Once the editing is done and ready to go out,* the Kickstarter backers who chose either dvd or download option of the full ! Death 40-Feet Tall !will see, at the end, a bit where I call a stunning white woman up on stage, introduce her, and then literally shove her off the stage before I started crying. Happily, she didn't turn around and punch me for flinging her off my stage!
That woman is Molly Prather. She is the one who taught me how to put together not just a solo show, but an honest solo show (there's a difference). I learned of her when I started training at iO West,** and if there is one thing among many I am most grateful for about iO, it's meeting Molly. She not only gave me the tools I needed to begin serious pursuit of V.2 of the life I truly want, but the confidence to believe it's possible.
Secret Fact 1: My original plan with D40FT was to write it and hire someone else to perform it. When I told Molly, she said No. Actually, she said Hell No. Secret Fact 2: There are items in the 2010 first version of D40FT - and more in the (award-nominated) 2011 second version - that I put in only because of Molly's subtle, relentless pursuit of dragging you past your ego, through the dark to the truth, for the benefit of the the work. Secret Fact 3: It is because of all that, because of Molly's fearless example, that I am trying to go one more step toward honesty and truth for my second show, tenatively titled My Suicide Year.*** I am terrified, but I got Molly. I can do it.
Molly is a fearless, award-winning writer and actress. She is vicious smart, wicked with insight, and deadly hilarious. Check out the anecdote I shared about her last year, where you will also find my fave picture of her. Her teaching goes beyond the classroom; by watching how she's out there doing the #HustleHard; listening to her keen advice when I go to her with OMG WHAT DO I DO; and observing her direct efforts to support other women performers in a Not For Yourself Alone sense, she's giving me a template. Just by going through her life in the way she does, and sharing real-world facts about this alien world I'm entering, she's teaching me How To Do It Without Compromise Or Being A Dick.
Molly is amazing. I owe her. The only way I can truly pay her back is by working my ass off, hustling hard and putting my work out there to the best of my ability. For me, Molly is like Kathleen Goonan, so in a way I've got two mentors. Fuck am I lucky!
This month and next Molly is performing a solo show, an improv show, and two storytelling shows at venues throughout Los Angeles, which means you have several chances to see how awesome she is as a performer. Here's where you can find Molly on stage in the near future:
Sept. 17 (tomorrow) @ iO West, 10:30 p.m.: Host of Dr. God Revival, where Molly will tell true tales from her life, and then a bunch of people will improvise off of them.
Sept. 22 @ iO West, F*ck Marry Kill, 8 p.m.: One of her amazing solo shows, which I have seen a few times and will see again, cuz it's that' good.
Oct. 1 @ the Improv Lab, 10:30 p.m.: At the CREEPSHOW, where she will share a story about being stalked.
She was recently interviewed at Comediva. The answer she gave to the first question still has me giggling. Check her out at herTumblr as well!
* Man o man what's involved after the fundraising is done ... but it could be because of my particular incentive set. Will add these lessons to the What I Learned Using Kickstarter post to come.
** Which I have not yet completed because I'm broke, but I swear I will finish. I really, really, really love and want to do live improv, to the point that I don't care that I'm starting late with all of this, and don't care about all that comes with dealing with being far older than most of the people in my classes / that theater / bar culture. I also want to obtain my iO West certificate of completion for personal reasons. Actually, I don't know what they give you once you finish. I just want to finish.
*** Yeah. That's the title. Don't be alarmed! If I pull this off, it won't be depressing. However, it's kind of a mess right now, so I will be returning to Molly's classroom in the future for her unique guidance. I'm aiming for #HFF12 with this one, but we'll see...
iO West is offering a new slate of improv classes designed for young people. The classes are open to both girls and boys. Because this is my homeport, and because I have a specific motivation behind this entry, I'm focusing on teen boys and their parents. If you are a teen boy who has always wanted to find out up close and personal what this whole improv thing is about Because You Are The Funniest Person You And Your Friends Know Swear To God Everybody Says So Even Your Mom, now is the time to start negotiating with your parents to pay for a bit of world class training. Registration for the teen classes is open now. Select deets:
TWEENS (12-14 year olds)
Tuesdays 4:00-6:00pm Weekly performance 6:15 – 6:45pm Begins Tuesday, October 20th Ends Tuesday, December 8th Cost: $325 Location: ADT Showcase performance Saturday, December 12th, 10am
TEENS (15-17 year olds)
Wednesdays 4:00 – 6:00pm Weekly performance 6:15 – 6:45pm Begins Wednesday, October 21st Ends Wednesday, December 9th Cost: $325 Location: ADT Showcase performance Saturday, December 12th, 10am
Note: For my purposes, you don't have to be funny. I don't care if you're not funny. If you're familiar with the history of some of the greatest of the this type of group in the past - "funny" was not the end-all. In fact, stepping out "funny" was actively and at times brutally discouraged, because "funny" can be a dishonest crutch. Some of my fave groups now, "funny" is not how I describe them out the gate (even though they also happen to be funny. It's complicated).
