Just another Manic Monday

Yeah.  Hello.   Hi, I’m alive.

Honestly, when I don’t write in this blog, the anticipation of my next entry and the realization that I have more and more to write just builds and builds until I have absolutely no drive to sit down and update this here thing.
But here I am.  
I have got a lot going on these days.  It feels good to be busy.  Looking at my last update, I mentioned that I had just gone to an audition and gotten a callback.  Well, I went to two more auditions and ended up getting a part in the musical. (I actually ran into 50 Cent in the hallway of the audition location – yeah, he was casting for his new movie.)  If you want to check out the website of “Nudists in Love” (my musical – not 50 Cent’s movie), you can read about the show and the awesome people putting it all together.  Rehearsals start tomorrow, and the show goes up in August as a part of the NYC Fringe Festival (one of New York’s finest Scottish imports).  

Which leads me to my Tuesday night conflicts with our rehearsals: my new Tuesday night gig at Upright Citizens Brigade.  Yup, I mentioned it here in my last entry, but since then I have worked two fantastic Harold nights and met some wonderful people at the theater.  The internship translates to two free classes at UCB, which I am using for my Sketch 101, and most likely, Sketch 201 classes.  My job on Tuesday nights entails prepping the theater for the show, selling tickets in the box office, checking tickets as patrons enter the theater, and cleaning it all up just after midnight.  It’s a pretty good gig, considering it also allows me free admission to any show at the theater, even if it’s sold out.  Yeah, it’s tough work (especially after working eight hours during the day), but I feel I’m just putting in my dues before I really make it big.  (Only half joking here.)

In other improv news, our sketch/improv group “The Knife Parade” recently went through an identity crisis and renamed ourselves “The Karate Parade.”  One of our members used to be a knife salesman and is now teaching karate to kids, so our group’s moniker seems to be following his career path.  Henceforward, I will refer to it here as “TKP.”  So, TKP enjoyed a fun show last Saturday, opening up for a group called “Sherpa” with another group called “Kape.”  We had a great turnout and a pretty awesome show, so we are stoked for our next public appearance, this Friday at Gotham City Improv with “Bombardo.”  If you’re in the NYC area, you should check it out: 7/18 10pm, 48 W 21st St., 8th floor, $6, BYOB.
What else is new…. hmm… 

I’m going to be moving down to the East Village next month with my pal, Brooke – though we are still anxiously awaiting confirmation from our management company that our application was accepted.  I have been neglecting covering the topic in my blog for my amateurish fear of jinxing the place.  It’s beautiful.  Great big living space, beautiful exposed brick, a TUB, great neighborhood.  Couldn’t ask for much more.  I’m ready for a change from my current location in the Upper East Side.   Brian will be moving up to a nice apartment in Harlem, to live with his fellow theater friend from Palo Alto.  I think we are both ready to escape the incessant construction, loud traffic, and cheap frat boys that litter our ever-decomposing block.  Wow, do I sound a little jaded?  I think I have just finally found my calling as an East Village punk (see Cyndi Lauper at right.)  Too bad I already let my monroe piercing grow in… I would have fit right in!  I’m having remorse.
Have you ever been to Chelsea Market?  I popped in Saturday afternoon to enjoy some free A/C and feast my eyes on restaurant equipment… but MAN oh man – they have some top quality produce in that joint.  If you’re in need of some veggies and fruits, head over there and spend a fraction of the cost.  You wouldn’t expect the prices to be so affordable, given the ultra modern architecture and factory-turned-trendy interior design, but they had a wide variety of amazingly fresh and organic ingredients for CHEAP.  Check it out.

The last note I will end with today (though I have SO much more to cover) are some thoughts on my new Sketch class at Upright Citizens Brigade.  I’m currently in the second week of 101 with Dominic Dierkes (he’s got some fantastically funny videos with his sketch group Derrick).  My most recent sketch involved a heterosexual man’s experience of “coming out” to his gay Dads, and was pretty well received by my teacher and the rest of the class.  This week, our assignment is to write a “character” sketch, or an SNL-type sketch which utilizes the funny philosophy or “game” of a character in any given situation.  Think Chris Farley as the “Motivational Speaker”  (in a van down by the river!)  So if you have any brilliant ideas for a character you’d like to see incorporated into a sketch, please be my muse and comment!
Peace out – enjoy the sun and humidity, NYC.
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Film Racing Follow Up…

Just wanted to share some of the pictures we took on Friday/Saturday during our 24 hour NYC Film Racing Competition.

My “before” shot:

The Knife Parade

Ilya and I behind the camera

Sydney in front of the camera
“After”

Nope, I didn’t get any sleep – but it was SO worth it! We expect to be posting the video sometime next week, so stay tuned.

24-hour Film Race

Have you ever stayed up all night? I guess most of us have had the last minute all-night study session, the ghost-story telling sleepovers, and the “I’m so excited for tomorrow I can’t sleep” moments.

Well tonight is going to be an all-nighter, and I can promise you a new Knife Parade video will be posted by Sunday. Oh yeah. Me and the boys are competing in the NYC Film Race 2008, a 24-hour video competition that lasts from 10pm Friday with a deadline of 9:59pm Saturday. Here’s how it works: the big Kahunas in charge will send us at email at 10:00pm, with a theme and a “surprise element” which must be incorporated into the film (last year’s theme was “fortune” and the surprise element was an egg). At stake is a first place prize of $2,500 along with a whole mess of video production software and the likes. Other awards are given for Best Direction, Acting, Writing, Cinematography, Editing, Original Music Score, Sound Design, Costume Design, Visual FX, Special FX, and others.

