Thursday, July 31, 2008

The best team EVER


The best team EVER, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Even when it gets bigger and smaller.

Tonight we met at Sol Cantina to welcome new staff members and say goodbye for a couple going on rotation (a short stint in another department) and a guy I've worked with for six years. 

I've never worked with a better group. Freaky talented, crazy fun, incredibly committed. They respect each other. They play. They work. They collaborate...like freakin' improvisers. 

And just like a solid improv troupe, every time someone leaves, you think it'll never be the same. And it isn't...but the group shifts, changes and finds its level again. 

For me, the thing that makes this group special is that they allow me to be authentically me. I don't have to fake or hide or apologize for anything. It's a wonderful thing.

(I should mention there are about 40 of us. This is a random sampling.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Higher traffic


Higher traffic, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

OK. More people will see it here.

ALSO...Bess has procured the posters and postcards! The crunch begins. Just a teensy bit over a month away...eep.

Behold


Behold, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

The gloriousness of the Union Station Lobby Poster.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yep, it's back to that


Yep, it's back to that, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Computer-bound again. Hey, this is the most accurate representation of my day...from what it looked like at work to what it has looked like for the last four hours. Whee! I am excitement personified. 

Tonight has been dedicated to getting KCiF workshops wrangled and web copy written. I'm hopeful it'll be complete in time to get up on the website by August 1. 

Because of gas prices, the amount of stuff that happens to get done, and the difficulty in getting representatives of performing troupes to show up to mandatory meetings, we're trying an experiment: Virtual Meetings. About once a week, I send out an e-mail with what needs to get done and what's coming up. 

It's working OK, I guess. It means mailboxes get filled up and decisions are made over the course of 24-48 hours instead of three minutes, which both kinda suck. We're going to have to suck it up and have some in-person meetings. 

Monday, July 28, 2008

Improv blogger topic for July


Improv blogger topic for July, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

First, a photo of my proofreader, who is happy I'm back on the sofa in front of the computer.

The topic: Is there such a thing about being too nice? Too blunt?

Sure there is. And it goes a whole lot deeper than content and delivery.

In my day job, we get a shload of coaching over the course of our careers on both giving and receiving feedback. Communication courses, leadership classes, personal coaching, 360° reviews…all intended to get you past that fight-or-flight instinct that kicks in on both sides of the table.

In improv groups—and everything that comes with being in and running them—feedback can be the most important component of success and growth. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of the time we’re poorly equipped to give or take it. Because…

  • For most folks, neither comes naturally. 
  • It’s volunteer work, mostly—so we often don’t treat it as thoughtfully as when the stakes are higher.
  • It’s about your work—what your brain comes up with in the moment without a script—and that can feel pretty freakin' personal.
  • So many times, we pick something apart without providing alternatives—if you don’t want someone to do one thing, what do you offer to replace it? 
Too nice can mean too watered down—or so sugar-coated—that any nutritional value is diluted or covered up. Too blunt can mean delivery so thoughtless, unkind or inarticulate that even if there is meaning in the message, it won’t get past the defenses it triggers.

The best feedback—and the most likely to be heard—is authentic, offered in the spirit of helping instead of hurting, appropriate to the relationship and given with the permission of the recipient.

Blah, blah, blah.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

And...scene


And...scene, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.


Yep, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

This was an amazing week/weekend. Guy and Jared put together five nights of terrific improv—and showcased a great big chunk of the KC improv community. I can't even imagine how exhausted they must be—hell, I'm tired, and I was only there for little parts of four nights of it.

So tonight was the Mini-Dome Championship. I gotta tell you, Nikki and Megan and I were nervous. We felt so-so about our Friday Mini-Dome set (our Friday Showcase set was another matter—we all felt on and in sync), and at least one audience member agreed. At Thunderdome, you always know there are folks in the audience who are against you, but somehow it's different when you know it's not because they're for someone else. 

Continuing the win-by-a-point trend, we beat out a solid Trivial Prov-Suit set by John and James 23-22. Honestly, it was a little bittersweet—we all felt like we started out strong, but hit a rut somewhere along the way. We had some good relationship work and game moves all the way through; the last few scenes, though, had a sameness to the rhythm and energy. For my part, I know my last few characters had the same cadence, diction and energy, even if the status and voice varied a little. 

