Monday, September 11, 2017

Renaissance Renaissance: Week 3

Third weekend was Labor Day weekend. So THREE days in a row of the funny accent and attempting to make prolonged eye contact with strangers. Saturday morning had the best surprise, though: my best friend and co-director arranged for a former troupe member to play with us as a cast member for the weekend. He lives out of state with his wife, but drove up with his mom and got a paper pass and brought his old costume....I may have been a little excited to see him.
...ok, I was 200% excited to see him. He participated in so many great shows and bits and memories that I dearly treasure. He jumped into crazy ideas with both feet and had no fear of being silly wherever we were. He and my best friend had *killer* rapport, they worked together like a wild, loud, violent, hilarious machine. When I espied him Saturday morning, I may have frightened him with my enthusiasm. I'm just proud that I didn't cry all over him. Throughout the day, I loved each time a person's face lit up when they recognized him.

So I enjoyed the HELL out of Saturday and Sunday. We demonstrated the game-play for the bocce ball tournaments, throwing actors across the green as the balls (with minimal injury). We also helped wrangle the spaghetti-eating contests, which involved wrapping grown men, small children, and the occasional ambitious woman in plastic ponchos and shouting at them to eat mooshy spaghetti without utensils or hands. We got to keep the extra spaghetti. That played quite well as a second lunch at the Arbor stage. Still no forks, but we made do. By the third day of contest leftovers, though, we were pretty sick of anything cold and noodly. We fed random cast members backstage, instead.

Saturday night I lost a fight with a bench. The balloon-fencing tournament at the fencing booth had drawn its usual large crowd. People had dragged benches over from surrounding areas, and, of course, left them there. When I tripped over one as I turned around, I was just drunk enough that I couldn't catch my balance, and just sober enough to discover exactly what it feels like to land on your face. It feels flat and scratchy. I don't recommend it.

Sunday night was busier in the public tent, as expected. Fortunately, my former troupe guy made plans to stay after hours to hang out with us. "Us" were performers from all across the range of cast, sharing dirty (and stupid) jokes and stories of our days. It was the perfect set up of friends for me to actually enjoy being in the midst of such a crowd of people.

Then I tried to eat a chocolate eyeball without taking off the wrapper. Good times.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Renaissance Renaissance: Week 1

To start, a little exposition: For the 2016 Renaissance Festival season, I played a solo street character. A French Marquess named Jaqueline. It was the worst season of my entire fest attendance. Worse than even that day when I was 12 and we had to leave early because it was raining. Worse than a few years ago when I salved my lonely heart with entirely too much whiskey. Last year I learned that I am unable to interact with patrons alone.

I did achieve what I had set out to do by taking a year away from the commedia troupe: try to develop a character from scratch and independently entertain on street. I tried. I failed. Although, I did learn a lot. Mostly that I never want to do that again. But other things, too, perhaps described in a future post.

Beginning rehearsals for the 2017 season was exciting back in with i Arroganti commedia troupe. Co-directing with my best friend, we planned a new scripted show, bought new masks, and I started to get to know the other members she had hired last year. We had our cart-stage fixed up. Unfortunately, my costume wasn't ready for Opening Day, par for the course. I dug enough old pieces out to ensure I caused no scandal, and off we went!

Saturday was gorgeous. The weather was perfectly temperate after the morning rainclouds passed over. I laughed more than I have since I can remember. I performed with my boyfriend as team "Ginger Minge" for Vilification Tennis. This is his first year on the cast, and I was so proud to stand on the stage with him because he is funny as *hell*. I ate my first spicy pickle of the year. I hugged lots of friends. We went fishing for mermaids, using swedish fish gummies for bait. We helped Antonia the Painter graffiti the King's Arbor. We sang "I'm on a Castle" on top of the front gate. At the end of the day, I was exhausted. Which is exactly the goal. It was amazing.

The first Saturday of the season is always ushered in that evening by the Morris Men's procession. They perform the Abbots Bromley Horn dance; a ritualistic, solemn dance of fertility in a path around the whole site. In white garb--but no bells--six men parade in a single line over their wandering path. Then walks members dressed to represent traditional archetypes: Maid Marian, the Hobby Horse, the Fool, the Archer, and the Youth. Their musician trails behind them with his concertina, playing a haunting, loping melody accented by the soft clicking of antlers, sporadic knocking of arrow on bow, and the light chime of the Youth's triangle.