What I care about is that you're eager to try and Roll With It in front of an audience if actual people you do not know sitting right in front of you, even if you're scared. I'm scared, too, so that's no problem.
Lemme tell ya, this type of training opportunity didn't exist when I was a kid (not that I would have been allowed to explore it if it had). The first time I heard the name Del Close it was because of the late, lamented Wasteland series from DC Comics. When I later accidentally found out who he was, I was like woah, that's the same guy??? Listen, even improv college teams did not exist in My Storied Youth! The closest we had was the forensics team. Somewhere in the basement back at the Ancestral Homeland, my Mom still has my trophies.
Though I am not actually aware of any teen boys being regular readers of the BGF Central homeport - except for those two I heard from a couple of years ago - I am posting this in hopes that it will be flagged by regular or casual readers who know of SoCal-area teen boys aged 13 to 15 with an interest in live performance or improv. (For my needs, the live performance part is more important than the improv part.) I am hoping that you forward this post to the parents of those kids. Actually, I'm begging you to do so. In this situation, for which I have no template, I need to be my own Rainmaker. Step 1 is Open Mouth And Speak.
I don't know if this will work. I do know it will fail if I don't try.
Technically, these classes are offered to any young person between the ages of 8*** through 17, which you know if you clicked on the full-of-details linked in the first line of this post. Just thought I should mention that.But as this post is not strictly about what iO West is actually doing and is of course about whatMe Me Me and also Moineeds, I'm highlighting the bits I care about.
For my purposes, Super Special Bonus Points if you are a black/African American/multiracial who wouldn't fare well on the Paper Bag Test (ask your parents) teen boy between the ages of 13 and 15.
Parents! Concerned about letting Your Darling Child go to a theater that has a bar and is filled with theater types? Or perhaps you have a job and are concerned about being able to get Your Fabulous Child to/from class?
The classes and showcases for the teen stuff take place in the back part of iO West, where there is no alcohol allowed. In the listing ADT stands for Andy Dick Theater. The entrance for that is on Cosmo, and is separate from the mainstage theater entrance, which is on Hollywood Boulevard.
The bar doesn't open until 7:30 p.m. anyway, and there is a very large man at the door strictly enforcing the 21+ rule for that part of the theater. So if your kid gets the Fever and decides to run off and join the Circus, he's not gonna get through our front door.
He's also not gonna get through the back door, because that one's either always locked, or surrounded by heaps of adult improvisers with common sense enough not to let a teen con his way past them into the mainstage area.
The instructors at iO are compassionate, patient, no-bullshit and lots of fun. All of them have been doing what they do for a very long time. All of them have live theater, film and television credits that can be verified up the wazoo. Quite a few of them you've probably seen on your screens.
The other students/staff/visiting performers have turned out to be really nice people. (If they seem a bit ... intense ... at first blush, that's because they're Theater People with an overlay of Working Class Hollywood People.) I know for a fact some of them are Straight Edge. Some of them are public and private school teachers. Some of them are lawyers. Some of them are the smiling faces you get your coffee from in the morning at your preferred coffee spot. What I'm trying to say is these are not fly-by-night people.
iO West is conveniently located along the route of several major bus lines, as well as being within easy walking distance of the train stations at H'wood & Highland and H'wood & Vine. (I say this as a person who routinely endures Car Drama.) The public transit element means Your Glorious Child can get himself to and from the theater with ease via bus pass or token, without interruption to your already overloaded family/work schedule.
See that email addy on the siderail to the right? That goes to directly to Me. If you have questions about what it's like to be at iO West, but you want to run them past someone who is not an employee of iO West, send an email with IO WEST TEENS in your subject line and I will absolutely read and answer your note with honesty and to the best of my ability within a reasonable timeframe. If I don't know the answer, I will try to get one from the iO bosses or provide you with the best direct email contact for the person who can handle what you want to know.
Okay, that's all I can think of for now. More on this later.
*** I admit that the former camp counselor in me would loveto watch someone trying to run an improv class for 8-year-olds.
Because the blog was on autopilot last week - and truth be told, it's on autopilot this week - I did not get around to providing advance notice of a show at iO West held Saturday night.
