She may not have always matched the color of her shoes or had the guts to approach people to interview, but with the help of SPJ and some comedy improv, her outlook changed.
April Dudash was extremely shy as a child, so shy her mother had to force her just to talk on the phone with people. Most people wouldn’t know this about the quirky, happy-go-lucky avid comedy improv performer, but being a curious, question-asking journalist didn’t come naturally for Dudash.
At least not until she went to college at the University of Florida and got involved with two important groups that shaped her life trajectory: the campus SPJ chapter and a comedy improv class. Both unexpected, but both helpful. Comedy improv made Dudash gain enough confidence to become a better journalist, which in turn helped her excel within SPJ’s campus chapter, of which she eventually became president.
Coincidentally, both areas of interest are two of her biggest passions to this day.
Comedy improv “has enhanced my curiosity and has made me braver,” she said. “It has made me shed that shell I was in as a little kid and has helped me ask questions … and not be afraid to ask (people I interview) the questions that haven’t been asked before.”
“A few years ago in situations where I would normally freeze up … (comedy improv) made me more open to new opportunities.”
Dave Carlson, Dudash’s SPJ campus chapter adviser at Florida, was one of the people who watched her transformation in progress and noted her out-of-the box fashion sense, such as regularly wearing two different-colored Converse sneakers at the same time.
“She went from sort of this mousy little freshman to ending up becoming the president of the chapter and building its membership, just about as high as it ever went. She grew very dramatically during her college years,” Carlson said.
After college, Dudash jumped even further into SPJ by becoming the summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern at headquarters in Indianapolis, which helped provide her insight to look for her next job in North Carolina. Her newly found self-confidence proved to be useful when she began work at the Fayetteville Observer’s military magazine, with no background in military reporting.
Comedy improv still played a big role in her life, but she realized her other passion, SPJ, was missing in her new location. She quickly remedied that by creating the SPJ North Carolina Pro chapter in 2012, of which she was just recently re-elected president.
Though she stayed in the area, she transferred to the Durham Herald Sun to cover higher education and Duke University. This career move led to what she has been doing since March: writing for Duke University’s employee publication and working in the office of Duke’s communications services.
She still performs on three or four comedy improv teams locally and even coaches an allwomen’s team.
Between making people laugh, running a successful SPJ chapter, spending time with her husband and playing with her beagle, Nickel, Dudash makes sure to still be a stand-out in all that she does and build on the confidence she gained within two of her loves: comedy and journalism.
“She has a very bubbly personality and sort of quirky sense of humor,” Carlson said. “She enjoys dressing differently from other people. She has enough self-confidence to be different from other people and not always try to fit in. That is something that I really respect in a young person.”