2017-2018 Season,  The Glorious Story Emporium

Actor Calee Gardner: From Improv Broadway to Improv at BYU!

by Pollyanna Eyler, Dramaturg

Impromptu “Sound of Music” (2017)

Below is my interview with Calee Gardner. I first saw Calee appear on “stage” in TMA 115 Performance Studies class where we were grouped in sets of four students and required to put together a multimedia presentation of a poem for the rest of the class with only a few minutes of lead time. Drawing on her improvisational experience at ImprovBroadway, and utilizing her alluring singing voice, she created an impromptu free form jazz rendition on the spot that mesmerized! Calee is a shooting star, so catch her on campus in The Glorious Story Emporium before her rising star takes her into the stratosphere and you’re left paying Broadway prices just to catch another glimpse!


“Hercules” B.Y.U. Mask Club (2017)

Favorite Story:

  • What were the circumstances around when you discovered your favorite story? I have always loved the story of Peter Pan. Ever since I was small, I was fascinated with the red head boy who flew about in green, fought pirates and never had to grow up. I would play Peter Pan and Wendy with my friends. I have been told by my family that once I went to see a production of Peter Pan and when the actor playing Peter asked us to clap if we believed, to save Tinkerbell, I stood up and shouted that I believed.
  • Why is this your favorite story? I love the adventure. I love the idea of never having to grow up and the bitter sweet love story of Peter and Wendy.
  • What is your favorite part of the story? I love when Wendy and Peter first meet. As he tries to attach his shadow and then the gifts of kisses and thimbles. I love when Peter comes to save them all at the end.
  • Why is this your favorite part of the story? This story empowers children. It is fantastical and wistful. It is like a good dream you wake up to and lie there trying to remember for a bit before you have to get up and face the difficulties of the day.


“Hair Raising Adventures with Pan” vs. Diego Luna “Captain Cassian Andor” Rogue One

Love Story:

  • What do wish could be your “Happily Ever After” story? Silly as it may sound, I love the love story in the animated film “Anastasia”. Dimitri and Anya start out at odds with each other. They are always trying to out do each other and their strong personalities clash as they learn to work together. They are both clever and charming and have had to be on their toes to keep on top. They are used to being at odds with the world. As they meet each other they realize that in their love they have found someone that they can trust completely. They can show their insecurities to each other.  Anya blossoms into a lady and Dimitri becomes a true gentleman. They fight to protect each other and I love to see the transition between rivals to best of friends to lovers. In the end they go off with each other to face the world. In each other they have found freedom. They are equals.
  • What are the similarities/differences to your love life? For me I fall in love deeply and slowly. I really am looking for someone who will treat me like an equal, but also protect and comfort me. I want to that for someone else. I am still working on finding my happily ever after.
  • Who is your “True Love” or “Famous Character Crush”? I have not yet found my true and eternal love. But if Peter Pan were real, I would run around in Neverland with him. Captain Cassian Andor from “Rogue One” is my dream crush.


Calee Gardner as “Jo March” in “Little Women”

Life Story:

  • Story you most identify with your life? I have always identified with the book Little Women and most specifically the character Jo March. She is so passionate about her writing and storytelling and existence. She loves her family and values so deeply good memories. I love to see how she works through her weaknesses. She does everything she can do to help her family stay together, but still works so hard to achieve her dreams. During the process of trying to save the world, she discovers that she is growing too. Her dreams do not change, but she makes them richer as she discovers more about herself. In the end, she is always with those that she loves even if it all turned out differently than she thought.
  • If your life story was made into a movie today, which famous actor would portray you? Carey Mulligan


“Calee Gardner” next to “Carey Mulligan”

The resemblance is uncanny, but the staring qualities of Calee shine through!


  • What school, if any, do you currently attend? Brigham Young University
  • What year are you in school, or hoped for graduation year? I am a sophomore
  • What will be your degree(s)? Acting and a minor in Communications.
  • Anything you’d like to share about BYU, especially the Theatre Media Arts program? BYU allows you to perform in a way that dedicates each performance to the Lord. It involves God in the process, and that is so important to me. I love the perspective it provides.
  • What do you hope to do with your degree(s)? I hope to perform in other venues and cities as a performer.  I hope to teach others to use the arts and express themselves through this art.
  • What do you hope to accomplish in the next ten years? Finish school. Perhaps get a master‘s degree. Travel around the world. Perform. Write. And maybe fall in love.
  • What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime? That is a big question. I suppose I hope to Endure to the end and live a life that qualifies me to live with my family for eternity. I want to have the arts in my life my whole life. I want to be anxiously engaged in a good cause throughout all my years. I want to have taken chances and lived my dreams. I want to have had a grand adventure.


Calee Gardner in “White Christmas” and then “Belle” in A Christmas Carol


  • What was your introduction to theatre? I had always loved to sing and dance. But it was not until eighth grade that I auditioned for my first stage production. It was a production of Annie. I felt so happy when I was on the stage. It changed my life. I almost stopped doing theater in high school, but luckily I auditioned for the school show and I had a good teacher who encouraged me to continue to develop my talents.
  • What was your favorite role to play so far? a role that really means a lot to me is that of Belle Fezziwig in the Orem Hale Center Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol.
  • Why was that your favorite cast/crew role? I had dreamed of performing at the Hale since I was much younger. I could still remember when I saw my mother dance on that stage. Performing there was such a big blessing. Playing this part was important to me because of the hope and love that Belle represents in the show. She also, in a undercover sort of way, testifies of the need for Christ in our lives. For the pure love of Christ.
  • What are some other roles worth mentioning that you’ve had in the past? Jo March: Little Women, Judy Haynes: White Christmas, Tess: Crazy for You,  Little Red Riding Hood: Into the Woods


