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Roy Janik

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lifting horses [Oct. 14th, 2007|08:31 pm]
Roy Janik
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I normally can't muster up the strength for long posts, but I'm so delirious right now that maybe, just may I can make it happen.

This weekend PGraph made the trip to the Big Ha! festival in Omaha, Nebraska. Last year Kaci and I went with Jeremy and Ace to flesh out The Available Cupholders. We had so much fun that we were aching to come back with Parallelogramophonograph. Fortunately, 88 Improv was here for the Out of Bounds Improv Festival, and extended an invite to us to come up.

We learned from the Tulsa trip that while bearable, cramming all the kittens into one car isn't exactly the most ideal of situations. And since this time around, one driver would need to sleep while the other drove, we made the decision to rent a mini-van. Good thing we did, too. We got a 2007 Sienna, I think, from Hertz. I used my special IBM discount thingy. The guy from Hertz was funny, as he kept saying things like "Well, since you're with IBM..." and treating me special because of my affiliation with IBM. That was odd.

The first thing that was awesome about the Sienna was that the stereo came with an AUX input, which meant that our various mp3 devices (2 ipods, my iphone, and Val's Nomad) could be plugged into the sound system. I think that alone may have saved our lives on the trip, since it greatly expanded the range of our music/audio selection. The 2nd thing that was awesome about the Sienna was that the back seats could be folded down entirely into the floor. NICE. Kaci grabbed a bunch of blankets and pillows from the Moonbase and prepared sleeping quarters in the back of the van. It wasn't very comfortable, still, but you could definitely pass out back there.

Van properly configured, we made our maiden voyage as a troupe with a van to ColdTowne. This was Thursday night, you see. It was also our first show after having taken the 3-For-All workshops. Our warmups included stuff we'd learned from them (setting and striking as a group, mainly), and our goals and focus reflected things we admired, too... (double downing, spacework, knowing what you're wearing, *seeing* your space). And even though the crowd was stupidly small, we had what we felt was a super-fun show. I was laughing, because I could imagine Ratliff (who was in the audience) seeing the 3-For-All residue oozing off us. We did split screens, commited to our characters hardcore, switched scenes without striking, and had mostly organic edits.

When the show was over, we waved goodbye to the audience and announced that we were fleeing for Omaha. We hopped in the minivan, and were on our way... leaving for our 15 hour drive at 9:30PM on Thursday.

First, though, we stopped at 1/2 Price books to buy audio books and radio plays. We're studying right now for our upcoming run of French Farce Improv Show run, so we already had some Moliere stuff on CD, but we picked up The Shadow, Return of the Jedi (radio drama), and... umm... something else. The plan was that all this would help keep the drivers up and awake.

We then hit the road in ernest. And I gotta tell you, having a show we were happy about just before leaving made all the difference. We were energized, excited, and happy to be in close confines with our comrades. I took the first driving shift, which was basically a straight shot up I-35. To make matters worse, it was the same route we'd taken to get to Tulsa 2 weeks ago, so there was no novelty to be had. I was glad to see some of my favorite things from before, though, like the Oklahoma School of Horseshoeing (South Campus), and Frontier Land (now with a giant spider clinging to the side of a roller coaster). Of course we also passed the NOTORIOUS Dublin Square, where the food is just fair. Early in the trip we stopped at HEB and loaded up on jerky and other random snacks, most of which I did not eat. Kareem and I played a game of consuming progressively more awful energy drinks, however.

A lot of stuff happened, which seemed significant at the time, but which now is all a jumble. I never really got tired driving, though, and when I did get a little sleepy, I'd stop for gas, and be well again. So I drove all the way through Texas and Oklahoma, passing off the reigns to Kareem once we hit Kansas. After that, I went into the back, and fell into an uncomfortable sleep. This is when I realized that I'm really paranoid. Any time the van made a sudden braking, or someone's voice raised, I was scared that we were about to be in an accident and would start awake. But all was well.

