Congrats to Brandon

My lack of exercise last week caught up to me. I gained a couple pounds back as of this morning. At least I continued Couch to 5K and the elliptical Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and tonight. I have to work harder. If only I could convince myself to go the gym every Saturday before improv. That hasn’t happened yet.

After the gym tonight, I am taking Brandon out to dinner to celebrate. His lab is being published in Investigating Ophthalmology and Visual Science, a trade journal in his field. This is very cool, because they have worked really hard to get published since Brandon started and it’s finally happening. It sounds like the more you have findings published, the more credible you become and the more credible you are, the more likely you are to receive grant money. And Brandon’s job is funded by grants, along with all they do at the lab. Like study eye cancer and stuff. Congrats to Brandon, who will be getting third billing on the piece.

On Sunday night, Plum St. Productions is meeting together to talk about some important upcoming projects. It sounds like something exciting is cooking and I’ll be reporting on that here once it’s out there. I’m not sure I’ll be able to go to Cincinnati for the meeting, but I am hoping it works out. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the folks of Plum St.

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Mid week catching up

There’s a couple reasons I’m not devoting a whole, long post to my third improv class. First, it wasn’t as good as the previous two; also, it’s Magazine Week and I am spread thin both at work and at home.

Bill was out of town, so we had a sub. It was another guy from the troupe, and God love him, he was a nice guy, but the odds were against him Saturday. First of all, he brought his younger brother along for support. The two of them were worse than an old married couple; they “playfully” bossed each other around and bickered in front of the class until it reached such a heated point that the sub took his brother aside to talk to him privately. We waited in silence until he came back. The brother was not seen again for the rest of the afternoon.

Also, the class managed to talk him out of reviewing Laban Movement from the last class because no one liked it. I didn’t much like it either, so I am not complaining. But it was very reminiscent of high school, when we would try to convince substitute teachers to let us have a day off and promise not to tell.

We basically didn’t learn any new material, but instead did a series of two person scenes and some word association warm up games. This would have been fine, except it was just an off day. I was off. Other people were off. I froze on stage for the first time because I was in a scene about basketball involving two women who quickly exhausted all their knowledge of basketball and related references. And, for some reason, maybe because we all knew Bill wouldn’t be there, at least four people didn’t come to class that day. I hope they come back, because now I am afraid every week will suck in their absence.

In other news, I was very bad and only went to the gym once last week. Sorry friends – I like meeting up with you on week nights and all, but you’re really cutting in to my selfish work out time. Just kidding. It was great to see so many people last week. I went to the gym last night and did an hour of cardio between the treadmill and the elliptical. This was promptly followed by eating a burrito bowl, since Brandon still had money on a Chipotle gift card. It was a little counter productive, but today’s looking up.

Trouble comes in threes and fours

So remember how, on New Year’s Day, we were very surprised to find water dripping into our tub from our ceiling? That was the first of many, many calls to our maintenance guy for the year.

While the ceiling thing seems to have been mysteriously resolved, despite no outward appearance of action being taken, this didn’t seem to matter as much when our water was shut off one Sunday. We called our guy, who said he was 90 percent sure it was a water company problem. For about an hour I was entirely convinced our landlord had not been paying our water bill for months and months, and I was swearing up and down to move at the first chance possible, much to Brandon’s delight. However, I was jumping to conclusions. There really was a water main break in Clintonville that day, so our bills were being paid after all.

One night last week, Brandon and I were playing EA Active on the Wii and did a really hard work out. So it wasn’t until much later that we realized our apartment was freezing. We kept turning up the heat, but it never kicked on. Once again, we called our guy, who sent the landlord immediately to fix it, which he did. They’re good people after all. We thought that would be the last we’d see of either of them for a long while. Until yesterday. Oh, yesterday.

That’s when our sink decided to flood our kitchen. The sink had been somewhat clogged for a couple days, so yesterday Brandon bought some Drain-O. We used it, but it didn’t seem to work. Our friend Adam suggested we try plunging it. I did, and THAT worked. However, as a result the water began gushing out of a leak in the pipes below, flooding the bottom of the inside of the cabinet down there and seeping onto the floor. I yelled for help, and Brandon put a giant serving dish under the pipes to catch the water. He called our biggest fan, who said he’d have a look as soon as possible. He also told us to never use Drain-O again because, despite it being intended to unclog drains, it wreaks havoc on plumbing. All I can tell you is the fumes are nauseating.