Spite has done four shows—three of those this weekend—and less than a dozen rehearsals. Of the shows, we thought (and the folks we trust for honest, even brutal, feedback agree) two were terrific—some of the best work I've done on stage with any group—and two were adequate. And we never hit a scene or run of scenes that felt hellish and awful. It's not a bad record. 

Jared—and his membership in the Hobby Lobby loyalty program—did a lovely job with the Mini-Dome trophy. Megan, Nikki and I will take turns with it.

That's two-thirds

Scriptease: Rene, Rob (coach), Andrew, Drew, Tommy and Clayton.

Improv Thunderdome Season Two, Round Two is over. Scriptease—coached by Rob Grabowski—becomes the first two-time Improv Thunderdome Finalist. 

This also means that two-thirds of the Thunderdome Championship match teams are made up entirely of Exit 16 members and alums. 

A. Does this make me so happy I can barely stand it? Of course it does. 
B. Does it make me even happier (and, OK, a little jealous) that my babies (and yes, I will always think of them as that, so there) are all being coached by other people (Andrew/Exit 16, Rob/Scriptease?)? Yes. Mostly. 
3. Does it put the pressure on HARD CORE for Burnin' Sternums to go to the final round, so Rob and I (and Pete and Keith and Nick) can show the young 'uns how it's done? Absolutely.

But for now, I'm focusing on Spite's performance in the Mini-Dome finals tomorrow night. 

Friday, July 25, 2008

After the match


After the match, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

It was another close freakin' match. And Spite won it by a single point (thanks, Traci!).

Notes from later: 

  • The Mini-Dome match was a lot like the one Thursday—two good sets, audiences made up as much of civilians as fans, small houses. I-A brought it—it's really cool to see how they've developed since Chicago. Magie...WOW. It's super-cool-fun to watch a performer improve exponentially from show to show. She's always had a really engaging on-stage persona, and she's really coming into her own as an improviser. It's great to see her become stronger and more confident in every freaking scene she's in. We were thrilled to hear the score was as close as it was and pretty surprised to hear we were moving on. 
  • We felt like our set was solid, but knew we were capable of more. We had fun, but didn't really fuck with each other the way we know we can. Don't really know the reason. It was  weird little set with some fun moments. 
  • But we knew we had the late show. After a quirky first scene, we found our rhythm in a beauty pageant scene as soon as boobies came up. Man, that set was fun. Three-fifths of the Trip Fives (Megan, Jenny and Jared) kicked the show off strong, and we rode the wave. We played with archetypes and male-female issues. Not in a statement-y way, but seriously bringing an all-female perspective to some of the scenes. AND we had Andre Du Broc on keyboard—adding a fourth dimension to every scene. Zoinkies, it was fun.
  • Later, during Beers On The Roof™, we talked about "going to 11." Michael Gellman said in a workshop: (paraphrasing) "Try to stop before the point where your only choice is to rip each other's clothes off." Joe Bill talks about channeling the instinct to "fuck or fight" into your object work. Rob brought up the idea that in improv scenes, we cut before it goes too far—but does that mean we (and the audience) are missing out? Charley's theory is "leave 'em wanting more." From now on, this discussion will be known as "Nikki will never eat the bratwurst."

It was the kind of night that reminds me why I do this. 

Spite is on


spite is on, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

In a minute.

Notes from later: Jared, who can BARELY WORK A CAMERA PHONE, took this really original photo moments before Mini-Dome. My first thought: Wow. Am I really that much shorter than Nikki and Megan?


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Babelfishy


Babelfishy, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

The men of Babel Fish let me play with them.

And it was fun. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mini blaster?


Mini blaster?, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

The KC Improv Showcase (see the whole schedule here) kicked off tonight at the KC Fringe Festival. Guy (on the right) is a fabulous host, and he's turned to space into a fun little theater. 

Jared (on the left) is completely in charge of Mini-Dome (Thunderdome Junior) while Ed is in Mexico. Tonight's match was Trivial Prov-Suit (John Robison and James Nelson) vs. Loaded Dice (the first season champion). It was a fun couple of sets. John and James shine in this format—they play off each other well, keep the scenes moving and put some nice thematic twists on their subject matter. Loaded Dice was, as usual, really fun to watch. In the closest vote yet—just one point difference—Trivial Prov-Suit took the round. 

