I should be working right now, BUT I wanted to share some stuff before tonight so that you can benefit as well. First, let me apologize for any typos or incongruities below, I am pretty tired right now. Then, read on!
I’ve been volunteering with the UCB show Killgore: The New Blood this week. It’s been a really interesting experience. People have asked me why I did this, since it meant a maximum of 3 hrs of sleep a night this week. Well, I wanted to see tech rehearsals. BUT, I saw and learned much more than that. Despite the fact that I have been a TV producer for so many years and that I have produced musicals in college (with live bands and all), I learned one thing or two about production with special effects. I had never done or seen something like this. I think the production is very well managed, although I already have a few ideas about how to make it better (well, it is ME after all - I can’t help but thinking ahead to the future).
I liked working with fake blood/vomit/poop (the key word here is FAKE), and John Robert Wilson was kind enough to show me the behind the scenes and explain what everything was (Poop = Hershey’s Chocolate syrup). I also “built” the shower room back stage - I had no idea that was possible, but we made it happen! I was also asked to take over laundry duty last night, which of COURSE I did although it usually means leaving really late and then spending the day washing and drying fake blood.
The wardrobe in the green room has 3 sets of clothes for each cast members for the 3 shows a night, so it’s important that the laundry is done on time and delivered to the theater before the show!
There’s also the cleaning crew, that works the HARDEST! They are always on set first and leave last, and have to clean between each show. They also wipe the stage between each sketch. They are pretty AMAZING!
Finally, it was really interesting to see John Frusciante direct. He is extremely positive and supportive of the cast. He si also clear with his tech directions, but he trusts the tech and prop people to do what they have to do.
I’ll write more about my learnings later, but I wanted to post links to the Flikr pages where I have stored some pictures of the rehearsals.
Go see that show, seriously, you CANNOT miss it. Did I mention it’s with a kick ass cast (including my 201 class teacher, Anthony Atamanuik, who has a special place in my improv heart).
One of my coaches, Pam Murphy, wrote this and is performing in it. The first time I saw this, I was blown away. I was with friends from outside the world of comedy, and we all spontaneously gave it a standing ovation. So try to catch this either tonight or some time in November. DO IT!
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”—Ira Glass (via Rabbit Write’s interview on Gala Darling)
Which day would be better? Friday or Saturday night? My friend and fellow improviser Nicole Lee is in town and we’d like to host a show that weekend to invite friends and fellow improvisers to play with us - that would mean YOU!
Geez, I Look Tired! But Awesome Shows are SOOOO Worth it!
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write on this blog. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of performances, practice sessions and shows; and to top it all, work has been particularly busy and my coworkers especially annoying; and I’ve been sick. Of course. Jeff Fahey is Tron has been on a roll. We have had up to three performances a week during the month of October. I am the Manager, the Agent and the Producer of the team, and let me tell you, I am EXHAUSTED! I am also a comedy crack whore, so on top of this, I have been to shows almost every day, sometimes 2-3 times a day (last Tuesday for example, I went to see a show at the Magnet, then the entire Harold Night and then The Movie), have been trying to catch up with friends outside of the comedy world (On Friday, I went to see Prison Freaks & the NYPD Sit Down and Shut Up Variety Hour, then caught up with friends in the EV and went to Thank You Robot; on Saturday, I had a 401 practice session, then went to Harlem to eat, drink and dance to 80’s French pop songs with old friends before I headed to the UCBW AutumnSlam), and have volunteered to help with more shows at the UCB. I am hopeless. And tired. But I am loving every minute of it! We had a couple of shows we were really happy with. Keisha Zollar, who has been like a mentor to me since I have gotten to know her, offered us a spot on her show at the UCB: The Soul Glo Project. What a great show! And for us, what an opportunity! We started off thinking that we would have 12 minutes, then it went down to 10, and just as we were stepping onto the stage we were told 8. Oh well! We did a short version of our interview: we asked three people in the audience to tell us what was unusual about them. One person screamed “I’m black” (Really?? That’s what’s unusual about you?), and then we had “ripped abs”, “voice actor”, and “tax evasion”. We had so much fun with this! My teammate and friend Casey set the pace by editing the first scene really rapidly. We went from scene to scene, found the game right away, no time to