We’ve seen these guys a lot in the past few weeks. They are returning our calls and getting stuff done, so I can’t complain after all. They’re probably getting pretty tired of us at this point, of course.

We’re official

Check it out: Plum St. Productions has a fancy new web site. It’s pretty awesome. Check out my bio and the bios of many awesome people involved with the company. It’s all coming together so fast. I did read on here that sadly, “Gnomewhere To Hide” will not be completed until this summer. Don’t worry, it will be worth the wait. You can see a teaser trailer for the movie on the site under the portfolio section.

On the weight front, I am not losing but I am not gaining. Plateau 2010 continues.

My life will suck without you

Today is the last day of work for a woman in my department. Ever since I started, I began being trained to be her back up for all her duties pertaining to our company’s web site. She used to make jokes about how I’d need to be ready for the day she won the lottery and never came back. Or she’d joke about getting hit by a bus. Now, as it turns out, I was being prepared for the day she got a different job, which, quite frankly, was the last of the three possibilities I’d have thought possible. She’s been here for years and is extremely passionate about what she does.

She is also the person at work that I get along with best. At SNP, Eileen and I bonded over our walks around the building and I missed that when I left there. My co-worker here had just started taking walks with me this summer, and while we weren’t as consistent as Eileen and me, it was nice to be able to take a break with someone at work – or go out to eat somewhere once in while rather than eat at my desk.

I brought her a bottle of wine and one of her favorite candy bars as parting gifts this morning. Until her replacement is hired, I will be performing her job on top of my own. It took us nearly three months to replace our graphic designer after she left in August (and gave us two months’ notice of her plans). The next several weeks of my life are going to suckkkkk.

Also, I need to make some more work friends. How does one do that, exactly?

A late weigh-in

I forgot to weigh in Friday, but there’s not much change from then to today. At the moment I am sitting at about 12 pounds lost. So, no loss last week, but luckily I didn’t gain too much either, which is amazing, since I went crraazzzy over the weekend. As in, order take out from Insomnia Cookies AND Eggfast crazy. Yeah.

I start week three of Couch to 5k this week. I had to re-do Week 2 after doing that weird thing to my back. From what I have read, appropriate running shoes will likely solve that problem. I was going to buy a pair over the weekend but it didn’t work out. Instead, this weekend/yesterday I spent a lot of time with Brandon around the house. We went to a game night on Saturday with some of our Xenos friends and played this hilarious game called Telephone Pictionary or something. You write a phrase and pass it to the person next to you. Then they draw a picture illustrating your phrase and pass it down. The next person writes a phrase interpreting the picture, and this goes on until everyone’s had a hand in everyone else’s original phrase. Just try it, it’s hysterical.

Yesterday, after a visit with my family at Owen and Jamie’s place, I went to David’s Bridal for the first time in my life to try on a bridesmaid dress for Christina’s wedding. That place is nothing but dresses and mirrors. I actually couldn’t find Christina at first because I got so turned around in there. While we waited it was fun watching women try on wedding dresses and making catty remarks under our breath. Okay, maybe that was just me. Some of them looked so beautiful though, and I wanted to tell them, yes! Get that one, my God.

Last night Christina sent out a front-and-back page newsletter to the bridal party with information about how to order our dresses, where/when the wedding and reception are, a “Meet the other bridesmaids” piece (with pictures!) and stuff like that. I didn’t know she had such a talent for graphic design and layout! It was done in the wedding colors, which is nice, because now I can keep an eye out for stuff in that particular shade of pink or yellow.

Second week of improv class

Day two of improv went well. It was much less scary to get up on stage, and I felt like I got a chance to talk to people a little more, since we took a couple breaks this time. Also, we added three new people. We’ll call them Man 5 and Woman 4 and 5. One of the women who started is in a wheelchair, which really changed a few things. A ramp wasn’t available, so scenes with her weren’t performed on stage. I’m not sure how old she is, but she said she is preparing to get in to law school soon. She said her parents always encouraged her to do what she wanted despite her disability, and she was grateful to them for that. I don’t really consider my hearing loss a disability and I think that’s because my parents didn’t see it that way, either. It made all the difference.