There was a time in my life I would've killed myself to see every freaking show. Now, however, I am old and realize I have to plan my life a little more carefully. Traveling all week and an appointment at the gym at 7am mean I need to be asleep in 30 minutes (thank you, Tylenol PM). Festival and Corbin work tomorrow night mean I'll only see the show right before mine. 11pm shows just won't happen, and I'm preparing myself emotionally for that. (Surviving the KC Improv Festival will mean burning a significant amount of PTO.)

It'll be interesting to see what kind of crowds we pull. Will it be more performing to friends and family—or will we capture and convert new audiences? 

In other news: Tantrum will perform a series of three shows at the KC Public Library starting in September. More on that later...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Call me squid lips


Call me squid lips, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Adam Boyd is a fan of the calamari. Especially the tentacles. He eats them, stretches them,wears them as a hat. (Actually, he'll wear almost anything as a hat.)

I, on the other hand, didn't stop being grossed out by the tiny tentacle part of the calamari basket until I had a near-lethal combination of tequila shots and sangria and realized that, hey! Iw as totally cool with the tentacles. Whee! Also, I talk too much. 

So after a day at the Portfolio Center and Creative Circus (where I was far less than eloquent), I hung outside waiting for my dad to come pick me up. I called my mom when my dad didn't answer the phone, worried that he'd get lost on the back-stree...oh. Yeah. Dad grew up in and around Atlanta. If anyone can figure this out, it's my dad in his new red Corvette convertible (hee...mid-life crisis, or just a car freak?).

Anyway, I ended up eating tapas and drinking Mojitos with Mom, Dad, Lori, David and my new best buddy, Adam ("Anam eat! Anam dance! Anam! Anam!"). Over the last two years, because of busy-ness and life and everything else that gets in the way, we've gone from the once-every-couple-of-months visits we'd worked up to, to three-six months between visits...which is just NOT ACCEPTABLE. 

When I mention my improv schedule to people at work, the first question is almost always, "How do you have time for that?" 

Easy. 

I don't have a husband or kids. My entire family lives in Georgia. All that time people put into raising or spending with families? I have free for press releases and rehearsals. And I go back and forth between really loving that freedom...to being scared to death I've completely lost my ability to compromise...to being really, really jealous of friends who've grown up here, live a short drive from their families and see their parents and siblings often enough that it's not an event. 

Because I was in Atlanta last week, tonight felt...normal. It was just dinner. No big deal, just hanging out with my family. No pressure to cram everything in to a few hours or linger over goodbyes. The best part? When I walked up to my sister's minivan, got a big grin from Adam and when I said, "Want to come with Meep?" he lifted up his arms and said "Uh HUH."

Monday, July 21, 2008

We love us


We love us, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Even without bottomess wine.

At the very last second, I ran out to the hallway of the Wingate by Windham in Buckhead to take Erin and Bess' photo. (Which they approved for cuteness.) I figured it would be more interesting than yet another still life in hotel room...hey! People! Sometimes, I hang out with living beings who aren't overly stimulated by catnip! 

So Erin finds herself, at least half a dozen times a day, saying, "I love us," about: her coworkers in Hallmark's recruiting department, her coworkers at Hallmark, the people she's having dinner with, the people she's recruiting...you get the idea. This might lead you to believe that 1. Erin is prone to hyperbole, or 2. Erin has a Camelback full of Hallmark Kool-Aid. 

Not saying that neither is true. HOWEVER...

It's hard to work with the folks we work with—or hang out with folks like we've gotten the chance to chat with today—and not leave saying, "I LOVE US." We spent tonight at One Midtown Kitchen (one of my sister and her husband's favorite restaurants—and not just because they have a "bottomless" wine selection that lets you choose 4+ glasses of wine for a set price right around their bottle rate) with four members of the Portfolio Center faculty. 

