So Fresh and So Clean: The Smell of Success

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I’ve performed in a lot of different kinds of theaters. From stately auditoriums and humble black-boxes to sticky-floored bars and ripped up holes-in-the-wall named after the landlords ongoing attempt to find new tenants (R.I.P. For Rent Theater).

This isn’t some kind of adjective-fueled humble brag; I have no illusion of pride. If you spend enough time performing improv in Chicago, you experience a variety of settings. That’s naturally what happens when the performers outnumber the “prestige” theaters a thousand to one.

You’d think with that much variety, people would try to keep performances consistent from setting to setting. But consistency, as anyone who’s gone to a “my friend’s improv show” can attest to, is not something this scene is known for. Impressively, each venue does a lot to influence the nature of any given show. This can be in the physical space (i.e., what the performers can play with) or in the proximity to the audience (who they can interact with).

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But more than layout or forced audience participation, each theater has an attitude. A feel. A vibe, man. Actors treat a stage how it appears. And it influences shows in the same way.

Theaters founded by pulled-up-by-their-own-bootstraps types infuse performances with enthusiasm and energy. Dilapidated theaters in disrepair give way to shows that crumble apart, the slump-shouldered performers giving up two-thirds of the way through and resigning themselves to a functional yet shabby conclusion. I’ve been at venues where the audience only half pays attention, and players half listen to each other. I’ve been at theaters where actors are compelled to clean up after themselves, breeding a sense of ownership (or resentment), which is reflected on stage.

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Recently, I was at a theater where part way through our set the entire room began to smell. Then it stunk. Soon enough, it reeked. In parallel fashion, our performance had an odd pungency to it, a sense of discomfort permeating every scene and character. Oh, we made it work, we’re goddamned International Stinger. But there certainly was a sense of, “Ooh, that’s naaasty!” emanating from participants and patrons alike.

Following the piece’s finale, the night’s emcee copped to having tracked dog crap through the whole theater. Like the end of an M. Night Shyamalan movie, the would-be clues came together in the thundering succession of a mental montage. Of course! We should have known! It was dog shit all along!

As patrons carefully tiptoed out the door and we performers noticed the smears of post-digestion Purina all over the backstage area, the house manager arrived. Eyes widening and nostrils de-flaring (if nostrils can do such a thing), he began to—professionally speaking—freak out. All things considered, he actually kept his cool pretty well while dousing fluorescent bleach over every damp spot tracked in during a rainy night.

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However, the emcee whose heels were the smoking gun, very quickly and very unceremoniously, peaced out. A flitting bit of eye contact was made, a callous apology submitted, and then the heavy slam of the door; the shit tracker off into the night, onto whatever madness and deranged lunacy becomes such a soulless imp.

I was shocked. How could you leave a place in such disrepair, not even an offer to help clean it? Even when you admitted yourself you were Colonel Crapper in the lavatory with the turd stick. As the poor disgruntled house manager diligently did his best to clean up, I couldn’t help but feel the apathy that permeated such a move. To be honest, I felt it in my own self as I started my car and drove away, not offering a hand or a mop despite my indignation.

Like I said. This isn’t a humble brag. I have no pride. I’m really no better than the phantom pooper. Maybe it just shows a lack of connection or care to a certain space, one that shows up in performances time and time again. It’s unfortunate, and probably part of the reason teams cycle themselves out of heavy rotation.

If there’s a takeaway, maybe we should attempt to bring consistency to the treatment of space around us. Whether it’s a feng shui connection to the shakras of architectural pressure nodes, or just the simple respect and composure to perform in the face of challenging circumstances. Maybe if we—performers, audiences, or just people—cared a bit more about our surroundings, we’d enjoy them more. If we treated places with respect, they’d feel a bit homier.

Then again, there are probably few things more like home than crapping the bed and waiting for mom and dad to clean it up.

–ZZR

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A new years resolution.

Well it is that time of the year again, the time for resolutions. Some would say it is a wasted effort, and looking at last year’s resolutions those some have a damn good point. That being said one should still try, and try I shall. So let’s keep it simple. I resolve to procrastinate less.  This may be difficult as I am really good at procrastination. As you can tell, this is past the 1st by a few days. It is also the third blog post I have worked on, the other two never making it to completion. One was about my TF2 gaming, and the other a retrospective weaving together the ex-girlfriends and ex-troupes of yesteryear, for another day I am sure.  Back to the issue at hand, deprocrastination. Now I don’t think I can eliminate it, but can minimize it and have actually already started with baby steps. The extra carpet that was left over when I redid my office in July has been moved from the kitchen table into storage. I have gone through the DVD collection and have bagged about 75% of the DVDs I am going to bring to Disk Replay to sell. I was going to bring them in today, but it was snowing so that will be for another day. Hopefully I get enough money to buy a replacement shredder as mine broke four months ago. I tried to fix it Friday to no avail. Now on to the big things, I need to stop procrastinating and get more active. My stress relief from sitting and working on computers all day is to sit on my computer all night, working, arguing on facebook, reading and gaming. I need to change that to some combination of elliptical, yoga, walking, circuit training, and Pilates. Methinks after some starts and sputters, I will start that on Monday. I also need to get out more. I don’t know if it is part of getting old like all the cracking and popping my joints do now, woe to be 43, but I think I am getting early onset agoraphobia. Where that really disappoints me is I don’t get to see some of the amazing talent of the people I have come to know and love Especially those with me on International Stinger, an amazing group of performers. Now I rarely miss a rehearsal, and try to never miss a show, how could I, they are so much fun, but I don’t get to see them in their other shows. Not only to support them, but because I find them to be hilarious. Heck, I need to get out and expand my improv horizons myself. I should also sign up for the Second City Conservatory sometime this year. Well it is getting late and I said I would have this out today, plus it is a month past due. Also I have to find that picture Harz wants me to use on the website that he sent me a few weeks ago and change it out yet. More on my progress later, when I get to it.

