team with people that I watched and admired on stage before ever meeting them (say whaaaat?!). I have already practiced and performed with King Bee and everyone welcomed me with open arms. Every person on the team has so much experience and talent, I’m learning so much already! It is the best feeling and I am having so much fun. I think I am going to have a smile permanently painted on my face for a while!
What was it like performing in The October Issue? Was it your first time performing in an all-female ensemble? How is performing with other women different than performing in a co-ed group?
Being a part of The October Issue was the greatest thing ever (THANK YOU, JACI PULICE). It was hands down the most fun I have ever had and I was legitimately sad when the run ended. I laughed until I cried in just about every single show. I am still so honored to be a part of something so creative and inspired. I am so happy that we have all had the chance to get together a few times since October. We “got the band back together” and performed again in Seasonal Disorder—I don’t know what I would do if it ended cold turkey. I would miss those ladies too much!!
The October Issue was my first time performing in an all-female ensemble (it was actually my first ensemble ever). There was an automatic connection and chemistry between everyone. Rehearsals and performing were all so much fun, but some of the best nights were spent chatting and having “girl talk” that really helped bond all of us together. There were times that I looked around the room at all of the amazing and hilarious women and thought, “I am so lucky to be here.”
What is the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
Last night, I went curling (yes, like the Olympic sport) with my family and friends to celebrate my dad’s birthday and I fell while I was sweeping and I’m pretty sure eeeeeeveryone saw it. Admittedly, it was pretty funny.
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