I walked into the night and joined the silent clump of audience who trail behind the procession. Observing the dance is a ritual, as well. For me, mourning the dead has also become tradition of watching the Morris. Earlier this year, a friend died in a random, reckless car accident. His life was cut so very short, so very suddenly. He was a former member of my troupe, and a current member of the Morris Men. He was a spotter for the stilt-walkers. He was a Peace Corps alumni. He was a developing star of the local burlesque community. He was a beautiful, joyful, generous, sweetheart who should never have left this world so violently. And I miss him every day. So I followed the Morris Men and wept. I followed their dim shapes in the night, heard the antlers, heard the song, and poured my love out from my eyes onto the ground. The festival grounds have soaked up so many of my tears. After they left the site, I drank my whiskey alone and went to bed.

I had a hard time scraping up enough energy for Sunday. It seems like everyone did, though, because attendance was light. The humidity was oppressive. We only performed one show, where the audience gradually drifted away until Act 3 was presented to nothing but our congregated benches. It was still a good day, though. My best friend and I ate bowls full of tiny pancakes. Another member of my troupe helped me steal a roll of wedding bunting that was left unattended. We unrolled it and ran around with a streamer of white flying behind us. Then we rolled it back up and tucked it away nicely because we are polite fools. I performed Vilification again with my boyfriend, and I didn't even write crib notes on my hand to help me remember my insults. We took the Prince to see the final show for the year by Sak Theatre, a legendary troupe celebrating its 40th year. We had a picnic by the front gate. I hugged more friends and pet their dogs. We *finally* got ice cream cones. We got wet, but stayed at the front gate anyway. We packed up the cart and went home.

It was a sweet relief to fall back into the troupe routine this year. I know where I belong! That was the first weekend in a few years where I felt like I had come home.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Velvet Tart: It's a Real Thing Now!

One morning I woke up and was like, "Today I will launch my sewing career. I have talent, and I need money. I want to do what I love." Then I began writing a business plan, revising my logo and banners, and collecting photographs of my work.

That was 2 weeks ago. I consider this an improvement on the 2 years until now that I've been "planning" entrepreneurship. This morning I actually did it. My business plan isn't quite finished, I don't have any ready-made stock in the Etsy store yet, but I still went FUCK IT WE'LL DO IT LIVE. Because I am Fearless!
dammit, I don't have a bunny suit.

I am super excited and super caffeinated and super, utterly terrified. Which is different from being Fearless (I'll explain later). Which calls for the best of cute memes:
optimistic hedgehog is optimistic!

Thanks, li'l bitty hedgehog. I will do all the shit.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Begin at the Beginning.

The weather is finally warm and staying warm in Minneapolis, and it feels like my creative mind is starting to thaw. Maintaining the status quo at the Haus of Manna has been paramount to the (relative) sanity of both of us over the winter. 

Is it over? **4 inches of snow** (repeat until May)

We made it! And the house stayed mostly tidy! And I started writing my business plan!

Oh yeah, started a business plan. I figured it would take one evening and a glass of rum to knock it out, but that was before I spent 3 hours researching business plan writing technique. So I work on it a couple of hours a few nights a week, and I feel like that's alright. One of the most challenging bits so far has been crafting a Mission Statement that encompasses all my myriad interests into 24 words or less (the hyphenated word counts as just one). 

Mission Statement: I will tailor and create items that give expression to the clients' ideal selves. With sensitivity and ebullience I help communicate their personality and body-confidence.

Yes, I am actually using the word "ebullience". It means "cheerful and full of energy", which is exactly how I am when talking clothes with a client. After I've had morning coffee. And lunch coffee.

Coffee is the only thing keeping both of us alive right now.

Writing the business plan means I've had to look at and analyze the entire big picture of how I want to run my business and it makes me ultra-uber-really-really-terrified.  I've never operated officially as an entrepreneur, will I be able to succeed? My time management for projects in the past has been horrendous, and I'm scared of failing, disappointing clients, and tarnishing my reputation. Even though I've improved my discipline, and even finished several projects on time recently, the past is still my little black rain cloud.

Except my rain cloud isn't cute and doesn't sing and doesn't like honey.