We started out talking about movement on stage. Bill gave us a handout on Laban Movement, which is kind of a way to show emotion through body language. For example, if someone skips up to you in a light, friendly way, that’s a lot different from someone making an angry, storming bee line in your direction. We practiced this on stage, two at a time. We each performed an action in two different ways. My partner, Man 2, washed his car while I iced a cake. I don’t really know the two different ways he washed his car because I was too busy with my own movement (gotta work on that whole awareness thing). The first time, I looked really giddy, icing a cake for Man 2 and presenting it (with no dialogue) to him, pestering him until he tried it. The second time, I angrily yanked the cake from the oven, stabbed it with a knife covered in icing and stalked over to him and dumped the cake on his head.

We did a couple more two person scenes. In the first, Man 1 and I were grade school kids waiting for the bus, and in the second, I was a dame and Man 5 was a detective and we were in a film noir.

“I need your help,” I said breathily.

“And I need you to sit down,” he said. I complied in a bubbleheaded kind of way.

Our scene went on as he interrogated me comically about a man I was allegedly having an affair with, whom I claimed to have never met. Mid-questioning, he interrupted one of my answers to offer me a drink.

“On the rocks?” he asked.

“Yes, please,” I said.

“Under the rocks, or ON TOP?” he asked pointedly.

“Always on top” I winked, playing along.

“Is that how _______ liked his drink?” he asked.

“I keep telling you, I’ve never met the man,” I replied.

“So you’re not the one who killed him last night?” he demanded.

“He’s DEAD?” I gasped.

End scene. Bill seemed impressed with that one. Man 5 is an actual actor, so that probably helped make us look good. The school bus stop one was fun too, and I thought more about my movement and tried to act more kid-like as a result. Man 1 did too, and he was pretty funny in it.

One of the last exercises we did was where we paired up and we were given two conflicting emotions to act out. This was a demonstration of Playback Theatre, which performs dramatic improv and is supposed to be therapeutic. Improv in general can be therapeutic, but it is not therapy, Bill said.

Woo hoo!

Over the holidays, a couple of very awesome people agreed to marry each other. B.C. (see under “The Usual Suspects”) popped the question to my former roomie and college buddy Christina. On a cruise! She was blindsided. The story sounded very exciting and the way they told their family adorable: They gift wrapped the frame seen below for their respective families to open at Christmas.

This scrapbooking extraordinaire already has her Save The Date (STD) cards taken care of

I met up with the bride-to-be after work last night to hear all about the planning thus far, and she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I’m pretty excited to get to be a part of their big day. Not to mention the dress that comes along with the whole package is super cute. Last night I thanked Christina for not putting us in hideous dresses, as brides are sometimes wont to do.

Congrats to B.C. and Christina! Let the count down begin.

Improv 101

I went to my first improv class Saturday. As I walked over to the studio, absurdly enough I found myself trying to think of funny situations I could create if it came down to it, and what funny things I could say if they actually did arise. Then I realized I was mentally trying to prepare for an improv class. The irony. That’s when I got really freaked out, as I saw there was literally nothing I could do to get ready for what I’d gotten myself into. I wish I had pictures to post here.

There were eight of us, and our teacher, Bill. At first we stood around awkwardly, and then I sat down at a table with another woman and a guy. I asked how they’d gotten interested in taking the class. I really don’t want to use names here, so consider these classmates Woman 1 through 3 and Man 1 through 4. Woman 1 said she knew a guy in the troupe, See You Thursday, and he’d talked her into trying it out. Man 1 said he was taking the class as part of a New Year’s Resolution to try new and terrifying things. I could relate.

As the class started, we made our introductions. The class varies in age; the men all seem young, or at least around my age, but the three women are likely middle aged. It sounded like only two of them had previous improv experience, so I felt better about that. When it was my turn I told the group I was more used to being behind the camera since I am an amateur filmmaker in my free tie, but that lately I’ve become more and more interested in improv and stand up comedy. Our teacher told us briefly about the history of improv, and about how the three big schools in Chicago, Second City, The Annoyance and iO came to be. He also told us a bit about the philosophies of improv the different schools hold, and the philosophy we would be learning for our purposes. Then, before we knew it, we were being called on stage in pairs to act out our very first two-person scenes.

My partner and I went last and I seriously had no idea how I was going to react. Our teacher gave us a location and a relationship: We were a minister and a member of the congregation, and we were at a county fair. We were not specifically told which was which character, but my acting partner decided this as the scene started and he walked up to me and said “Hey, pastor, how are you doing?”

