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Update: Violet Underbelly and Chicago Improv Festival Wrap-Up [May. 10th, 2011|02:59 am]
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Been awhile since I've been able to sit down and write. Is that how all my blog posts start out these days? Probably so.

Lots of things. Lots of things happening. Lots of shows. Lots of prep work. Travel. Work. Driving around gettin' shit done.
Many emotional highs and lows.
There were some days recently where I barely had time to sleep. Just busy insanity.
I'm coming out of it now, and it's nice to see the road ahead, less cluttered but still nicely filled with schtuff.

Here's what I've been up to, in part...

The end of The Violet Underbelly

Overall, I really loved doing this show. I got to tackle a whole new range of characters, commitments, scenarios, and story lines. PGraph had dabbled in Film Noir for our Dick & Jane show (Noir stories with Jane Austen settings and characters), but this was my first time to fully delve into that dark, corrupted, yet colorful world. We women in the cast could only play women, and whenever we were onstage, we were to have seduction of the men on our agenda. At first, it seems like a limited place to be, but as most good artists know, there is a hell of a lot of freedom and inspiration in limitation.
Getting all dolled up in a 1940s kind of way was super fun, and after all the prep (at least an hour if not more for hair and make-up) I always felt ready to hit the stage with my smoldering sensuality. ;) But seriously, you feel different on stage when you have a tight, curve-hugging dress, heels, and red lipstick on.

Look at how cool the set I painted looks in the background! Them windahs look real!

I'd definitely say we did a good job with the show. We had great stories, we had some damn dark shows, we had some lighter ones that still hit the genre and tone well, we had some amazing characters (I played characters named China, Strawberry, and Baby, among other things), and it just felt great to improvise in a show where I never once worried about being "funny" or making the audience laugh. The closer we stuck to the genre, the more they found things fun just because they were honest. Playful, dark, sexy, witty - all good words to describe what happened on the stage during that show run. Fuck yeah, improv.
And also, the same thing happened to me like when we did Villainy, or ERIS. Whenever I played a character that did bad things - namely, shot and killed people - I had a hard time shaking the weird lingering feelings about doing it afterward. I think it's because when I start out in these shows, I rarely think something like "I'm going to play a character that kills a bunch of people at the end of this". Honestly, you can't think that way in such an ensemble-driven production. You really have little idea of the ultimate fate of many of the characters in the beginning, so many small offers come that can take the show in a variety of directions.
So I think creating these women, and then carrying them through the end, and then having them do what they felt they had to do, was hard. I mean, I don't want to shoot people. But sometimes it comes up in the story and has be done (these noir stories be bleak, ya'll). As I was holding our very realistic prop guns I always had a seed of doubt "is this the right thing to do?", as a character choice, as a plot choice, as an improviser choice. But, you don't just pick up a gun and toss it around. You use it or you get thrown to the ground. So you're very much acting and directing and writing in the moment, especially with shows like this, and it felt so insane to make such bold choices! You can't undo it once it is done, either.
No one ever told me I was wrong with my choices in the shows, nothing like that, I just had trouble shaking the squeamish feeling I had deep inside once I walked off the stage. So that's interesting. Learning to cope with the aftermath of more dramatic/dark/isolating improv.

The Chicago Improv Festival

Wow, what a whirlwind weekend we had in Chicago!
PGraph did two shows - ERIS 2035 and Some Like it Improvised - at the Second City Skybox Friday and Saturday night. Both shows sold-out (yesss). One did well and one killed. As you can probably guess, the more experimental darker show - ERIS - was the one that only did well, while the highly comedic Screwball show rocked the place. We kinda knew that would happen, so we did our screwball on Saturday night so we could end on a high note.
You might think it weird that we brought a show to a big festival showcase that isn't a guaranteed win with an audience. But the theme of the improv festival was "finding improv's edge" and all about pushing boundaries, and this IS our hardest format and most boundary pushing improv show - because the idea is to set the tone of alienation and isolation. Usually, those are the last things you want an improv show to impress upon people. But for us, it was a very purposeful choice. Just not for everyone.
But, our Screwball show IS kinda for everyone. Everyone loves it. It's just a delightful format that creates really likeable characters and a love story we all know so well but will watch again and again. You root hard for love to come through in the end, and then it does and everyone cheers. So. Ying and Yang. We're doin' it.

ERIS 2035

Some Like It Improvised

In addition to our shows we also coached a troupe from Green Bay, Wisconsin for 9+ hours called Late Night Prime Time. They wanted to work on story and characters and Jonathan Pitts thought we'd be a good fit to be their mentor. Normally, one coach mentors a troupe (in the CIF Apprentice Program), but for them we all did it together. 9 hours seemed like a TON of time when we first got started, but we quickly realized we have so many things we love to teach, we could fill days and days with exercises. It actually ended up being super fun to work with them, and now we have a good foundation on which to base our Narrative Intensive on.

So, basically, we lived at Second City all weekend, when we weren't crashing out for a few hours at Bill and Melissa's place in Andersonville.
Every meal I ate tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten. Especially the gourmet sausages from Hot Doug's and the crazy-amazing-experimental pizza from Ian's. I love gourmet blue collar food. Gimme! (okay, but not now, because I'm being good and eating healthy at the moment)

Here we are, in the hour-long line for Hot Doug's with our Hawaii friends (from the troupe On The Spot) and host Bill Stern Jr.

The more we travel, the more friends we make nationally. Then, when we go to big national festivals, we get to see our friends again! It's pretty great, that part of festivals. Checkin' out each other's shows and talking shop. I LOVE it. Big time.

So yeah, our first time at CIF a few years was okay, but this time we really had a good stay. Great shows on a nice stage with packed houses, paid teaching gig, free housing at a lovely friend's place, easy city transportation, super tasty food - yep - it was a pretty good trip for us. My main complaint would be how crammed our schedules were. But that could not have been easily helped.

Up next (you know, like later today or something when I can keep my eyes open), re-caps from:
The 5th Annual Ladies Are Funny Festival
The opening of Holy 1960s Batman, Batman!