The Devil In The Details is a series of one-person monologues backed by a pretty good live jazz band. This particular outing focused on Hollywood Experiences, be it getting to H'wood or the peculiar quirks of Living Hollywood. (Living Hollywood is not the same as living in Hollywood. That's a discussion for another time, and as it's a rather prickly one, we're not going to attempt to get into it now.) Because I'm still new to this realm, I'm not exactly sure how many of the Most Excellent performers who took the stage were executing a scripted work, or were sharing an experience from top of head. I just know I was blown away by all of them, and cannot wait to see this again.
I have yet to see a bad show at iO West, but even by their high standards THIS SHOW WAS OUTSTANDING. As far as pure entertainment value goes, I would put it on the level of Concept Album, which was my absolute favorite show at iO so far.
Because I will never be other than what I am, I must also point out that it was one of the most diverse shows I've ever seen there.
The emcee, whom I also think was the producer, indicated at the end that they will do this again, probably with a different topic I'm guessing. Dunno if it will feature the same group or not. I don't care. If schedule allows, I'm there! You should be, too.
I will do my very best to let locals know of it ahead of time, and strongly encourage you to attend. What a great night of entertainment! Bonus - tickets are cheap by local standards at only $10, and if (unlike me) you are of the bar culture type, iO West has a bar attached, with hefty cheap drinks and what appears to be a lively scene. So you can come early and hang out in the bar, or you can stay after and hang out in the bar.
Please note: Mainstage shows at iO West are +21.
I'm typing this at 1:15 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning. When I get around to it I will come back and update the post with links to whatever websites I can find of the first group of performers. No really, I will. Promise. *Totally* mean it this time.
Meanwhile, iO West is on the nely-announced official venue list of the very first Hollywood Fringe Festival! So is Second City. HOORAY!
Since I was already there for the fundraiser,*** decided to stay and at least check out the event I'd been thinking about looking into for many, many weeks now. My original plan was just to be audience, but I ended up on the list. Then sat there going dontcallmynamedontcallmynamedontcallmyname. And of course I got called up three times.
I think I did all right in the first one. The second one I was weaker and completely stopped the scene when I busted out laughing because the guy was hilarious. The third one, by the time I clued into what the other two were doing, it was too late to switch to a character that would have clearly fit in best as supporting - a groupie - so I pretty much all around sucked in that one. Must think *faster* or maybe wuss out by starting out in the wings where I can watch, figure out what's going on, and then enter...
The coordinator (whose name I know but I'm not sure how to spell it) said that they take a different approach each week. So, since it actually was a lot of fun, it was a fantastic 'hot' learning experience, turns out you go up with veterans and people at my level, and once a week is not enough for me, I'm going to attend regularly from now on. I will have to adjust my writing schedule to pull this off, which is never a good thing, but I'll figure it out.
! YAY !
Meanwhile, the fundraiser was highly entertaining, with the biggest discovery being the existence of a group that does science fiction improv! That was like learning about the existence of the improvised Tennessee Williams group. Wow.
Ooo! During last week's class our teacher mentioned some websites. Clicking around joyfully revealed one is a wonderful resource filled with info and advice from veteran and beginner participants. Because the layout is hard to read crapy light teeny text against a black background, if this sort of thing interests you I suggest streaming the site through the RSS reader thingy of your choice. Otherwise you will go blind.
*** One of the funniest exchanges was between sets, when the hosts were bantering. The woman who made the sugar cookies apologized for having only caucasian breast cookies on hand; she didn't have time to bake a more ethnically diverse range of cookies before the show. She said something along the lines of "But I care about the breasts of all women, not just the white ones, and I think about their breasts, too." Her partner then said something like "I also think about their breasts a lot." What she said was funny, what he said was funny creepy - which he immediately acknowledged - and that made the whole thing even funnier! I laughed, but only now does the thought hit me that I should have laughed louder (as described in chapter four, subsection 16 in the Guide To Being The Only Black Person In The Room). Geek related, he is also anaward-winning indy comic creator. I am only now fully realizing how much deep geek there is at IO.When I went upstairs to the black box to serve as audience support for a team a person I know is on, two guys behind me were discussing where to get stormtrooper armor. I told them about the 501st and a bit about the charity work they do.
Man I wish TypePad would do something about the formatting issues...
Today during rehearsal I learned that tomorrow night is open to the public! Which makes sense now that I think about it. But this whole thing is a new realm; things that should be obvious to Moi are not immediately so. If I had realized it was open to the public I would have started rounding up friends a couple of weeks ago before they got booked up. (We all live and die by our DayRunners.)
Comedy Lab is one element of the writing program at IO West. From listening to/eavesdropping upon participants, it vibes Clarion-style boot camp, though a bit tougher because the people who go through it are doing so on top of holding down day jobs and whatever else they have going on in life. It's not eight weeks devoted exclusively devoted to writing...it's eight weeks of cramming writing in on top of everything else, with the requirement of having to produce a polished spec script at the end.