I am not a mingler. Have I mentioned that? So I was a little nervous about spending an evening with smart talented people I didn't know. But after a day with the Portfolio Center's Hank Richardson, I was starting to get a sense we had more in common with these folks than some similar job titles on resumes. Hank is tough to keep up with—his brain works so fast I felt like I needed to take notes during our chat—but I did get from our conversation that the fit with my company and his school had a lot to do with our passion for creativity. 

When I can get past the fear of coming across as an idiot and just relax into the conversation, I realize how blessed (and that's exactly the word I want) I am to get to spend the majority of my waking hours with people who create for a living. In the eight hours I earn my living, I work at one of the world's most creative companies—1,100 people getting paid to write, design, illustrate, letter, think—and when I'm off duty, I hang out with improvisers. I'm surrounded by people who, when they look at the world, see it through a filter that makes it more interesting or amusing. When they talk about their lives, they see humor, joy and wonder in their experiences and relationships. 

It's funny—when I talk about Hallmark to improvisers and improv to Hallmarkers, they're usually pretty intrigued by it. It's easy to take it for granted. It's easy to let it feel like work. I need to figure out how to hold on to the wonder—to remind myself that what I actually do for "work" is hang out with artists.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

This is home


This is home, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

For the next few days. 

Survived Evening 1 of extroverted behavior—dinner with faculty from the Portfolio Center. It's a little crazy to be taken out to dinner by these folks, because when I was going through UT's ad school, the Portfolio Center was legend. It's humbling to sit down with people who are leaders in their industry—the people teaching the hottest writers and designers around. I sat next to Sam Harrison, a writer who presents all over the country about the creative process. 

To make things even more freaky, I got into my hotel room 45 minutes or so before they were supposed to pick us up, and my vision was a little funky. No biggie—the sun hit me in the eye when I got off the elevator. But no...a few minutes later, no change. Crap. I get ophthalmic migraines—and this is one of them: 

Classically, you will see a small, enlarging blind spot (scotoma) in your central vision with bright, flickering lights (scintillations) or a shimmering zig-zag line (metamorphopsia) inside the blind spot. The blind spot usually enlarges and may move across your field of vision. This entire migraine phenomenon can resolve within only a few minutes, but usually lasts as long as about 20-30 minutes.

Awesome. Dinner with cool creative types...and I have a huge blind spot in my field of vision. 

Ultimately, it was a ton of fun. Vision cleared up. Fabulous Southern-style comfort food. And terrific, smart, charming, gracious company. We talked about writing and design...creativity and ideas...collaboration and change. It was a great reminder that this week is a chance to talk to talented people about great work. 

--------------

Which, ultimately, has me thinking about writing. I've been forcing myself to write daily for a while now, and it still doesn't feel like writing—it's still diary keeping, blurting, capturing, but not writing. Ultimately, it's not why I'm doing this. Maybe this week will inspire me. 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Still life with quitter


Still life with quitter, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

This could have been so much more interesting.

Two rehearsals today. TWO. Burnin' Sternum's first one—which was a blast—and my first practice back with Tommy for the Poke show before August's Thunderdome. But I did not take a picture, because tonight I was going to be at either ComedyCity or CounterClockwise's roast of Total Recall. 

Sigh. 

I head out to ComedyCity, e-mailing Nikki on the way to see if they're going to have a show. She's sick, the DuPonts won't be there, and I change directions to head to Total Recall. I'll be late, but who cares? Except I park and realize I left my wallet on my side table, because I had it out to make KCiF guest artist travel arrangements. Now I'll be 45 minutes late. 

Screw it. Time to open a bottle of wine, pop a 100-calorie bag of Jolly Time and whip out a movie with George Clooney in it. (Ocean's 13. Which, oddly, is much more fun to watch now that Clooney is no longer dating a 20-something cocktail waitress.) 

ANYWAY. The universe told me to stay home, and I'm staying home. 

Rehearsals were fun. The Sternums were minus Pete, which makes it 20% less fun, but it was a good couple of hours. We got together a few months ago to figure out what we were interested in doing—a continuous, single-location scene. We're still working out specifics—like whether we'll do entrances and exits, switch out characters, stuff like that. Today was just play time; we cleared the living room furniture and ran three 30-minute-ish scenes. 

Ever rehearsed in the living room of a condo? If rehearsing in a library squashes a little bit of weird, the living room (for me, anyway) stomps it into the ground. AH. A topic: Does your rehearsal space matter?

