Blocked!

Nick and I recorded another episode of our podcast last weekend while we were home for my Mom’s birthday. It’s been nice to have a regular check-in the help keep up accountable to the projects we hope to be creating.

I’m in a bit of a funk today. I’m letting things bring me down that I shouldn’t. I feel this weird anger because I can’t convey enough how important improv is to me and how crazy into it I want to get and be, but realizing how little that matters to any decision-makers at the  end of the day, even if they’re not the reason I’m as into it as I am. I feel I’m not prioritizing the right things. I feel the FOMO, or more specifically a FOBeingLeftO. I feel all the feels.

Nick recently got out of his bout of Writer’s Block grumpiness so I’m sure my weird state of being will pass too. But still. Bleeeeugh.

But if you’re so inclined, you can take a listen to the chat we had over the weekend, when I wasn’t being a grumpy bugger.

Enjoy!

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Connecting with the Masters

The past few days have been very improv-heavy, a few days ago. I feel, right now, that I’m advancing but also not going anywhere simultaneously. The Big City Improv Festival began last Friday. This festival is the biggest improv festival in the country and after two years of unsuccessfully applying, I finally got in. If at first you don’t succeed and all that.

BCIF has workshops. Sweet, glorious workshops. And despite the variety, I signed up for only one, because it was pretty expensive and I knew I was likely going to be out of town the following weekend. So, I took the one led by Scott Adsit. It was called “Keeping it Real.” He did not name it.

The structure of the workshop was pretty simple. Warm-up, duo scenes. After each scene, Baymax himself gave us notes. Except the notes he gave were the best, most effective notes I’ve received. To give you a comparison, the last class I took, the INSTRUCTOR, the person who gets PAID, to TEACH & GIVE NOTES on performance, had us perform a montage. Before we began, he threw away his notebook and pen told us SPECIFICALLY he would not be taking notes. Which to me says: “Do your thing, I’m going to check out for the next 20 minutes, see ya.” Scott Adsit, someone who has VERY little invested in a few improv nerds from Toronto, took extensive notes, and dropped them like bombs on those of us who listened. Some of the notes were simple, yet brilliant; “There is no should’ve, there’s only could’ve!” Some were EXTREMELY personal (I’m looking at you divorce attorney’s office scene,) but all were incredibly helpful. You know it’s been a good workshop when the thing culminates in a group hug, is all I’m saying.

I learned how I feel as though I am accepting offers, sometimes, but am not really acting on them. I justify in my mind that I have accepted the offer, but often delay actual action, which is what the scene actually needs. After tamyhe workshop, I reviewed one scene in particular of Exit Pursued by a Bear‘s, which we performed in Halifax, where bridesmaid Gill asked male store
clerk Brie to zip up her dress. I found a million ways to not zip up her dress, and justified the shit out of all of them, when all I really needed to do, was just zip up that mother flippin’ dress!

<—— REMINDER

I then watched the masters, Adsit & Lutz, in action on Sunday. They performed a mind-blowing set together in which not a single offer was dropped. They were both in such synch. After a weekend of thinking a LOT about improv, it was great to see it done so well. But it was also fun to see how pros dealt with mistakes (see: gifts) – like that moment Adsit mentioned something about his mother doing something, after previously stating that mother was in fact dead. He loved it. We loved it. Love your mistakes. Embrace the fuck-ups. It’s the only way!

Speaking of masters in action, I was fortunate enough to acquire a ticket to see Sir Paul McCartney‘s show last Saturday evening, (thank you Martha.) I saw the real-life, actual Beatle, Paul McCartney. It was this wonderful feeling of being at the same moment fully present, but also strongly connected to a time before your own. Just seeing all these people, mostly around Paul’s age, singing along to songs we’ve heard for years but, let me assure you, there is nothing in the world quite like singing Let it Be with almost 20,000 other people, one of whom is the ACTUAL MAN singer/songwriter of that very song! It’s incredible. I feel like the main descriptor I can use to quantify the night is: goosebumpy. He sang a song honouring John, mentioning things he wishes he’d said to him before he died, and we all sang Something together in George’s memory. It was super powerful stuff. The grade 5 in me, who watched The Beatles Anthology over and over again for months over that one March break my parents went on a cruise, came out and sucked on the gracious apple juice that was this concert and she liked it very much indeed.The grown up in me was blown away by how talented a singer/songwriter he is and how fantastic it must be to have a career span so long doing something so awesome that people everywhere adore.

So I’m inspired now. I’ve seen some pretty rockin’ stuff in the span of one short weekend. And we’re about to begin another one already. Let’s see what it brings.