However, I can't deny there is a persistent feeling that this is what I have to do. Sewing is what I love to do, and the enjoyment my clients take from my projects encourages me. Having a Mission Statement reminds me of my ambition, and reading it feels like a self-affirmation. Keeping up my motivation and self-esteem may be the most challenging part of starting a business. I hope that I'm not the only entrepreneur to feel this way.

wink wink. You know what I mean?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Percolator: Out With the Old, in With the....Same Old?

I always look forward to Christmastime--no, it's not the only holiday, but it is the one that fostered all this consumerism, nostalgia, and vacation days in December. I love the decorations, the twinkly lights, the food, the family, the coziness, the bare branches, and the long darkness.

There's also a lot of excitement about greeting a New Year and re-learning how to write the correct date on things. I hear/read, "Fuck 20##! It needs to be over already!" often around this season. Everyone's gearing up to begin anew, start over, reset, or


Everyone wants that clean slate, the full calendrical potential hanging on the wall underneath photos of baby animals arranged in flower pots.

One of them is pooping. right. now.

However, it really doesn't work that way. January 2015 is just....January. The start of a new cycle, only without Robin Williams, or Robert Schug, or Bill Young. Money is still tight, congress still has its head up its ass, hearts are still broken, being black is still bad for one's health, and I cannot fathom being happy about starting another year with those circumstances.


Additionally, I don't want to banish 2014 summarized as another shitty year. All years are shitty in certain ways. More states implemented marriage equality, Michele Bachmann resigned from congress, President Obama wore a fucking tiara, and I don't want to shove these events into storage in the musty warehouse of my brain, stacked on top of a box marked Ark of the Covenant.

My personal recap of 2014 includes moving into a rickety house with my best friend and throwing fantastic parties. Repairing clothes, altering dresses, and making several great costumes for clients as I tried to get a sewing business started. I enjoyed every day I spent time with my Dad, Mom, and Stepdad. I went on some lovely dates, kissed some delectable people, and even had a sweet boyfriend for a few months.

No way am I going to banish a year containing all those memories. On the other hand, NO WAY am I going to passively allow more of the nasty crap to seep into my life. I probably won't succeed in the latter, but I'll keep trying, no matter what month it's turning.

I'm not excited for 2015. There, I said it. If any of you, my cherished readers, are ready for this upcoming re-do, I do wish you a Happy *Next* Year.

Approximately 5/8th of my cat's life involves
finding a warm hooman and snoozing with them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Secret of Gravethwait Manor: Why Haven't You Seen It?

Over the summer the theater company to which I belong, Fearless Comedy Productions, developed a play for the Pre-Christmas season (a.k.a. Halloween). From what I remember about the planning meetings in the past months, the goal was to produce a family-friendly, spooky-fun show. For our first FCP-original presentation, it had to be exciting, fresh, and (duh) funny.

I saw the show this past Sunday. I like plays in the middle of their run; the actors have become comfortable with their roles, yet nobody seems exhausted or bored with the dialogue. The promo copy says: "When Iris, Troy, and Kevin, the eager team of ghost hunters at Ghost Grabbers, LLC, get a call from the residents of the 500-year old Gravethwait Manor, they are sure to be on the verge of discovering the center of the spirit world in the Upper Midwest. But by helping to catch the “ghosts” that haunt Count Gravethwait and his lovely wife Lilly, our heroes may have bitten off more than they can chew…"

What you actually watch: A parody of paranormal investigators bumble their way through a sinister plan created by the Count and Lilly, who are themselves bumbling through the Ghost Grabbers' technologically advanced snipe-hunt. Stuffed full of references to pop-culture, reality shows, vampire fiction, traditional ghost stories, and our favorite four phantom-tamers, "Gravethwait" has a wry sense of play that makes it a show entertaining for viewers of all ages.

My boyfriend came with me, newly acquainted with my social circle and theatrical proclivities. I considered him the closest representation of "the general public audience", and I do so delight in introducing him to nerdy and hilarious things. Also sitting in our row was Josh Nite, co-creator of the online RPG Kingdom of Loathing. Who happened to write The Secret of Gravethwait Manor, by the way, NBD.