When the kids studied with Annoyance folks in Chicago, Susan Messing talked about respecting the space—how the Annoyance classrooms gave you protection to do a specific kind of work, the iO stage gave you permission to do another, and the Liberty High School stage demanded yet another. 

I freak out a little any time someone swears in our space at the library. I yelled something pretty gross (but plot relevant)—and then felt very uncomfortable about yelling it—when I rehearsed with Babel Fish in Nathan's back yard off Ward Parkway. I play very close to myself when I'm in my own living room, with my neighbors above and on either side (it didn't help that Michael got a letter from the HOA after one rehearsal at his place).

The only place I really completely let go is in a certified improv space—a classroom, or on the stage where we'll be performing. 

Which doesn't seem like a legit reason to hold back. Even if I have to dial the volume down or watch the content, there should be other types of risks I should be able to take. I got truly annoyed at myself after one scene, where Rob had an actual emotional point of view and I duped myself into believing I'd grounded the scene and my character by not responding in a realistic way. 

I shouldn't have to be in a performance space to perform. There's something new to work on.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The smart money


The smart money, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Is on Spite, baby.

So here's what this says: 

The Improv Mini-Dome is a bite-sized version of the sellout Improv Thunderdome, which pits the best local improv comic troupes against one another in half-hour sets July 23, 25 and 27 at the Hollywood Room, in the former Paddy O'Quigley's (100 East 20th St.). The smart money is on Spite on July 25 or Loaded Dice on July 23.
Next week is going to be a little nuts. I'm doing some recruiting stuff for Hallmark Monday-Wednesday, which means I have to be "on" for 8+ hours a day. I SUCK AT SCHMOOZING—and our schedule starts at 8 and ends at 10. I can fake it in small doses...but I have a feeling I'm going to crash hard when I get home at night. (One bit of relief—will get to have dinner with family on Tuesday night, since we're heading to Atlanta. Every now and then, I get these twice-in-a-month visits, which almost makes it feel like they're nearby. Man, I envy folks who have family in the same city.)

Anyway, is improv-intensive, as well. We'll show up to cheer on Loaded Dice in Improv Mini-Dome on Wednesday night, I'll sit in with BabelFish Thursday night, Spite plays two sets Friday night, I'll rehearse with Burnin' Sternums (Keith, Pete, Rob and Nick) and Poke (Tommy) on Saturday, then see Loaded Dice and the Scriptease boys in Thunderdome Saturday night. 

If there's ever a chance of burning out on this stuff, this may be the week. 

PLUS it'll be the fourth short work-week in a row, which makes it hard to hit a rhythm. This week was going to be normal, but a check-up with my dermatologist turned into more fun than I'd anticipated: two moles removed, one from each side of my jaw. (My dad has had every kind of mole-related skin cancer you can get, so my new doctor wants to see me every 3-6 months.)  I'm a little nervous about what the biopsy will show—more from one side than the other—but my first thought was "I've got a show in a week. Will my stitches be out?" Anyway, I took painkillers and worked from home today, so had another truncated week.

IT IS COMPLETELY SCREWING WITH MY CONCEPT OF TIME. Everything is moving muuuuuch too quickly toward July 31 (one of my staff member's last day), August 11 (the day another staff member starts a temporary stint in another department), August 22 (the next Spite show), August 26 (Exit 16 starts back up), August 30 (Burnin' Sternums in Thunderdome), September 5 (the start of the festival) and (oh, crap—forgot about this one) the return of Comedy on the Square in Liberty.

Zoinkes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Screw the rule


No new picture from today. This is me and my nephew, Adam. He calls me "Meep," because that's the noise my nose makes when he pushes it. (Nick Dusin taught me that one.)

Anyway, I kinda dig him.

Also, because you probably want to be just like the women of Spite...

You can order one at our new CafePress store.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A shared vision


A shared vision, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Which may, somehow, include the word "creepy."

Tonight, we did the thing every improv troupe must do, at some point: We talked instead of rehearsed. 

Tantrum has been around for a year. Josh, who rocks, started the conversation...everyone talked about what they want...and we left with consensus and a plan. No one cried, no one quit and we still like each other—which is a better outcome than has happened with some troupes I've been in. 