That’s probably not how I would have gone with things, but once it was said and out there, that was where we went with it. If I were to say in response, “No no, YOU are the minister,” that would have left my partner in a lurch, on top of killing the scene. Doing something like that is called a denial, and it must be avoided. Even if you walk out on stage hunched over like an old person and your partner doesn’t notice and refers to you as her grandson, that’s too bad, she’s got a really old grandson for the rest of the scene. This is called, in Bill’s words, “holding onto your shit.”

And so I said to Man 1, “I am well, my child, God has blessed me very much,” or something like that. I rambled on long enough for Man 1 to come up with something else to say to guide our conversation and our scene. (This may or may not be a good thing. I discovered Saturday that my reaction to being on stage without memorized lines is to NOT SHUT UP. I didn’t expect that at all.) The scene went on with Man 1 consulting me about his dream of one day becoming a magician. I told him God wouldn’t approve of using such dark arts and, since we were supposed to be at a fair, I suggested he become a carnie instead. Bill ended the scene there, thank God.

He had us do another two person scene, and in the next one I was paired with Man 2 and we were supposed to be Siamese twins in a snuff film (Man 3 had some dark suggestions to make). Had I been the one to start the scene I would have pretended my twin was trying to kill me, but since he started it, he indicated we were both being chased by a killer. I learned an important lesson in this one; it got really repetitive as we both, arms linked, tried to run away from (on a very small stage) an imaginary killer. We shifted the scene slightly to making jokes about how, despite being attached at the hip, we never talk anymore. We should have continued down this direction, but because I thought we were supposed to keep the scene about running from our killer, I interrupted my partner and pretended to spot our killer and made us start running again. After the scene ended, I learned that you should go where the scene takes you. Just because you start a scene based on an audience suggestion doesn’t mean it is strictly limited to those parameters. If it did, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. Instead of taking up the boring running again, I should have asked my Siamese twin something like, whatever happened to that girl he had been seeing who had seemed so nice. Just imagine a Siamese twin on a date. There’s a lot of material to work from there.

The third exercise we did was about building dialogue. We were advised to stay away from arguments, which can turn into repetitive “Yes you did/No I didn’t” conversations on stage. Specifics are good. For example, don’t say, “Did you see that?” Say, “Did you see that man running away in the chicken costume holding a rattle snake?” Our dialogue exercise started with one person making a declarative statement, and the other person building onto it by saying, “Which means that…” and following up with what could be a conclusion, and a direction for the scene to take.

  • Woman 1: We really need to clean up around here.
  • Me: You think we need to clean up more around here, which means that, I am a messy roommate. (Bam! It is established we are roommates, just like that)
  • Woman 1: You are a messy roommate, which means that I am always cleaning up after you.
  • Me: You are always cleaning up after me, which means that you take joy in cleaning up after people.
  • Woman 1: You think I like cleaning up after people because you are self-centered.
  • Me: I am self-centered, which means that I think we should hire a maid rather than you make me clean.
  • Woman 1: You think we should hire a maid, which means that I think you should pay for it.
  • Me: You think I should pay for a maid, which means that I will have to take on a second job to pay for it.
  • Woman 1: You will have to take on a second job, which means you will be around less to make messes.

End scene.

Our fourth exercise was intended to make us think about object work, or the use of invisible props. Basically, if you start out holding a glass, you better either set down that glass on an imaginary table or keep holding on to it until the scene ends. We each had to pantomime carrying out an every day task and the rest of the group had to guess what they were doing. One person acted out brushing snow off his entire car, one guy made soup in a kitchen we could almost see, one woman walked her two dogs who were determined to go in opposite directions. I acted out putting in my contact lenses. I was told I was convincing. I probably felt silliest at that point, on stage, by myself with no dialogue, standing at a sink that wasn’t there.

The last exercise we did had us in two groups of four, acting out a scene without dialogue. Our group decided to be a cashier and three customers at a grocery store. I was a mom with a bratty son (who was well over a foot taller than me) at the register and a guy waited impatiently behind us. That was the hardest scene yet, since we had to pay attention to what the others were doing and act accordingly. Then, we ran the same scene, but added dialogue. That made it even harder, because then we had to watch each other and think of things to say.

Our class took the full three hours, but it was so fun and interesting that it didn’t seem like it. I’m looking forward to continuing in the class and getting to know everyone better.