think, and hit it hard: 1, 2, 3 beats, edit. We managed 7 scenes in 8 minutes with call backs and connections! We had a blast and the audience loved it! What a great audience we had too! The other show we loved was our monthly show yesterday. Matt Little from Thank you Robot was our stand up opening act and our MC. Matt is a ROCK STAR! He’s funny in an intelligent way, he is positive, he is supportive. He is a blast to work (and to hang out) with. We also had Hens and Owls (Olivia Whelan and Stephanie Streisand for the night as the other ladies of the teams couldn’t be there), and they did a FANTASTIC, funny and witty monoscene. I love those ladies. Third up, we had The Martin Sheen Shower Hour, a PIT trained team who did a monoscene as well, and seriously nailed it! And then, finally, we went. We did our usual audience interview / input about what’s unusual about them and what makes them unique and tried a new format with monologues. The scenes we did afterwards were just so much fun - I think we have come to a point where we are not only hitting the game intuitively (without thinking about it; it’s almost become a second nature and we are also completely on the same page), but we are also able to have fun with each other and with our shows. As a matter of facts, some of the concepts we’ve learned have become so much a part of what we do, that during practice, we did a Harold without even realizing we were doing a Harold. It’s when we were looking back at it that we realized we did first beat, group game, second beat, group game, third beat, connections. Boom. We nailed it. This week, I will be painting the stage for Killgore Wednesday night, attending a few shows between today and Friday, catching up with a good friend on Tuesday, going to DC on Saturday, coming back to a Halloween party that same night, catching up with old friends from Boston who are visiting, and doing our first improv 401 grad show on Sunday. Halloween people. It’s at the UCB (307 W 26th st, 4 pm - shameless plug). Oh, and maybe practice Wednesday and/or Thursday. If all goes well, I will also be finalizing the diversity Newsletter, UCB Difference. Did I mention I have a full time job and a team to manage at work? Sleep is overrated.
Those wondering why software nerds geek out over interactive fiction could check out this link, it goes to an online version of “Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy”, written by Douglas Adams with Steve Meretzky, it was the highest selling interactive fiction game ever, and probably still is? (second highest after Zork) It’s very funny at any rate. Or don’t! I’m not your boss.
Hint to get started. Type “get up” and hit enter. Then type “turn on light” and hit enter.
You move around by typing the abbreviations of compass directions: n,s,e and w for north south, east and west. u and d means “up” and “down” and will often work.
You can type “look” and hit enter to get a description of the room you are in. You can type “i” to get an inventory of what you are carrying. Those are common things to do.
You get type “Get THING” to pick up things you see and “examine THING” to examine them. Moving objects around is how you solve problems, generally.
First time I’m playing something like this and only because it’s from one my favorite books of all times… And you know what? It’s addictive! I want to get to 400… I think I am going to spend A LOT of time on this!
Jeff Fahey is Tron’s Monthly Show at the Living Theater is on Sunday October 24 at 5 pm.
Fee: $5. Doors open at 4:45.
Like every month, we celebrate differences and encourage new talent, and the show is packed with goodies:
Stand up and MC: The Amazing Matt Little Improv: The New and Upcoming Martin Sheen Shower Hour Improv: The Witty Hens and Owls
And as usual, Jeff Fahey is Tron will take on YOUR differences and improvise a whole show around it! So come on down for an afternoon filled with comedy and cheap beer! We find comedy in our differences.
…Instead, they’ve found that a person’s mindset and personal beliefs about willpower determine how long and how well they’ll be able to work on a tough mental exercise.
“If you think of willpower as something that’s biologically limited, you’re more likely to be tired when you perform a difficult task,” said Veronika Job, the paper’s lead author. “But if you think of willpower as something that is not easily depleted, you can go on and on.”
This totally appealed to me! Goes towards what i am saying: the only limits are those you impose on yourself. You CAN do ANYTHING, at ANY time, as long as you respect others. You have NO LIMITS in how far you can push yourself and get better at something - mostly goes for being happy, or doing something that requires focus and determination. Don’t impose yourself artificial limits (I am too old for this, I am too young for that… it’s been 3 months, it’s been 5 years…).
Jeff Fahey is Tron is performing tonight at midnight at the UCB with the Soul Glo Project. It’s our first performance as an indie team at the UCB so it’s a pretty big deal for us! Come encourage a new indie team and see some awesome acts that will blow your mind!
