Our greatest fear realized

One of the people who supported me the most when my mom was sick needs my support now, and the support of others. I have talked about Jessie’s generosity and good character before and she is still a close friend I see at least once every couple of weeks. I’ve written a lot of praise about her but it still doesn’t quite do her justice. I can’t really explain to you just how far Jessie will go to help someone and comfort them; you just have to know her.

Her dad died suddenly last night. Her parents had just gotten back from a cruise a day or two earlier. They’d never been on a cruise before, and Jessie was telling me how much fun they were having when I met up with her Thursday night. Can you imagine? I can’t tell you about suddenly losing a parent, only very slowly losing one. So I can’t comprehend the shock of receiving that phone call – it’s a horrible, sickening thing to imagine that makes my heart ache just thinking about. It’s our greatest fear realized. And Jessie is honestly the last person to deserve such a painful event – not that anyone really deserves it, of course. But especially not her. Jessie was not only there for me when my mom was diagnosed with cancer; she checked in on me and my whole family throughout the worst nine months of our lives.

And she stayed. That’s the important part.

I called my dad last night after I heard the news; something about hearing about the loss of a friend’s dad made me want to call mine more than ever, and he reminded me that Jessie knew better than most what it would take to help me through our loss. She was still there after all the visitors went home, the chicken casseroles and cards stopped coming, and the phone stopped ringing. That’s the loneliest part of grieving, months later, and in the moments when you find yourself alone and it’s suddenly almost unbearable. Jessie seemed to have a sixth sense about that kind of despair and knew when to check in and make sure I was doing okay. And if I wasn’t, she could handle the weight of my grief when I couldn’t. She still asks about my dad whenever we meet up for coffee, and I’m not sure they’ve ever spoken.

You don’t get over it, you get through it. And it’s my turn to help her get through this. I am so sorry for her and I have a feeling I know what lies ahead of her. Two years ago I only knew a couple people around my age who had lost a parent. I remember I wanted to talk to them more than anyone else. I’m not sure Jessie will feel the same, but I want to be there for her somehow.

Play date

I went to my hometown over the weekend and found out a play date for my friends and their children had been scheduled for Sunday morning. I told them I would be bringing along my imaginary infant so I wouldn’t feel left out. Four of my high school friends are now moms, and they have five kids among them:

My extended family

Not pictured above are Megan’s oldest and Cindy’s son. They hadn’t met before, but they bonded pretty quickly. It appears to take little more than a couple race cars.

vrrrroooom

It was a nice weekend to be home.

My improv debut

I was so nervous on Tuesday evening I could hardly stand it. I was more nervous then than I could recall feeling before any of the plays I did in college, and there were a lot more people I knew in the audience at each of those then there were the other night. The difference is those memorized lines and cues; going up on stage without a thought in your head as to what will happen next is terrifying. It can also be invigorating, if a scene happens to go well. If it tanks, you have to put it out of your mind and brace yourself for going up again. The most you can hope for is to end on a high note. Fortunately, I did, in my own opinion.

Calling a report in on a very ugly dog

I’m not sure how many scenes I did, but we performed for 50 minutes. Once we got started, I almost completely forgot to feel nervous, and tried to enjoy whatever scene was going on at the moment. My uncle was there like I mentioned, and afterward, he told me I had a very expressive face. He’d noticed this in my plays in college, he said, and the trait carried over into my improv. I was surprised when he also said I was gesturing more than a lot of people; I couldn’t tell you what I was doing with my arms after a scene, because I am still so unaware of my own movement, so I assumed I was staying as stiff as I felt most of the time.

I honestly don't remember which scene this was

I think in the above photo I resemble Kristen Wiig’s least funny SNL character:

It's Gilly x 2

Hahaha, I act like I actually watch SNL often enough to know all of her characters. No, really; I love Wiig, but Gilly is super annoying. On a total side note, Lilly Allison said she rarely watches SNL, and if she does, it’s because she accidentally happened across it on TV on Saturday night. I couldn’t believe it.

My new favorite picture

My uncle documented the potential train wreck that was my improv debut last night, which was very kind of him. He even found some nice things to say about it. More on this soon, but for now, a photo says a thousand words. This is my new facebook profile picture, having finally conquered the I Can Haz Cheezburger lolcats photo after a two week reign. I change photos pretty quickly, I’ve realized, so two weeks is a long time. May this one reign even longer.

I really did take that improv class you guys

I’ll see you in court

Well, hopefully not. I’m being summoned for jury duty for two weeks starting March 22. Have you ever had jury duty? Do they really need you that whole two weeks? Should I bring a book to read? I mean, are we talking a lot of down time or will I be in a court room all day? I’ve talked to one person who had a first hand experience and a couple people who know second hand, and it sounds like I won’t know all the answers to these questions until I get there.

I am really hoping I’ll get to work on my screenplay during that two weeks. If I can, it might not be so bad.

In the mean time, I’ve got a show to do. I’m on stage in less than two hours, and there will be family members there to document the event. This makes me feel good and bad, all at the same time. Thanks, family!

Thank you, Shadowbox

My sketch comedy workshop Saturday morning was the best $5 I have spent in a long time. Two writers from Shadowbox led a discussion on the process of writing sketch comedy: Stev Guyer and Jimmy Mak, two of the six writers with the organization. They were extremely helpful and accepting of all levels of experience among our group. We were encouraged to step up and take the reigns as the creative future of Columbus.

Sketch comedy isn’t as easy as it looks, first of all. They told us that a single sketch will undergo at least ten re-writes before it is ever given to a cast to rehearse for a show. And we’re not talking correcting typos re-writing; I mean start from scratch and try again. They said that can be a really difficult thing, to challenge yourself to think of something better than your initial joke. And even with that, jokes aren’t enough; your audience needs to care about your characters.

Basically, here is the process for writing a sketch:

Start with idea on paper. You might pick a theme, like love and relationships, or a “fish out of water” scenario. The example of this they gave is where you might take a stereotype (Italian gangster) and put it where it doesn’t belong (working in a daycare).

After you know the idea of your sketch, make an outline. Much like we did in composition class in college, map out your sketch on paper before you start writing the script. Write how you think it might end, because it’s very important you can conclude it well or else a fizzled ending is all the audience will remember. The close in sketch comedy as a genre tends to be really weak, they said, pointing to some of more hair brained SNL sketches that don’t seem to know where to go after a while.

Finally, and for a very long time, you re-write. The guys said there are around 8-10 sketches per show at Shadowbox; again, each is re-written at least ten times over the three month cycle they have to work in. Additionally, actors are allowed to improvise on your script, and it might even continue to be re-written based on audience response weeks into a show, like if they can tell a joke’s not working.

When you write with a group like they do, you need to be okay with not owning a sketch; it’s a group effort. Be willing to work as a group. I think that’s something I would have trouble with, if I’m really honest with myself.

Yesterday, after my second day of improv critique with our Annoyance improviser, I wrote an outline for my screenplay. I have six pages of work, broken down scene by scene. I fleshed it out a little more tonight after work, and I plan on doing more and more each day this week. Once I know that outline start to finish and feel ready, I am going to revisit the pages I wrote weeks and weeks ago. I am going to finish this screenplay if it kills me. Who wants to read 90 pages of a first time screenwriter? Anyone? Thanks to that workshop I have made more progress in three days than I have in the last three weeks. Maybe even months.

I am happy to say I re-read what I had written, and I at least still liked it. So it’s not like I have to start all over again, I can keep what I have so far.

I really wanted to ask if they like “30 Rock,” but it was too much of a cheeseball question.