And everyone is learning to make their hair awesome like Pete and Rob.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The most important part of rehearsal

I mean, duh. Notes. Dennis was there to give us notes.

Which was very nice and helpful of him.

Spite has typically been coachless, which isn't an ideal situation, but having a smart improv guy married to one of your troupe members has its advantages. So we ran our show twice, hit 28 and 30 minutes on the nose (which is good, since that's how long we got), and went as weird as we typically go. 

It's funny—this girl group goes further out into weird/whimsical/creepy land than anyone I've ever played with. It's easy to play fearless and vulnerable with Megan and Nikki, so there's lots of room to run. Tonight, we played mean girls refusing to help an old lady in a Rascal™ in a grocery store, depressed cougars, lots of two-evil-girls-against-one-outsider scenes, a mobster-influenced office and a scene in a house so overrun with cats you couldn't stand in it. (Yes, the house was mine. I am giving you the finger right now.)

But it's not weird for weird's sake. There's almost always a relationship...from the inside, our work doesn't feel premise-driven. It's not about "how wacky can we be," it's about how the characters treat each other.

Anyway. It felt good. The shows should be fun. We've got two coming up Friday, July 25, at the Fringe Fest, and one set with Tantrum on August 22 at Westport Coffeehouse. Plus potentially a couple more in the works.  


Monday, July 14, 2008

Unmade, unpacked, unleashed


Unmade, unpacked, unleashed, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Spent the day catching up on e-mails and retrieving pets, and the evening rehearsing for set with Babelfish (which certainly WOULD have made a more interesting photo).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Time standing still


Time standing still, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Wow. The Atlanta airport is a big fat weather wimp. It’s raining. RAINING (no sleet, hail or snow). And for the second time in four days, it has meant a two-plus-hour delay.

A poor girl at the ticket desk is dealing with some woman who clearly doesn’t know there are a dozen people behind her. No one is listening to instructions. You can so very easily tell the people who don’t ever fly when there are delays like this—even more so than when they’re in front of you in the security line and shocked to hear you can’t put a big bottle of shampoo in your carry-on luggage.

I have no patience with these people.

The only upside of spending five extra hours in the airport has been the piles and piles of festival work I’ve been able to get done. I’m caught up—at least as much as I can get with no working wifi (overloaded, I guess).

Knowing KCiF is coming, I’ve been arranging my life and my schedule to fit the work that has to happen; but part of that arrangement is making sure the work is spread out over time, and not compressed into the month before the actual event.

Apparently, this makes more than a few people question my organizational skills. (And no, I’m not talking about October. I’ve let that one go. Seriously.)

I get why people think I’m asking for some of this stuff prematurely. It doesn’t help that the festival date has “September” in it, which makes it seem like it might be three months away instead of less than 8 weeks.

At this point, there are so many little, pesky moving parts that one hang-up can throw off an entire list. For example, a missing bio from a single troupe holds up web copy, press releases and programs. Can we find something online or dig it up from last year? Sure. But that takes time and editing and reformatting to fit. It slows the routine from cutting and pasting from an e-mail to a document into searching archives, reading documents, reviewing and editing copy…and when it’s not just one troupe (‘cause it never is) it can turn a 20-minute job into an evening’s worth of work. Once that evening is gone, the rest of the to-do list gets moved to the next available evening, where the most urgent tasks win and the rest get bumped further out.

You’re equally damned if you wait to request information until a more reasonable date. Ever tried to get improvisers to answer a question about schedules? (Anyone who’s ever produced a show, organized a rehearsal or run a troupe should be nodding right about…NOW.) Especially improvisers with lives, who don’t intentionally block 4-8 hours in their days to deal with this stuff? There is no such thing as instant response; it’s just not possible. There’s vacation and calendar checking and spouse checking and child-rearing and working and, frankly, a zillion more important things to do than focus on something you do for fun, for criminy’s sake.

Ultimately, the freaky thing to me is the compression of time that happens the last two months of festival planning. I swear, days and months pass INSANELY fast. Faster if you’ve got shows in between…crap. We’ve still got Spite shows in July and a Tantrum show in August to sell. When the hell will that press release get written?