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For those interested parties, this was Paul’s set list Saturday night at the ACC:

  1. Eight Days a Week
  2. Save Us
  3. Got to Get You Into my Life
  4. One After 909
  5. Temporary Secretary
  6. Let Me Roll It
  7. Paperback Writer
  8. My Valentine
  9. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
  10. The Long and Winding Road
  11. Maybe I’m Amazed
  12. I’ve Just Seen a Face
  13. FourFiveSeconds
  14. We Can Work It Out
  15. Another Day
  16. And I Love Her
  17. Blackbird
  18. Here Today
  19. New
  20. Queenie Eye
  21. Lady Madonna
  22. All Together Now
  23. Lovely Rita
  24. Eleanor Rigby
  25. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
  26. Something
  27. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  28. Band on the Run
  29. Back in the U.S.S.R.
  30. Let it Be
  31. Live and Let Die (SO MANY PYROTECHNICS!) 
  32. Hey Jude
  33. Another Girl <— ENCORE
  34. Hi, Hi, Hi
  35. I Saw Her Standing There
  36. Yesterday <–— ENCORE 2
  37. Mull of Kintyre (with a full Pipe band!)
  38. Helter Skelter
  39. Golden Slumbers
  40. Carry That Weight
  41. The End

 

New Episode of @StrugglePod: E09 – Summer’s End

the constant struggle - banner

http://theconstantstruggle.podbean.com/e/e09-summers-end/

Well kids, summer’s over and with that brings a whole new world of struggles, but not without mentioning the break we took from them during the warm months to relax and refuel the tank.

In this episode, Nick talks about his trip to Chicago, IL with his buddies and Brie mentions her voyage to Halifax, Nova Scotia for the Atlantic Fringe Fest. Both reference their respective cities’ great garlic-bread-type products.
We discuss new and ongoing projects and how to jump back into them now that the colder months are upon us.
Special podcast shout-outs to:

Special Parks Canada shout-outs to:

  • The Citadel
  • Green Gables Heritage Place
  • Province House National Historic Site of Canada

Special Toronto festivals shout-outs to:

And to everything garlic bread, we thank you.

 

Check it out on iTunes, Google Play or at the link right under the banner!

#StruggleOn

Wooden Anniversary with the 6ix

Thanks to Facebook, it’s  now easier to get super-reflective on the stuff you’ve been up to over the past, well… since you joined Facebook…. For example, on this day, 7 years ago, I visited Lyon, France. I had a panic attack in a taxi on the way to a Coldplay concert and wasn’t quite sure at the time what was going on. I carried on anyway because I would eventually stand so close to Chris Martin, I’d hoped to catch a bead of his sweat in my mouth. I would later discover Lyon is the hometown of the first CBC employee who would call me a friend.

See how close?

See how close?!?!

On this day 1 year ago, Gill and I had our first improv set together as a duo at Winprov at the Cage. We called ourselves Exit, Pursued by a Bear. A name combining her love of Shakespeare and my desire to be chased by bears. I would later discover we were bound for more than just that one performance. We founded a monthly show for emerging and established comics to come present and perfect their material all while doing the same with our own craft. This would eventually bring us out to Halifax, where I am currently enjoying performing daily hour-long improv sets for completely new and different audiences than those from our Toronto base at the Social Capital Theatre one Thursday night per month.

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“…unusually surrealist…”

At this time, 5 years ago, I was settling into my new apartment in Toronto, having up and left my life in Ottawa. I had some big dreams, which is apparently rare for someone leaving the civil service. I was happy because if I walked a few feet away from my apartment and gazed through the trees, I could see the CN Tower, not knowing how significant that landmark would become to me. I went back to school. I was weeks away from performing stand-up comedy for the first time. Months away to writing my first comedy sketches. Years away from producing my own shows and touring the country, working in one of Canada’s most significant cultural establishments as well as one of North America’s most recognized comedy institutions, from meeting my future husband, (still not used to saying that,) meeting new best friends, new amazing colleagues & immensely talented creative partners and laughing more and harder than ever before.

I would later discover Toronto (dramatic pause) …is my home.

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Happy anniversary, you beautiful bitch.

Struggling On

logo1On a day like today, the first day this month that I’ve had to work full time hours on the weekend (just Sunday this week, in the coming weeks it’ll be expected of me Saturdays and Sundays), more than ever I feel the need to promote the latest episode of Nick & my podcast; The Constant Struggle:

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/a28d3-56ed11

This episode was taped on Father’s Day, and we discussed the grind of getting your creative work done under not-so-ideal circumstances. I have a feeling the next episode is going to talk about more of that because this month I will have even less time to do the things I love, which is pretty crazy disheartening.

