With her dad serving in the marine corps for 30 years, Tia Kemp literally grew up in major cities around the world, enjoying it all and developing a strong interest in art.
So when it came time to go to college, Kemp decided to major in visual arts and creative writing, eventually obtaining a graduate degree from Seattle University. And it was while living in Seattle that she says she first discovered improvisation, finding ways to express herself that she never knew before.
“I stayed in Seattle for awhile, but I longed to be back on the East coast where some of my family was living,” Kemp explains. “I had an aunt living here as well as some cousins. I also missed living in a big city where there’s so much more to do. So because I was interested in art and the theater, and always felt comfortable when I visited here, I decided to make Philly my home.”
And since she’s been here, she’s wasted no time expressing herself and helping others to do the same. Kemp is a performer here in the city. In addition to improv and sketch performance, she also works as a teacher and consultant, using elements of improvisation to develop team-building. She is part of the all POC comedy troupe, NYTEShift, and performs regularly with Study Hall.
Kemp is also the creator and host of “No Diggity,” an improv and trivia show inspired by old school hip hop and R&B. As part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and a project of Crossroads Theatre Company, “No Diggity” can be enjoyed Sept. 26, from 8 to 9 pm, at Theatre Exile.
During the show, Kemp curates a playlist of old-school hip hop and R&B music videos that inspire hilarious sketch improvisational scenes. Audience members will be quizzed on the old-school hip hop knowledge. If an audience member guesses Kemp’s quiz correctly, they might get to pick which video inspires the cast to create a sketch right on the spot.
“This is a show I created in 2018, and it’s the kind of show I want everyone to enjoy as much as I do,” Kemp explains. “It’s a show based on improv, trivia, and lots of fun where the audience gets to participate. And because the shows are improvised, I try not to give out too much information beforehand. All I can tell you is that the show on September 26 will be a good time for all.”
Working with anywhere from seven to nine performers during a show, Kemp adds that “combining music with improv is nothing new. But, for me, the best part of doing this show is that it centers and celebrates a key part of the Black culture on the hip hop page which I think is something unique. It’s also something I wanted to experience, both as a performer and someone who loves to watch imrov.
And I’ve had audience members come up to me and tell me how much they enjoy the experience because it’s so interactive. And I think that’s why I love doing it so much.”
And although, Kemp continues, doing improv can be more difficult than when an actor is given a script to memorize, improv can also be a lot of fun.
“It’s like the best of storytelling. And even if someone makes a mistake, someone else can pick up the thread and get on with the story, making it even more fun. In improv, there is no right or wrong. You just play and explore and let everyone have a good time.”