The Last Day of the First Week of the Rest of Your Life
The amount of Dimo’s I’m eating is beginning to reach the inordinate. Last night’s drunken escapades featured as its closing act Scott Lowe, Kevin and I talking improv through the chomp chomp chomp of teeth meeting dough inside a cacophony of Wrigleyville partiers. This time I got a Southwest Eggroll slice (amazing with a nice burn) and one covered in peppers. Hell yeah Thursday.
Week one culminated in a stumble through our first Harolds after covering a couple of more popular openings. The awesome and also bummer thing about them was that they were about as good as the typical Rogue Harold; awesome because of how much better I’m definitely going to get and bummer because it showed me that the work my friends and I are currently doing is consistently on par with Level 1 students in Chicago. I’m buoyed by the knowledge that the greatest Harolds the world has ever seen lie inside the hearts and minds of the people in Rogue because I’ve already participated in one, but our goal of making consistently brilliant work seems a little far off right now.
I realized, through doing/seeing multiple openings with scenes in a row, the narrow way in which I’ve been pulling inspiration. I’m not sure why this was the case as it seems so simple as to be embarrassing to admit now, but I’m thankful for the mind expansion nonetheless. We did an invocation opening on “dildo” as a suggestion (as a way of experiencing what it was like to get great things out of shit suggestions) and one of the statements was “You are my best friend in between relationships.” I initiated to Dave with the excited phrase, “HEY, best friend!” Dave, looking shocked and worried to see me, said, “Steve, I didn’t think you were coming to the work party?” He was going off of another invocation statement, “You are the thing that I can never live up to,” and we had a scene about how we were good work friends but I always got the girls when we hung out together. It was beautiful. Not only did I learn that doing a scene inspired by more than one part of the opening was possible (and worked in a kickass way), I realized the beauty of personifying the relationship or opinion of a suggestion in my or my scene partner’s character.
Steve’s birthday was on Tuesday, so at the end of class we presented him with a party hat and a candle sticking out of a glazed honey bun. After this week, I want to continue being friends with this guy. He has to be one of the more insightful and genuinely caring people I’ve ever met. He’s in the Second City main stage show right now; I’m going to have to check it out before this month is over.
One thing that I forgot to mention about Steve that I think may be the most valuable lesson he had to give. On Wednesday, in the middle of class, he stopped everything and asked us something that we were doing or experiencing outside of improv. Rob talked about a meditation he went to underneath where he was staying that was in the style of Osho’s active meditations. Chris brought up this guy that he saw on the internet called Braco the Gazer who goes from city to city charging people money to stare at them, after which these people go through extreme emotional moments and claim to be healed of physical ailments. People began talking about books they were reading and I shared the recent Kerouac rabbit hole that I’d fallen down and my failure to concentrate well enough on Proust during this trip. Steve advised me to not worry about following Proust’s plot so much as there hardly is one in Remembrance of Things Past, but to focus on the thoughts which are the things that make the work as important as it is.
Of course he’s read Proust.
“I did this to illustrate to you how important it is to keep outside interests that don’t pertain to improv,” Steve said. “If you’re a painter and the only thing you do when you’re not painting is look at paintings in museums and galleries, then the only thing you have to inspire you is other paintings. You want to be inspired by real life and the real world, so make sure you still live it.”
I grabbed drinks and some disgusting hummus at Goose Island next door and talked with Charis about our backgrounds and lives. Charis is a terrible confluence of events. She’s wildly intelligent, down to earth, hilarious, tattooed, British, and beautiful. I came to the city to train in a Buddha-like state, taking in the environment and downloading improv knowledge like there was a plug in my cortex. I hadn’t planned on women that light the imagination on fire.
The class had planned to meet at iO at 9 to celebrate week one ending. I wasn’t actually intending to see any improv but we had time to kill and ended up seeing a short series of one-person character sketches at the upstairs theater. It reminded me a lot of Block Party back home and gave me a few more ideas for things I’d like to do there when I get back. Aaron was there as well and as we were comparing class notes (he felt similar things when going through his Harolds today) and giving each other directions to places we’d eaten I was bowled over by an excited and frightening realization.
“Aaron, do you not freaking love this city?” I asked.
“Definitely,” he replied. “Once you get yourself oriented here, it’s so easy and fun to navigate. I rode my bike all the way downtown in about 30 minutes the other day.”
“Is this going to be one of those things that when we’re done with these five weeks you and I move up here and get an apartment together and keep on going?” I asked, trepidatiously.
He looked at me with a little shock, but it was the kind of shock that let me know that he had been thinking along similar lines.
“It’s possible,” he said, a sort of cheshire grin slowly breaking across his face. “If I could get a job here… I don’t know yet.”
Afterwards, the class met up outside and we were led by Janie to the Red Line which we took to Jarvis. We then walked for about 20 minutes through some really sketchy suburbs to a neighborhood dive on the closed Morse stop called Red Line Tap. It was everything someone would want out of an American dive bar. The scent of decades-old smoke lingered on the walls and salty old men plucked out blues and country in an open mic MC’ed by a large, tattooed, shit-talking, ass-kicking lady. Charis’ friend Libby forgot her passport and they headed home, leaving Matt, Kevin, Deborah, Janie and I to take whiskey shots and drink 312 beer. When that finally got old, we took the Red Line back to Wrigleyville and Rebel Bar & Grille where they had 1/2 off draft night. I got drunk on three-dollar Magic Hat #9 and shouted improv philosophy over thumping dance music. Scott Lowe, Friendswood lunatic and Dallas Comedy House badass that provided me a crash pad in March and who is currently going through the Second City conservatory, joined us at the tail end of the evening for the previously-mentioned Dimo’s overdose.
As sad as I am to be done with Steve as a teacher, I can’t wait for the rest of this crazy adventure I’m on. As I look over the posts from this week and think about how far I’ve already come, I’m blown away by just how much more I have the potential to learn in the next four weeks.
Well, there’s week one. Time flies, but really it doesn’t because I can’t believe this has only been a week.