After party at McManus on 19th and 7th
(Also, come see our cool tees designed by us and by Sidecar!)
I was at the UCB on Tuesday and saw a couple of shows. First, Vag Magazine Live! I was lucky enough to PA for the last episode. It was really rewarding to be working with these amazingly talented ladies (and gents), even for a short time. And when I saw the actual shows, it all came together which was kind of neat. The amount of work that goes into each 5-minute show is incredible, but what’s even more impressive is each actor, writer, producer and crew’s commitment. I mean, the call time was 6 am on a Sunday morning and everyone was there, ready to make it happen; the actors knew their lines, the production crew and the writers were addressing all the last minute details; the film crew was doing light tests; the extras were dressed for the part. Despite the long wait time, nobody’s commitment wavered. Everyone was engaged and focused. The outcome is obvious: a high quality web series that will be released shortly. So stay tuned for more details and follow them at http://www.vagmagazine.tv. They received raving reviews that you can read on their web site!
After Vag Magazine Live, it was the traditional Tuesday night Harold Night. I had come with the intention of staying for 3 teams. Work is crazy right now and I really can’t do late night shows as often as I’d like to.
First up was Monstro. I was happy to see them because I haven’t seen them that often (they are usually 4th or fifth up for Harold Night for some reason, and I just keep missing them). I remembered them also from the Matt Besser workshop. I thought Matt Besser was really tough on them; and if I remember well, all the members were not there during the workshop. Matt Besser also told them their opening was too complicated - at that time, in July, it was a combination of pattern game, sound and movement, scene painting, and I believe monologues. I don’t know who their coach is, but Tuesday’s set was a lot of fun. Their opening was like a sound and movement that went into a pattern game and then came back to sound and movement. It really reminded me of what Betsy Stover taught us in 301 - was it corridors and hallways? - where the sound and movement disperses and then comes back together, while exploring strong ideas.
From the opening, the team started a game that I found highly entertaining - the game was that the tambourine player thought he would be more popular than the guitar player, Van Halen (!!!). I enjoyed this on many levels - first, Van Halen, I mean C’MON! I loved the reference! Then each player really committed to their part. It was really fun to watch and each beat got better. In the second beat, they were being interviewed (by Beth Appel) and the tambourine player (Frank Hejl) kept stealing the limelight from Van Halen (Matthew Cutler). At some point, Frank Hejl was telling a story about his character and Beth Appel just started spinning around. I think she wanted to initiate a “remember” scene, but instead, this became part of the game, and all of a sudden, every time Frank Hejl talked, everyone just started spinning around. It was a good lesson for me - when something doesn’t work the way you wanted it to work, just play it as part of the scene. You could also see strong team support because when Beth Appel started spinning around then one of her team mates (Dan Black) came out and started mimicking her, and this created a pattern that became part of the game. I liked that scene so much that I don’t remember the rest of their set - my bad! Also, I really need to bring a note pad with me each time! I watch / play so much improv that I get confused sometimes about who did what.
The second team up was DeCoster, my all time favorite Harold team. Not only because two of them were my teachers (Ari Voukydis and Betsy Stover who, BTW, weren’t there on Tuesday), and two are my coaches (Pam Murphy and Kirk Damato), but also because their sets are so smart and different; they have such amazing chemistry. This specific set blew my mind - it was so good that I had to leave afterwards to process it! As much as I love Badman (who was third up) I just had to leave after DeCoster’s set. They always start with sound a movement, and their sound and movement usually generates really fun ideas. In the first scene, Eric Bernat came out and just started “watching” TV. Kirk Damato came behind him and made it really clear that he was a ghost, and started talking. Eric became more and more gross as Kirk was down pouring his feelings of love and loss, and then Kirk started reacting to Eric and became more and more grossed out. For the second beat of that, Eric was at a clairvoyant, Pam Murphy, to find out about his future. Kirk started talking to the her, telling her that Eric was just so gross and he didn’t understand why… but Pam couldn’t hear him. In the third beat, Eric initiated asking Ryan Karels to take a seat as a “black psychic.” This twist on the movie Ghost was hilarious because Kirk started telling Ryan that he looked like Woopie, and Ryan was really offended by this… hilarious scene. You could see that the three of them were really enjoying themselves playing this scene, and were about to lose it before the edit. The other part of the set that blew my mind was the group game, and how the team brought it all together at the end. My writing won’t do it justice, but it was amazing to see how much fun they were having, and how committed they were to each of their characters, and to each other. More than the set itself, I think their team support is what blows my mind.