I digress. Sitting between Josh and I, blocking me from the curmudgeonly glory of Mr. Skully, a co-member of FCP, and longtime Vilifier, my friend Matt Allex. He is really of no importance in this entry, except to mention that he brought his young son along to see this "family" show. While we waited for the show to begin, The Boy and I observed on the signage pre-set on stage which he initially read as "Ghost Rabbers" ("one capital "G" for two words). We decided that a "ghost rabber" is the restless spirit of a dead bunny. The show hasn't even started yet, and it's still inspiring creativity in the children! The show is directed by Courtney McClean, a comedian and musician well versed in improv, stand up, and double entendres. Courtney has a keen eye for physical comedy and a solid experience base in comedy on stage. I swear I was not paid or compensated in any way to say this, but my opinion is that Courtney was the perfect choice as director for such a play.

The playbill listed 11 scenes. Uff-da, right?  Not actually a problem--each scene is a new location. Minimal props allowed for quick scene changes, smooth and natural as a storyteller pausing to draw a breath between narratives. The pacing of the story kept a steady pace, and the actors easily picked the energy back up after pausing for laughter. And there were a lot of pauses for laughter. I'm not talking about the Minnesotan, susurrus of amusement--full-on belly laughs were happening. The Boy laughed, the boyfriend laughed, Matt laughed (but he has head trauma), even the writer laughed (which is amazing). Much like other creative people, writers can be harshly critical of their own work. Mr. Skully was giggling along with the rest of us, enjoying the production he helped create.

The actors. I don't know if the actors will be relieved or disappointed that I'm not going to write much about them. I've already taken 2 hours of my morning to write this and have exhausted my store of spectacular descriptives for this humorous performance. I'd rather encourage everyone who reads this entry just go watch them yourselves, because no review can convey what they bring to this show. There's just the right amount of collective excitement, precision, and enthusiasm for their roles that helps the story move along smoothly and fleshes out each character. Voice and body language were used deftly to develop each character, balancing the good, the evil, and the weird within all of them. By they way, the well-honed and talented cast are:

Iris - Jill Iverson
Kevin - Ron Lamprecht
Troy - Ted Femrite
Otto - Bob Alberti
Lily - Cynthia Uhrich

To wrap up: Gravethwait is fucking hilarious. I was in an audience with a wide range of ages and tastes, yet laughter and entertainment were ubiquitous. There was even gasping for air (well, it was me, but c'mon!). Suzie Becker the Stage Manager ran things like a boss (and I heard she is super sexy also). The show only has two more performances, on Halloween and All Saints' Day. The Bryant Lake Bowl Theater serves a full bar and menu, meaning The Secret of Gravethwait Manor is the perfect start to an evening of monster parties, thrill-seeking, and men wearing females' inappropriately sexy costumes.

The Secret of Gravethwait Manor
October 31st - November 1st, 7:00pm
Bryant Lake Bowl Theater
810 W. Lake Street, Minneapolis 
$12 tickets in advance or with your Fringe button or CONvergence badge
$15 tickets at the door, but you run the risk of not getting a seat, so why wouldn't you just buy them online at least 24 hours ahead of showtime

Name-dropping props to: 
Horror Show Hotdog Podcast, KOL (Nite)
Apropos of Nothing Podcast, HSHotdog (Allex)
Courtney McClean and the Dirty Curls (McClean)
Fearless Comedy Productions (the rest of us)

Disclaimer: I absolutely was not compensated in any way to write this. In truth, I hold my friends, co-members, and co-actors to higher standards in regards to performance. So I was genuinely impressed and excited. Buy your tickets. Now.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

James's Secret--a short fiction

Jimmy squeezed through the attic crawlspace, coming back fifteen years later into the dusty cavities of the rooftops. The smell was familiar, the dust was familiar. Jimmy sneezed several times to clear both from his nose. His eyes watered, but through the film he was already searching for the spot.

He was certain (well, certain as one can be of a fifteen year old memory) that his treasure-spot had not been discovered.  He would have heard about it. People would have come to him, with questions--or accusations. In the musty dark his gaze settled on a slightly darker area cut into the far attic wall. Jimmy was on all fours, he bent his arms and craned his neck to see deeper into the treasure-spot he had crookedly cut into the wall seventeen years ago.


Jimmy stared into the hole. It was still there. It blinked first.