We arrived at our hotel, a La Quinta, around 1pm Friday. I called Corinne, our contact from 88 Improv to let her know we had arrived safely, and then we all promptly passed out for a few hours.

Marginally refreshed, we headed for the Theater. Alas, the theater from last year, an awesome 1930s era department store modified minimally into a performance space, was unavailable this year, having been condemned by the government, but this year's theater was still really cool. It was in a strip mall of sorts, but the theater sat 130, and the stage had two levels, some faux stairs, and four different doors to enter and exit from. It was inspiring, and we were excited by the possibilities. The backstage was also huge, and 88 Improv provided snacks and drinks for us, as well as maps of Omaha marked with places to visit. Also included was a gift card for a huge feast at Famous Dave's Barbeque. More on this later.

After getting some food at the nearby Razzie's (great sammiches, average soup), we learned that the troupe that was supposed to open for us in the 7 o'clock was running late, and that we'd be going first. That was fine by us, since we wanted to be able to watch them, anyhow. Bill and Ace also arrived fresh from Chicago to join Kaci in an Available Cupholders show in the 9PM slot. After saying hello, we got on the stage and warmed up, employing much the same techniques as from Thursday. Setting the scenes and striking as a group, doing scene starts, getting into character, etc... It was a fun warmup.

The audience was a bit small for that show, but it was still decent. And we did a longform, employing our newish intro, the Roundabout. Our suggestion was "illegal downloading" It was a very playful show. The best part to me was that we continued to push ourselves in terms of organic editing, and stage techniques like doing split screen while sharing focus. At one point we had a 3-way split screen, with all of us playing multiple characters. At another point we rode in a giant Hummer, which became larger and larger as the scene went on. And Val and I did some scenes in verse. And Kareem referenced LOL Cats, because it was appropriate for the show, and kaci and I became involved as a gay couple.

Our job done, we settled in to watch the other shows. First up was Comedy XPeriment, from Des Moines, rounding out our show slot. This was interesting, because they appeared to have a Kaci clone in their troupe, but upon later inspection, it was determined that they really didn't look anything alike. The Kaci clone, Sarah, looks more like Molly Shannon than Kaci.

In the 9PM slot, The Cupholders went first. They did their Elevator format again, wherein the characters are trapped in a small location, in this case a submarine. They hit a sweet game of doing flashbacks about the birth of each of the characters. The best part of the show for me, though, was just seeing how happy and joyful Bill was to be performing improv again. Apparently, even though he takes classes at IO and such in Chicago, he hasn't yet had much stage time there. So everything he did was done with an amazing amount of zeal. My favorite part of the show was at the end, when Ace was setting it up so that they were all going to shoot themselves out of the torpedo hatch at enemy ships, and Bill cried "I'm sick of dying at the end of these things!". It was so meta and blocky, and should've been an awful thing to say, but it was perfect, and hilarious, and not just to those who knew him.

After the Cupholders where the Weisenheimers, the sole shortform group of The Big Ha! 2007. They played about 5 games through the course of their 45 minute show. The funny thing was that just like last year the shows were supposed to be pseudo-clean, in deference to 88 Improv's built in audience knowing to expect clean, family-friendly entertainment from them. But just like last year, the Weisenheimers ignored that and went as blue as they wanted. They clearly have talent, even if (as I hear) they don't perform together that often anymore. The highlight of the show for me was a game called (I think) Good Cop/Bad Cop, where one player had to guess the attributes (supplied by the audience ) of different cops as they pulled him over for speeding. Sadly, the Weisenheimer's amazing musical improviser, Matt Geller, only had a few minutes to show off his skills at the end of the show, so I didn't get as big of a fix as I wanted.

Afterwards, I was sad to find that Bill and Ace had already taken off to go back to Chicago. INSANE. 8 1/2 hours to get there to do a 40 minute show and turn right back around.

