Just about six weeks ago I was selected to join a cast of 6 improvisers to write and perform in a one act show. I was in Australia, so it felt quite surreal to me when the cast was finalized. My homework was to create three characters and give them a brief bio with significant life events flushed out and bring these bios to our first rehearsal. Which I missed, because the first rehearsal was the day we arrived home.
I waited two anxious days waiting to read my submissions at the next rehearsal. I loved this little character work exercise. It was some of the most writing fun I had done in a while. I wasn’t writing a fully flushed out story, but I was able to shape characters that intrigued me.
The character that I chose to read that became “my” character for the show was based on a story my cousin told my mom. I only heard half of the story at a noisy dinner we had at his mother’s house. It was one of those situations where I found myself in the middle of a long table sandwiched between too many conversations to concentrate on just one, so I tried to concentrate on them all. What I heard, of my dear cousin’s G’s story, was that there is a woman on his beat that slips in and out of reality. When she isn’t focused on real life she is reenacting movies she has seen. It is terrifying for the people around her, if they don’t know her or if she is reenacting a particularly scary action movie.
Since I found this intriguing woman’s tale so sad, I tried to imagine what her history could have been. I gave her the age of a favorite aunt to figure out sequence of events and historical context. Then I started her adventure with a high school friend’s morality tale of why I should never do acid. (I should add that his tale worked and I never did.)
In the show you are introduced to one moment in this character life along with five other incredibly unique and intriguing stories of my cast mates’ characters. Dave Davies, the director, helped us narrow which moment we would act out and then had us improvise the scene. It was amazing, stressful and fun. I loved the ideas my castmates came up with in my scene. I told Dan Tice a little about what I thought his character was like and he brought a gigantic feast to the table. I don’t think I wrote one of his amazing lines. He wrote them all. There were practice characters and lines that Jaclynn Cherry, Tony Augusty and Maggie O’Reilly also shared in my scene, that I wished I could have kept in the script. Then I forced Jim Rimmel to sing like Jim Morrison. Oh the crazy things that improvisers do! It was so fun to have all these other quick and witty people put their creative spin on characters and scene. The pressure to be the dancing monkey was completely gone. I mostly just had to copy down what everyone said. I loved this.
Did I mention the final show is only about 45 minutes long? So we had to do tons of editing. Jack Kerouac may get mentions in my scene but let me tell you, unlike Kerouac, I actually love editing. Whittling it all done. Shaping it. Reshaping it. Making new discoveries. Falling in love. Trying to justify that love. Realizing you can’t. Saying good bye to precious lines and characters. Shaping it again. Falling in love again. Putting it all together again.
One of the beautiful things was that this whole process took only five weeks to create, write, block and get it stage ready. This was also nice. Once it went up we couldn’t fiddle with it anymore. But honestly we didn’t need to do anymore fiddling. It is awesome, if you are local. Please come see it. We have one more weekend.