“Red Riding Hood” Timpanogos High School Into the Woods

The Glorious Story Emporium:

  • What motivated you to get involved in this show? I love improv. Ever since I started doing it with ImprovBroadway before my mission to Austria. I had always loved making up songs and plays. Now I get to do improv for fun on the spot.
  • What did you do &/or what do you recommend for those auditioning for improvisation? Be bold and listening. Practice making up songs in the car. Change the words. Think of characters, but don’t be afraid to be your natural self on the stage. You can bring a lot of yourself into improvisation.
  • What is your experience with improvisation? In high school I was given the nickname “miss my life is a musical” because I sang all the time. I made up songs about whatever was happening at the current moment. So I suppose this was my first experience. The summer after graduation, I was in a show and met Zach Atherton, the founder of ImprovBroadway. He invited me to come be part of the group. I felt nervous at first because I had never done improv on stage and I was by far the youngest member of the troupe.  I practiced with the group once a week and started to feel more comfortable. I was most excited to make up the songs. I worked lights for the show for a while, watching and learning. Then eventually I was going to be in my first show. It was the ladies of ImprovBroadway. I loved it. I love working with the audience to create the story. They laughed and laughed. It is an adrenaline rush to have no idea what is going to happen before you get on the stage. I did one more show with other cast members before heading out on my mission. I felt sad to leave it behind, but in my heart I felt that it was not my last time doing improv. Sometimes it was difficult. I had to really learn to trust myself. I needed to trust the other actors on stage. I needed to be fully committed to my character and keep going even if things are going differently than you planned. There is also however a need for flexibility. I remember in one show, I was going to be the butt of a joke about making a sandwich. At first I resisted, trying to turn the story around, but then I embraced it and it was so hilarious. I have so so so much to learn about improv. But that is why I am so excited to continue learning more. Improv is like real life. You just live it and you go and you don’t know exactly how the other people will respond or if it will rain, or there will be traffic, maybe you will drop the fishbowl, or they don’t text back, or you leave ice cream on the counter when you go out for the day. Hey. It is ok. It is life. Improv is putting yourself in a made up situation and then finding the most creative and hopefully entertaining way of getting yourself through, around, under, or over it.
  • What do you love about the show? The story is adaptable to the audiences.
  • What will be challenging about the show? Creating a flowing storyline while still using the ideas we are given.
  • Anything you’d like to share about the Cast & Crew? I am so excited to work with them.
  • Who should see this show? People who need to smile a little more in their life.
  • What are you looking forward to in touring the show? I am excited to see how the kids react to the show. I am excited to make up different stories every time we come.
Calee Gardner in “ImprovBroadway”

Fan Club:

  • What do you do to prepare yourself to go on stage or do to prepare to help back stage? Pray
  • What do you reward yourself with after each show or the run of a show? Ice cream and crepes.
  • Favorite gifts to receive from fans at the show? Flowers are fantastic.
  • Besides your role in this show, what other unique talents do you have? I speak german really well. I love to write.
  • What do you like to do when you’re not in a show? I love to be out in nature. Hiking or exploring. I love writing and creating.
  • Anything else that you would like to share with your fans? Everyone can use their talents whatever they might be to help other people. Even just being kind or having a listening ear can help.


Calee Gardner not only served a full-time mission for the LDS Church in Alpine Germany, she also served as a Performing Missionary in Nauvoo this past summer.




  • Esther Ting

    I have always assumed the improvisational theatre is a descendant of Commedia dell’Arte, which each actor play a particular stock character. It changes my perspective when Carlee Gardner mentions how she has to learn to embrace herself on an improv stage. Being yourself is an important element because impromptu show is about living it. This new insight helps me to have even more respect for the improv actors. They bring the show to life not only because of their professional skills to make up songs, stories, and interact with the peer actors, it is also because of their confidence in presenting their true selves. I’m excited to see the show 🙂

  • Alana Wilcox

    I love the way that Calee defines improv acting. It really is just like going through a day of life and not knowing exactly what is going to happen. I have seen Calee perform improvisation before and she gives her all in everything she does, so I am especially excited to see her grace the stage in The Glorious Story Emporium!

  • Washington C Pearce

    Improv is my favourite part of theatre, and it inspired me to read about somebody else’s experiences. I was under the impression that improvisational theatre was considered second or third class by most actors and directors, but this article helps reinforce that it’s all worthy of the stage.

    I completely identify with Ms. Gardner’s comment about having to embrace the joke or plot while on stage. That’s something that I still struggle with, but I know that theatre has and will continue to help me to grow onstage as well as off.

  • Chris Rollins

    Really interesting article. It did a really thorough job at explaining who Calee is and what she’ll be doing in the show. It also made me super excited to see the show and Calee in whatever role she is playing in whatever improvised show is happening on that night.

  • Chris Rollins

    I also really liked what Calee said about how the important aspect of improv was trusting in yourself and in your character. I always try to be funny in improv but this reminded me that it’s better to embrace your character than to try to be funny. That way the humor will just come.

  • Bella Lunt

    I absolutely loved Calee Gardner’s attitude on improv and performing! I personally have struggled with improv and feeling confident enough to participate. I feel like I try too hard to be funny or good, but she put into perspective that improv is like real life, and you just try to calmly and casually roll with what you’re given. You don’t need to try hard to be funny or seem talented, you just have to be yourself, and that is enough.

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