After the 9PM show, we all made our way to the ICE HOUSE Sports Grill and Bar for the Improv Jam. To be honest, we were a bit fearful of the jam. We've been to jams involving people who don't know each other very well before (in San Fan), and we've done Barprov before, and neither were very awesome experiences in the long run. But 1st off, we had an entire huge room to ourselves, with a very definite, high stage, and a musical improviser (from Comedy Xperiment, I think). Secondly, there was a good crowd. Thirdly, everyone played nicely together. I mean, there were something like 20 improvisers, so it was still a bit chaotic. In fact, in Omaha, they call Montage shows "The Chaos", so it all fit. But it definitely exceeded our expectations by far. The show started with Freeze as a warm up, and then went into random scenes. After Freeze, we found that our food had arrived, so we went to sit down, thinking that we'd jump up if the mood struck us. And it did. I worry that it kinda made us look like jerks, doing scenes and then going down to eat, but it totally worked for me, and got us into the mindset of doing support. Throughout the night, I would jump up when inspired or when it felt right, and only then. It was a strong, fun show, and showcased the talents of all the troupes.

I got decently buzzed, in just the right way so that I was talkative and got to discoursing with the other troupes.

Exhausted beyond measure, we went back to our hotel and crashed.

Waking up at 10:30 am, we showered, packed up, and checked out of our hotel. We then headed without mishap to the Old Market, which Kaci and I knew about from last year. It's basically a collection of cool shops, restaurants, and antique stores. We spent a long time at a store that was a lot like Toy Joy, minus the toys. We went to the leather store, where they had fancy coats that cost $5000, and large animal furs that are the softest thing ever. Kaci bought a beret. We went to a Russian imports store, and goggled at the glassware, icons, communist posters, and russian dolls. We went to an antique store with an awesome cat prone to licking, and a fantastic vintage clothing basement. That's when we discovered that vintage clothes are significantly cheaper in Omaha than in Austin. Kaci bought some stuff, including a fantstic blue and white checkered dress that she would wear in the show later that night. At some point we were also recognized by someone as improvisers, having been seen by them at the jam. Woo.

We also ran into Comedy XPeriment, and they gave Valerie a postcard they'd bought featuring a lady they thought looked exactly like her. Our last stop in The Old Market was at a vintage store called Retro Rocket, where I purchased a grey suit with colored stripes, which I also wore in the night's show.

DSCF1036Our shopping lust satisfied, we walked to Famous Dave's, a barbeque joint, and cashed in our gift card, for Dave's All-American Feast, served on a trashcan lid. Here's the description:

"A full slab of spareribs, a whole chicken, ½ pound of Texas beef brisket, coleslaw, Famous Fries, Wilbur Beans, four corn bread muffins and four corn-on-the-cob. (serves 4-5)"

It was more or less amazing... some of the best barbeque I've had in a long while, with a wide variety of barbeque sauces to mix and match.

It was a totally relaxing day... and it felt great to just be out and about with no real responsibilities for a long time.

After eating, we made our way back to the theater.

The 7PM slot featured Comedy XPeriment again, along with Girlzzz, and almagamation of all the girls from the all the troupes performing in one show. Originally they were going to do another Chaos, but they changed their mind and settled on 6 Degrees, or in this case, 7 Degrees. Kareem and I were starting to get massive pre-show jitters, so we hung out in the lobby for most of it. We did pop in to watch the beginning of 6 Degrees. It was fun seeing Val and Kaci make us proud out there. I especially loved seeing Kaci mime walking through the mall and then running back to catch her friend who had stopped walking.

The other fun part of hanging out in the lobby was that we got to witness the glory of the Red Hat Society.

From the website: "The Red Hat Society is a social organization where there is fun after fifty (and before) for women of all walks of life.". This translates as older ladies wearing red hats and purple shirts. I've seen them in Austin before, but never in such numbers. Apparently, they're big fans of 88 Improv. There were actually 2 separate groups of Red Hat Ladies there that night. The first group showed up on time, payed their 12 bucks, and went inside. The second group thought the show started at 7:30, and that it would cost $5 (as is normally the case when a festival isn't going on). We got to hear this conversation 1000 times between a red-hat wearing lady and the ticket seller:

"Oh, we were told it was at 7:30."