From here on out, everything starts to be measured in impressions: How many places can we get the festival listed? How many posters can we get in players’ workplaces? How many eyeballs can we get on troupes’ websites? How many mentions by emcees? Flyers handed out? Facebook invitations sent? Friends told? Articles written?

It used to be conventional wisdom that it took three impressions for an advertising message to register. Now that we’re marketed to more often in more ways, that number is higher—and moving from impression to impact is tougher.

Huh. Just thought of something else I can do. One more hour ‘til my flight leaves. It’ll go fast.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Very important


Very important, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Adam is very concerned about the little ducks that didn't come back. I am concerned about Adam's concern.

SPOILER ALERT

Apparently all five little ducks make it back alive.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Making up for the 1-year meltdown

This year, there was no issue with the frosting.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Princess Buttercup


Princess Buttercup, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

This is the graceful, delicate creature my parents adopted about four years ago.

Adam was asleep when I got here...WTF? There is no waiting up for Aunt Meep?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Some can only aspire


Some can only aspire, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Rob and Pete can make their hair awesome. Michael and I cannot. 
You can almost taste the jealousy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I work with quality


I work with quality, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

This is the forehead of one of our Art Directors. I guess he got bored by all the client-y stuff in a meeting, because when another Art Director bet him $1 to staple his head, he did it.

It turned out that there were no staples (Stapler Roulette?). But the metal thingy that pops out to stomp the staple in set him to bleeding.

A lot of improvisers say they are the funniest person at work. I am most  definitely not.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Let the deluge begin


Let the deluge begin, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

These are just early copies. Bess is getting a huge batch made...then the efforts to get them all over the city begin. Cary Cox, a Hallmark designer who connected with the festival through AIGA, has done a terrific job on our promotional materials. 

I realized at some point this weekend that—where the festival is concerned—I vacillate between being the capable one, the overwhelmed one, the optimistic one and the martyr. I imagine this makes it super fun for the folks on the planning committee, since they have no IDEA who they'll be talking to. It's funny—as much as I think about and try to improve my leadership skills at my real job, it never really crosses over into improv land. And honestly, it may be even more important out here, since we're all volunteers. I don't know if it's a lack of attention on my part, or a nagging worry that people on the committee aren't really interested in being led. 

It's tough. That's not me being a whiny martyr—it's just a statement of fact. And a segue. 

So I was e-mailing back and forth with one of my Tantrum pals last week. One of the coolest compliments we got from Mark Sutton was that our troupe has a great mix—of styles, personalities, approaches. It makes playing an absolute blast—it's been a looooong time since I've had as much fun on stage as I do with these guys. But it can make the behind-the-scenes stuff (planning, scheduling, etc.) challenging; we're always trying to find ways to get seven people together without anyone feeling bent over so far backwards that the snapping noise you hear is SOMEONE'S SPINE.

The most interesting part of the e-mailing was getting a chance to better understand where we're each coming from. One of the questions for me had to do with motivation—why do I think, feel and act the way I do? Taking it away from the specific issues in our e-mail string, it's a question I ask myself any time I'm in overwhelmed or martyr mode. Every now and then, I'm hit with the realization that I've spent countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars (mostly in that whole "owning a theater" thing) focused on making shit up.  

There are lots of different reasons: hanging out with smart, funny people...making audiences laugh...an outlet for being kind of a ham. 

But when I think about it, I love this stuff for the same reason I dig my real job. It's about collaboration. 

My favorite days at work are the ones that start with a problem to solve and end with the feeling that we had the right people with the right brains in the room at the same time, and we've come up with a solution together that we wouldn't have gotten to if even one of them was absent. Time doesn't matter, the room fills with energy and the ideas pile up. When you get to The One, everyone knows it. No one person owns it—a lot of times, you can't even figure out where it started or who it came from. Everyone believes. 

The perfect days happen just a few times a month. But they make the majority of my time—spent working alone in my booth on documents that inform the creative work, or editing copy, or dealing with action items from meetings—totally worth it.

In improvisation, it's the same thing. But even better—because it's pure creativity. And the stakes are lower: You're not working on a multi-million dollar ad campaign. You're entertaining an audience for one night. 