Oh, and learn guitar. I have only had one for 25 years now. I did get Rocksmith 2014 last year, and should get around to installing that soon.

Truth and Lies -For the love of Stinger

I lied to myself thinking I would have time to whip up a reflective and meaningful blog this week on “Lies we tell ourselves.”  Well, between working 60 hours, homework and maintaining a house, my little self-lie just had a “come-to-Jesus” moment while I was staring down a College Algebra problem from hell.  Because, let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for the hard-boiled eggs I made some time last week (that I’m telling myself are still safely consumable because I don’t really remember when I made them), and clean two-piece swimming suit bottoms, I’d have starved to death over the past few days and been found in dirty underwear.  (It’s not really THAT bad, but it’s close).  Instead,  Harz is taking my blog challenge for me this week.  If that isn’t an example of one improvisor covering another’s back, I don’t know what is.  Long live Harz Sondericker!

– Megan

I’ve got your back Megan. That’s what we do for each other and what Stinger does for Stinger.  Let’s  talk about Stinger, or more importantly, the people that make International Stinger Stinger.    Let’s talk about what the people of Stinger mean to me.  First of all we have a great coach in Jay Gish.  Now I know all improv teams have the best coach but we really do.  Jeremy is the newest member who jumped in.  I’ve played with him for a few years at Laugh Out Loud and he has been such a blast to be on stage with.  He plays so fast and smart I love just trying to keep up with him.  Todd and I are both improvisers and model railroad guys.  We speak are own language, “TRAINS”.   Kathy is the OG of are group.  Kathy can make you laugh just by walking into the room. She has the ability to make an entire room laugh without saying a word. When you’re on stage with Jason it is such a treat.   He has a great style of play and his love for improv and this group has inspired me to do better.  Zach is one of the best improvisers in the city. You don’t believe me come watch him. If I could only share the stage with one person for the rest of my life it would be Megan. She is one of my best friends in the world.  The things she has done for me on and off stage are immeasurable.  So writing a blog, loaning her a shirt off my back or giving her a kidney is a small task to do.

That’s what Stinger means to me.

Harz

 

Bloggy Went a’Court’n He Did Ride…CRAMBOLLLLL

It has been a decade or more since I was in the dating scene, but my preferred method at the time was online meeting/dating.  I could be easily woo’d by a good speller, a coherent thought, and enough details provided –  that would inspire a response back from me.  While I may be perceived as quiet in person, I could be quite wordy in a written medium.  I don’t have a great memory, so it was also great to have all that information at my fingertips as a reference.  And since I’m not a fan of repetition and redundancy, I could easily copy/paste my canned answers/responses/pontifications from mate to mate.

So with all these online dating apps, I would imagine my past self would be quite content with today’s tools.  However, while I know some who have found love/commitment over the dating apps, I have heard more negative stories.  Ultimately, your actual experience probably has a lot to do with your expectations going into the app.  If you expect to find prince/princess charming, you will probably be disappointed.  If you expect to be accosted, assaulted, or propositioned in the most vulgar ways, then you will be pleasantly surprised when an occasional gem doesn’t initiate…or continue…or finish in this manner.

On the el last week, I saw an ad for the dating app Wavve.  The exchange went like this:

4:21pm
Stranger Danger:  Hey Jess! Are you here watching the big game?

Jess:  I am!  You should come hang out.  I’m at a table downstairs with a bunch of friends!

Stranger Danger:  Great! I’ll head right down!bloggy

So to those of you scared away from Tindr and men who want to tell you the status of their pants in the first sentence, here is an app that looks like it has upstanding people on it.  A very cordial and appropriate sentiment for an ice breaker!  Their spelling is impeccable!  They don’t even use txt slang/abbrs!  OR…is this ad just sanitized for mass transit and real people would never have this coherent literary conversation?

Since being a small child, I have learned to live my life via the lessons of television and advertising; so I choose to believe this is real life.  And I’m sure by 4:29pm Jess is not regretting her invitation to Stranger Danger.  If so, she could just tune out to the big game.

-kathybetts

(I now challenge Megan Farris to blog about the lies we tell ourselves.)

Thank you so much!

Thanks to everyone who came out to our HOUSE HAUNTERS show the past few weeks. A big thank-you to The Playground Theater and Laugh Out Loud Theater for hosting us, too.

We couldn’t have done it without the coquettish wizardry of mastermind coach and director, Jay Gish. He pulls are strings and we sing. In fact, Jay even painted a picture of us after the show! What do you guys think of his brushwork?

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