"It normally is, but tonight it's at 7. That'll be 12 dollars."

"Oh, we were told $5."

Over and over again.

Finally the 9PM show came, which was us, followed by 88 Improv, and would be the last show of the festival. We decided to do a Family Portrait, having been inspired by the stage set up, and to make it a period piece of some sort if were inspired to do so. To that end, we set up a table on the stage, and hung a painting on the wall that we'd found backstage.

We took a suggestion for a room in the house, and we all got excited when "parlour" was shouted (after the obigatory 'bathroom', of course). Our show quickly evolved into a story of an overbearing Victorian era father (me), his sickly daughter Delores (Val), their servant Tabatha, and their freeloading lodger, Fred (Kareem). So we did the show entirely in British accents. We blew out the space, using the whole theater for large chunks of the show, to represent an old London marketplace. We did split screens, we explored the relationships of the characters, we had a flashback that enabled us to play with status, I sang a song about books and shoes (which I was selling), and we ended the whole show with the death/resurrection of Delores which turned the whole thing around, and finished the show on a sweet, touching note.

I can't express it well enough. It felt magical, but I can't describe it. I hate to brag about it so much, but it's my journal, and I love my troupe. And I'm fiercely proud of that show, and of all our shows from this week, actually. Everyone brought so much talent and commitment to our Saturday show, that it was effortless, and the show carried us. Plus, unlike the night before, we used all the doors as actual doors, and kept out of sight and backstage when not peforming, giving it a much more theatrical vibe.

Having no notes except "WOO!", we went back to the theater and watched 88 Improv do their show. It was a great show as well. They did their signature "hitchhiker" format, which we actually took an idea from to help with our After School Improv format long, long ago (the idea of identifying the protagonist at the top of the show, and having them play only that character, while the other players played multiple characters). There was some brillaint spacework in a scene involving a postal worker, and a surprise ending involving flossing/smoking at the same time, and God making an appearance. Really good stuff.

After the show we sold about 8 shirts (!), some to improvisers, and others to audience members, and gave out a lot of matches. Then we took some pictures with all the other improvisers still around, said our goodbyes, and hit the road again.

DSCF1056Again we started our trek, bouyed up by a good feeling about our show. Kareem drove for 9 hours, and after a little bit, I crashed in the back. We stopped for mediocre food at some point or another. We drove through the night, and apparently at some point Kareem got pulled over and issued a ticket. I slept through all of that, though, thankfully. I took over driving when we hit Texas, and did the home stretch. We stopped in West, Texas, ate at a mediocre steakhouse, and got great stuff from the Czech Stop. We stopped at a scary Dairy Queen, and all had blizzards despite the pervading smell of vomit and/or diapers, disgusting bathrooms, and expired milk (experience by another customer, not us, thank God.)

We dropped Val and Kareem off, and came home to find the cats still alive. Kaci crashed, and I started typing this post.

A fantastic weekend. What's next?

(I'm sure my grammar, spelling, etc, is all messed up... I'll fix it later).

[User Picture]From: majcher
2007-10-15 03:55 am (UTC)
That is a whole pantsload full of awesome, right there. Woo!
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[User Picture]From: nekomouser
2007-10-15 03:59 am (UTC)
Austin's Red Hat ladies hang out at Hoover's a lot. Now that you've met another group, you should introduce yourself and get the local crowd into improv.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: arthursimone
2007-10-15 04:18 am (UTC)
kareem looks like arthursimone on road trip
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nconstruct
2007-10-15 05:23 pm (UTC)
Your brain retains an absurd amount of detail when you're enjoying yourself. Rock show!
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[User Picture]From: kitashiroi
2007-10-15 08:51 pm (UTC)
You mean Frontier CITY. After I moved to Texas it got hit by a tornado and Six Flags bought it and changed the name.

Ah, the lame middle school memories. ;P
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