My experience is split almost 50/50 between short form and long form; I started studying and performing long form either 14 or 15 years ago. I love me some short form games—especially when you strip them of gimmicks and make them about scenes and characters. But it feels like appetizers to me—or, as my pal Beth calls them, appeteasers—just when you're totally into something, it's over.

To me, long form requires more discipline. Your muscles have to be stronger—it's the difference between doing one pushup and holding plank pose for a full minute. And your bond with the others in the group has to be stronger, because you're not just jamming for a night at a jazz club—you're part of a band. Both are work—they take talent and skill and practice—long form is just harder. 

And ultimately, sooooo much more rewarding when you do it well. I've been watching the DVD from Tantrum's last show, which was our best so far. There are lines and moves and callbacks that feel like they have to have been scripted—who could come up with something like that on the spot? But it's that collaboration thing. For one moment in time, the right people with the right brains are on the stage at the same time, and we've created something together that noone could have possibly come up with alone. 

It doesn't always feel like it when I'm plugging away at the production stuff, but after a show, I know why all the unfun work was worth it. I leave completely charged and ready to do again! do again! 

(Which, I hear, annoys the shit out of fellow players who would like 72 hours of breathing space or so before they start planning the next round. I'm just the opposite—I do better when I start from a full charge.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My time in the suburbs


My time in the suburbs, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

That's two trips this weekend. Which is unusual for me since 1) I live in and stick close to Midtown and 2) $4.06 A GALLON! ZOMG!!1

But the festival work is caught up, and my house is...um...a little out of control. Because I am all sorts of disciplined, my reaction to a full afternoon open for cleaning was to immediately get in the car and go far, far away. 

Actually, it helped. I've kind of hit a wall where looking at my computer screen is concerned. Three hours of mindless but surprisingly productive shopping (the pillows I've been coveting on sale, finally...heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil...the world's greatest spinach salad...and sparkly flip flops, which I will delude myself into thinking are work-appropriate because, you know, SPARKLY) has me ready to clean.

Mostly because I can't put the pillows on the sofa till the couch has been cleared of cat hair.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The really important stuff


The really important stuff, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Timmy and I met to talk about money. The fun part. 

So we talked about plane tickets for the guest artists and paypal accounts for the workshop students and insurance and contracts and what we've spent so far and accounting software and staffing the festival weekends.

The KC Improv Festival is—on purpose—super low maintenance. There's just  no other way to do it. Everyone on the planning committee has another job and plays with at least one troupe...and many of them take on a fair amount of responsibility for those troupes. 

But even as little as we have to worry about compared to larger festivals, there are a ton of details. From little things like making sure the casts have water back stage and getting everyone to sign releases to let us video their shows and take pictures of them to the big stuff, like flying guest artists in and signing contracts with Union Station. 

And that is why there's a file on my computer called The List Of Everything.

Friday, July 4, 2008

You don't need to see these fireworks

OK. Lego Star Wars ROCKS.

Turned out to be a great July 4th evening. What with the events coming in September, I just had a few hours to celebrate...which, as it turns out, is just enough time to have some sushi and blow up the Death Star. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It's not a cookie


It's not a cookie, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

But it'll do.

Those, by the way, are the red grape with gorgonzola and white bean with truffle oil bruschettas from The Drop. 

I kinda figured they'd go well with writing for the festival website. And indeed, I am more inspired.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

There is a hailstorm outside


There is a hailstorm outside, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

So another beer is called for.

The plan was to meet some coworkers at Sol Cantina, have two Corona Lights and two Baja-style chicken tacos. But then the rain started...then the hail. Not wanting to be knocked unconscious walking home, I had another beer. 

Then ran into other coworkers...and it stopped raining/hailing...but started again. Four hours and four beers later...

Well, dang. But I'm taking a half-day off yesterday to do festival work (who knew tickets going on sale early would be a pain in the ass?), so tonight is about answering e-mails (some looooong ones, and you know who you are) and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Spite part two


Spite part two, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Second rehearsal.

Nikki and Megan met Andre, our new keyboard player. We tweaked our editing techniques to push us into scenes with different energy and physicality. And we...um...did a fair amount of gossiping. Because we're girls.