On another note, we had a great practice with Kirk on Thursday. My favorite scene was one of our group games where we became the Plumbing Council. We didn’t consult with each other, but we all knew that we had to play Jedi and had to choose our Jedi character; and we knew that we had to bring butt crack into the scene. I had a blast playing Yoda! In the middle of the scene, when asked to review a “Candidate,” I started bending down, and one of my team mates mentioned the butt crack. Of COURSE, I took something out of the butt crack to put on the table. I didn’t lose it, I don’t know why and how, but I was DYING and literally crying from laughing quietly. I mean, after the scene was over, it took me literally a couple of minutes on the back line to find my composure. My Jeff Fahey is Tron team mates are awesome, we have so much fun playing together and such great chemistry; and thanks to Kirk and Pam, we are becoming better performers. You should come check us out sometimes.
I started my Improv 401 class last night with Porter Mason. Google him - it’ll blow your mind that I am taking a class with this guy (it still blows mine… Mind that is, you dirty bunch)! Any ways, looks like right now, there are 14 of us in the class - which means that we’ll be a good number on stage to do a Harold.
Porter started by asking us to do bad improv (sorry Porter - but Anthony King also did this for a DCM workshop so I guess it’s OK!). He also said some really nice things: he said that we have internalized some of the principles of improv and even if we were TRYING to do really bad improv, some really good stuff came out of it. He said we are all pretty smart people up there and that we needed to trust our team mates, but also support them (very close to what we learned in the AK workshop, “You are all Geniuses” - I am SO happy I took that workshop). And then he asked us to get up there and do a Harold, and everything went south.
OK, not everything.
As some of you know, I will Yes, And ANYTHING! I mean, seriously, to a fault… My partner labeled me as crazy: coming straight from the opening (a pattern game that was pretty mediocre), he started by saying that we had been together for a long time but he needed to tell me that I smelled like roast beef. Why, yes I do. You’re not going to go into the oven? Why, yes I am. What? You’re crazy! You’re going to die! And what else have you got in store for me? Why, I have spaghetti and meatballs for our sex party… Yes, I went to crazy town right away, and I really didn’t like it. It didn’t ground the scene in reality, and although it was funny, there was nowhere to go from that much craziness, not much to heighten. I could totally have made a three course meal out of my character’s weird sexual fantasy (3 beats of the scene), but then again I wanted to Yes, And my partner too much. To a fault. The second beat of that led us to become pretend super heroes who would go to dangerous lengths to spice up their sex lives (I guess that was the game), and ended in a super hero orgy. The super hero orgy was fun. I wish I had seen Batman getting fingered, which apparently was happening on the other side of the classroom, but I was focused on my partner and I. This was the FIRST class, people. Started with an orgy scene.
After the third scene I stated a game, seriously not knowing where it could go. Again from the opening, I started in slo-mo and said “WELCOME, to the new natural disasters” and froze. The back line had no idea where I was going, and neither did I. I was counting on the team to build on the initiation - trusting them to be geniuses. I am so used to working with teams with whom I have ALREADY built group mind! When they stepped out and didn’t say anything, I backed out and started talking to them. Porter’s note was that I should have committed more, but also that the back line should have supported more. Maybe someone could have started a pattern of “WELCOMES” in slo-mo, or someone could have stepped out as a “new” natural disaster, as in “I am a Hurricane with no winds.” How awesome would THAT have been?
Bottom line is, we need to build group mind. It’s a challenge, but it also shows us what will happen during the Harold auditions IF I ever decide to go that route.
As a side note, right now, I am not sure I want to audition for a Harold team given that I barely have time to breath and do what I like to do outside of improv (movies, theater, travel, reading, writing). Being on two AWESOME improv indie teams requires commitment. IF I audition for a Harold team, I feel like somehow I would betray that commitment. We’ll see in 2011.
Now, focus on 401. And on my team, Jeff Fahey is Tron’s performance at the UCB with The Soul Glo Project on October 15 at midnight.