There is a point where Comedy Lab brings writers and performers together. Once the writers have produced their beta spec scripts, the performers step in to stage a live reading in front of a real audience. What I learned today is that audience is not comprised solely of other students and family/friends of the writers. It's open to anybody who comes into the theater looking for a good time.
And now we get to the part about Me! I will be serving as narrator for a hilarious script written by Helen Shang. I don't know the protocol but suspect I shouldn't tell you the plot. Let's just say it involves Twilight fandom. Yes that includes fanfic. Featuring Snape. My jaw was on the floor when I started reading this thing, you have no idea. I got the script maybe 2.5 weeks ago, and I still struggle to get through the thing without laughing. I cannot break down laughing tomorrow. I MUST NOT BREAK DOWN LAUGHING TOMORROW. I WILL NOT BREAK DOWN LAUGHING TOMORROW WHILE ON STAGE.
The narrator for this type of thing doesn't act, exactly. The job is to set the landscape and keep it moving briskly. Since I enjoy doing this type of thing (yay championship forensics team!), and since the narrator routinely gets to talk more than anybody else on stage, and since I love to run my mouth, it's a perfect fit.
I'll update this entry with the full names of other performers once I have them. Right now I only have their first names. When we all got together today I was astonished listening to what was coming out of their mouths. Wow are they talented! The guy doing Stewie, the guy doing Brian and the woman playing Lois sound *exactly* like the prime characters, and the other performers do quite a hilarious range of voices. Several of them are doing multiple voices.
Here's the (I think) schedule for tomorrow night:
8:30 - Sketches written by Ben Rosen
9 - Helen Shang "Family Guy" spec (we're also going to sing the theme song)
9:30 - Luke Rajnoha "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" spec
It's held at the Andy Dick Theater, 1647 Cosmo, Hollywood. The ADT is one of the theaters inside IO West, located at Hollywood & Cosmo, but the ADT has its own entrance.
Update! It went great and was so much fun. Downstairs house full, upstairs maybe two full rows (the ADT sucks sound, so it's important to know if anybody's upstairs because that means you have to project more, even though you're looking down to read), and people laughed at Helen's script in all the right places - with a few more thrown in! There were at least three places where I stumbled, probably because I was reading too fast, but thank you flying spaghetti monster I did not collapse giggling during the Snape & Meg fanfic scene, which is the part I was most worried about. Since I'm not in the writing program I won't see the tape, Update 2! We live in the future - here's the video - but I suspect my pacing was a bit off during the climactic chase scene. Everything else was fine.
These are the people who did the actual character voices -- Bryan Howard/Heather Henry/Lilia French/Ethan Stone/John Paul Karliak/Popeye V./Ginger Marie Rogers -- and man did they nail it.
*** Special note to two readers I know will be Alarmed upon seeing this post: The answer to your question is no. Do not worry, do not be alarmed.
Catnip is an all-female improv group, which, based on what I've seen so far, is not all that common.*** They are phenomenal. Around here they can often be seen in performance at IO West and Second City LA; they also perform elsewhere. If you have a chance to see them anywhere, you should go!
*** Also not common? Predominately pigmented improv groups. What's cool is at least two of the prime training outlets on this coast will talk about this fact without fear.
When you know how to Wield the I can make myself heard from one end of a 14-acre site to the other voice? You can cut through whatever the hell other people are saying, drowning them out so that the guy on stage (whom you are later told is one of the stars of Scrubs, playing the janitor***) will point in your general direction (from stage they can't see you because of the nature of stage lights) and say 'I heard Everest', to which you quickly and loudly clarify "I said the TOP of Mt. Everest" and he waves in general acknowledgment, and then they roll for one hour of my *god* these guys are good total improv based on your Loudness.
Because this is the first time you have ever shouted out a location suggestion to a team on deck, after the show you strutted out feeling pretty high and mighty, as if other members of the audience should come up to you and say hey thanks for that great idea! Which, of course, they do not. Because you didn't pull off the Awesome, Beer Shark Mice did, taking it to many layers of places you would never have imagined.
Still, all that happened because you know how to be Louder when necessary.
This capped off one of the more interesting weeks on Hollywood Boulevard, one that involved a baby duck; homeless youth; Hannah Montana tweens (you can hear them a good three blocks before you see them); street preachers; startled tourists; someone who knew someone involved in the high school scene cut from the first Transformers movie; and a gorgeous blue macaw named Goldie who stood on my arm, lasered her beady eye on me, leaned in and edged toward my shoulder as I called her a pretty pretty princess in an attempt to get her to talk.
It was a weird week, and a difficult one because it also involved another significant death. But at the end? It was Good.
***We've already explained that our television lives in the closet, brought out mainly for dvd sessions, right?