It’s getting more difficult to manage the balance of work and passion. Work seems to be weighing more heavily. Too bad I’m not a millionaire, y’know?  Anyway…

In this episode, we give shout-outs to:

  • Drop & Give me 20 stand-up show (Marc Hallworth)
  • Robert Ariss Hills (improviser, graphic designer)
  • Dan Dingwall (a dude)
  • Susannah Kiernan (triple threat)
  • Ken Hall (improv guru)
  • Alexis Bernstein (networking queen & creative expert)
  • The bird clock
  • Porter Airlines

Books & Movies

  • Save the Cat (Blake Snyder)
  • Whiplash (2014)
  • Inside Out (2015)

Podcasts

  • The Moment (Brian Koppelman)
  • WTF (Marc Maron)
  • The Crimson Wave (Jess Beaulieu & Natalie Norman)

***

#StruggleOn friends!

Days Go By and Still I Think of…

…all the great stuff I learned last week!

All right, maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I’m a total dork, but I am sortof obsessed about learning about comedy. I probably don’t watch enough stand-up comedy specials on Netflix, I do read about it often enough, (currently on Bruce McCulloch’s “Let’s Start a Riot,”) and I suppose one of the big fears I deal with regularly is how much I should be “learning” vs. how much I should be “doing.”

One of the major problems I face with my own comedy is time. I have a Mon-Fri 9-5 job, which is great for paying back debt, but not so great for staying up late and going to multiple shows and partying until all hours of the night at the local open-mic/watering hole. (I do this extremely rarely.) I’ve tried to strike a balance by producing many of my own shows, thus giving myself ample play time, but also seeing many of the acts around town who inspire me and more importantly, who make me laugh.

Another thing I’ve just taken on, is the co-creation of the “Women in Comedy Toronto” group. It seems, so far, that people are really excited about it, and based on the first couple events we’ve had, it’s really evident that this is the kind of community group from which women in the Toronto comedy scene can really benefit. For example, last week Christina Walkinshaw came by to talk to us about her career in comedy thus far, her writing process, tales from the biz, and many other fascinating tidbits, and I tell you, it was inspiring!  I think anyone who was in attendance will tell you the same.

Also, on Wednesday, I attended the I ❤ Sketchfest event at the Steamwhistle Brewery, where they screened the premiere of Bruce McCulloch’s “Young Drunk Punk,” which was excellent, and I’m sorry I didn’t give it it’s own page, like I did with “Sunnyside“, I just ran out of time.

Which is my point. By this point, it’s Wednesday; I’ve helped a friend film her one woman-show, produced a 2+ hour talkback with one of Canada’s most amazingly hilarious female comics, supported my favourite Toronto comedy festival… and I haven’t had time yet to do any of my own writing or work.

Problem solved: Thursday, I booked, produced, and performed in a show put on by my improv duo, Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Friday, I produced and performed in Improv Game Show (and I won! Thanks again Maddox! [as if he’s actually reading this!])

And alas, the weekend called for fun family celebrations in Niagara, which are lovely, but don’t really allow for much writing time. (Nor should they. Family time is important, dangit!)

So, I guess what I’m trying to say, is that it would be nice to have a little balance. Maybe last week was just crazy, or maybe I’m over-committing to stuff. Either way, I’d love to know what your solutions are to feeling like you can never get fully on top of the multiple things you’re trying to accomplish?

My brother recommended I read Chris Hardwick’s “The Nerdist Way,” and it already seems like a great process for helping people achieve their goals. But I’m already looking at it like “I don’t have TIME to create a fancy CHART with all my WANTS AND DESIRES on it, and make it pretty with pictures?!!?”

And again, so much is the nature of an anxious person.  Sometimes we have so much to do, and we can’t just… take… a … breath. It’s always go go go. Sometimes what we need is to slow down, and only in those times can we think clearly and make a plan towards actually accomplishing our goals. Like finishing this damn spec script I’ve been working on for MONTHS. (The outline is now finished. Thank you.)

Sometimes it’s about balancing a crazy week with a following week of cuddling up with your computer at home with a nice (several) cup(s) of coffee in a cozy hoodie.

That’s where I’m at this week.  Until I’m not.

 

Zonk

Tonight I saw an improv scene that was just so delightful.

It was kindof dark, and gritty. It didn’t rush. Slowly, the characters were discovered and developed. The scene was set so well, so you could see the space in your mind. It was leading to something, but felt OK that we never had to get there… And for a scene referencing anal bleaching, it turned out to be a pretty heartfelt (and hilarious) story about sacrifice for the people you care about.

I fucking love improv.

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(The scene featured Jess Grant and Isaac Kessler if you must know; and the performance took place at Zonk Improv, a duo night produced by Monquea Marion and Constantine Pavlou — you should check that show out! Exit, Pursued by a Bear performed as well!)