27 March 2012

Brussels + Marbles = This Weekend

By a wide margin, Ryan wins the race to see who can cross their arms first.

Three nights, two workshops, two shows, and one hotel room. This will be Marbles Improv on the road. In Brussels. It is our first improv roadtrip. And it's happening this weekend.

It's been far too long since I've been back to the Belgian city that I used to call home. In the case of Dave Waller, it's been literally forever since he's been to Brussels


23 March 2012

Me and stress: an uneasy relationship

I've discovered recently, in the run-up to our just-finished Waterwise Water Efficiency Conference 2012, that I'm prone to stress.

This sucks because
a) stress is bad. And
b) I've built up my self-image as supremely self-confident and totally laid-back. It's the perfect mix; but maybe - I now know - it's false


15 March 2012

Tackling Solo Improv (or 1mprov)

Improv is (almost without exception) a joy to perform, because there's such a dynamic and focused connection between the performers. Last night I learned how that relationship works when there's just one performer.

Last night's Happy Place was another great comedy event. And not just because there was some leftover cake from Horse's (of Horse & Louis) recent birthday party. Nope, there was a lovely crowd, some quality acts (not least of which was a teaser taster of Max & Ivan's upcoming Con Artist Edinburgh Fringe show. For me, it was a bit of a milestone, as it was the first time I've stepped onstage, alone, with no idea what I was about to do, and just improvised.

Solo improv, I learned, is terrifying and wonderful, exhilarating and freeing. Last night was very informal; also, I had the excuse that Dave Waller was unavailable, so it was logical that I was by myself, fulfilling our obligation. For just last night, 'Marbles' became the singular 'Marble', or the adapted 'One Man's Marbles'.

So, after justifying my lone presence, I just got into it. I began with audience chats, (especially gently teasing a German girl), before getting into a scene based on the word 'trumpet'.

That scene sparked a discussion with the audience about childhood passions or achievements, which led to a monologue scene taking place at Blockbuster video, where a struggling filmmaker explained the concept behind his short movie. It was poetic and authentic. And, as it came to a satisfying conclusion, I took the opportunity to not press my luck, and said goodnight.

I'm not sure how long I was up there for, it felt simultaneously like almost no time at all, and approximately three hours. The truth was probably something like twelve or so minutes. A respectable span of time, and the audience seemed to have enjoyed themselves.

Afterwards, a few of the other acts commented on my 'massive balls' for going it alone. Being cited for onstage bravery can be a backhanded compliment (i.e. "That was awful, but I respect you're bullheaded enough to plow on with your shit"). However, I'm pretty confident that wasn't the sense they were using.

So that first test of getting onstage alone, with no idea what's about to happen, has been put to rest. The verdict is yes, I'd like to do it again. Every so often. It's nerve-wracking and exhausting, but a challenge replete with rewards. Not always with literal cake, as there was last night, but presumably more learning and confidence from each show.

However, I look forward to stepping back on stage with other people. In particular, reuniting with Dave Waller for a weekend trip to Belgium for Marbles shows and workshops at the end of the month.

More on that soon.


11 March 2012

Londoners Explained

If you're coming to London, or live in London, or are from London, or have traveled to London, or are thinking of traveling to London, or perhaps know somebody who is going or has recently come to London - and let's face it, we all fit one of the categories - then you should read this recent article from the New York Times Magazine.

It's called Explaining Londoners, and it does a pretty good job of doing just that.

Sample wisdom:
  • "Many Americans view London as a place where everyone drinks, all the time. And it’s sort of true."
  • "Londoners are not impressed by anything, at all, ever."
  • And when someone says: “Musn’t complain... ”, they have just complained
Read the full article to enrich your own understanding of London. Of course it doesn't cover everything, for that you'll just have to come visit.

Or don't. As you like.


02 March 2012

Back to the Studio, Liverpool

My first exposure to endurance improv was watching a bit of the 2010 London Improvathon. I then guested for an episode last year, as well as guesting for a spot of the 28 hour Cellblock improv show in the fall, which led me to ruminate on endurance-testing longform performance.

This weekend I'm taking another step: I'm off to Liverpool to partake in Impropriety's 33.5 hour 2012 Improvathon. I'm not doing the whole thing, but plan to pull the night shift on Saturday.

It will be a more experiential look into the notion of the joys of stupidly long shows.

But mostly I'm expecting it to be lots of fun; I've met a fair few Liverpool improv folks recently, and I'm looking forward to going 'Back to the Studio' with them.

If you're in Liverpool, you should come gorge on sleep-deprived comedy this weekend.

But if you're not, I'll let you know how it goes.


01 March 2012

Dancing for Office at Homebrewed

My friend Greg Wohead, (artist/writer/Texan) invited me to recount a tale at the launch of Homebrewed, his new storytelling night.

And I did.

It was at LXV Books in Bethnal Green. It's a sidenote, as Homebrewed happened already, but I highly recommend stopping by to check out the books if you're out by Victoria Park.

I talked about my experience as a city council candidate in Vancouver, during the heady Dance Party Party campaign of 2002. If you don't know, I participated in the 2002 as a city council candidate in Vancouver. Here's a photo.

It felt good to talk about the impact of that formative experience, the heady highs and embarrassing lows, and just relive what was a special time in my life. Empowering, creative, productive, all those good things.

That Dance Party Party campaign also had some similarities with Homebrewed itself; both were homespun, self-generated, sincere and creative.

Last week there were four storytellers, all with very distinct topics and styles, coming together under one banner to share, laugh, drink a glass or two of wine, and have fun. Each of the storytellers (myself, Tiffany Charrington, Catriona James, and Stephen Connery-Brown) brought a piece of themselves to share, and the small crowd all bonded in the intimate space, with people reluctantly trickling out afterwards.

It was an outstanding evening. It just missed some dancing.

Next time, I hope.