This should be interesting… I’ve had a crazy week with not enough sleep and I’m gonna be awake until tomorrow night? We’ll see about this… Anyone know of any advisable, legal, stimulants?

Inspiration

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to walk into a room and be thoroughly and extensively inspired?

On Sunday night, a group of comedy guru-hopefuls (also known as we, the ascending pupils of Upright Citizen Brigade) were lucky enough to be inspired by one of Saturday Night Live’s original writers, Alan Zweibel, and a handpicked collection of stellar improvisers. Zweibel engaged the entire room, packed beyond capacity, with tales of SNL in its beginning stages and the cast that fused to form some of the most monumental moments in televised comedy. His focus was on a young Gilda Radner, and their hysterical friendship which proclaimed “the fight is over when you can make the other laugh.” I have to add here that for the last week I have been particularly engrossed in watching old Gilda Radner SNL videos, studying her fantastic use of over-the-top physicality. In fact, when Zweibel started telling these old stories about her, it nearly knocked me off my feet. (Yes, after standing in the rain for three hours to get in the show, a lack of seats left us stranded on our feet for the two-hour duration.)

I cannot disregard the fact that the group of improvisers included many top comedians and writers. To name just a few: Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz, Seth Meyers, Rachel Dratch, and Jack McBrayer. (These are just the ones I thought a wider group of readers might recognize.)

I think my heart stopped beating at one point in Zweibel’s first monologue, when he noted that he and his fellow twenty-somethings entwined in the workings of this show felt that New York City was markedly theirs. All fresh from college or whatnot, these “kids” moved to Manhattan (or outer boroughs) and claimed ownership. He dwelled on anecdotes of bar-hopping at two in the morning, selling jokes for seven dollars a piece, coming up with the crazy idea of interviewing “Mrs. Ed” after the male counterpart died, or calling Billy Crystal to find out the likes and dislikes of Lorne Michaels. It was astonishing to me just thinking about these comedy greats just getting started, and trying to make it… sounds a little like….

A group of us from Upright Citizens Brigade have found each other and started working on the side on sketch-writing, then assembling these sketches into short films or live performances. We are still in the beginning stages, but I think this is going in the right direction. I’m not saying that you can expect to see us on SNL next year (haha) but our collaboration is certainly a step forward. I am so thrilled to be conspiring with such an intelligent and witty group of guys and I am absolutely excited to see what we can create.

How’s that for inspiration?

Sir Reality

Last weekend marked the debut performance of Manhattan Comedy Collective’s newest Character Dogville team, “Sir Reality.” It all started with a six-week long rehearsal process, in which we slowly developed wacky characters and learned how they would interact in any given situation. The style is best described as “character improv.” So everything is improvised, but we are acting as characters that have already been developed. Our particular show is a spoof of a reality show, in which our characters are placed in a location (which is suggested by the audience) and we interact with each other as if we are on some sort of Real World/Big Brother spin-off.

Before Friday’s show, I was anxiously racked with nerves in anticipation of the audience-given suggestion that was certain to be off-center. As a side note here, I am normally as cool as a cucumber when I take the stage. But my butterflies only escalated when we stepped out on stage and I saw the house was packed. The only thing running through my mind was the fear that whatever I improvised would fall flat and not get any laughs.

My character choice was a dramatic and sultry cabaret singer named “Veronica Vixen.” We were placed at “the Alamo,” and my first thought was “What the hell would Veronica do at the Alamo?” I was pulling a classic Ashley: over-thinking. It took me a good ten minutes to try and adapt, and eventually, things straightened out and we ended with a bang. I think before our next show I might have a glass of wine to take the edge off!

That said, thought I would share with you all the characters:

Veronica Vixen

Lieutenant Pembrey

Britney Spurs

Margot Mallaly

Mrs. Rappalee

Sebastian the Hairdresser

Olson Winslow III


As a final note, the best part of the show was coming out to the lobby and seeing all the awesome friends who were there to support us! Thanks so much to all my girls and to my 201 class – you made my night.

Back in Improv-mode

Last night was my first rehearsal for a new Improv venture, a new team for Character Dogville presented by Manhattan Comedy Collective in Times Square.  I was lucky enough to be told about this group by my friend Victor, a fellow UCB classmate.  At last night’s rehearsal, nine of us came together to work on some improvised monologues, 2-person scenes, and “montages” in a documentary format – think Christopher Guest’s Waiting For Guffman or Best in Show.  The premise, or concept, of this show is “character” improv – so we will develop a variety of characters over our six weeks of rehearsal and end up with a cast of characters that can interact in our final performance in February.  (NYCers, I will shamelessly plug this in a few weeks!)  Last night, I tried out a few characters- including a meat-factory protesting vegan, a book-reading philosophy professor from Big Fork (shout out to Auntie Bev!), and a peg-legged one-eye pirate who invents a miniature telescope – called a “Micro- scope.”  I wasn’t too happy with my characters or scenes – but I guess I was a little out of practice.  Well, the people in my class are absolutely hilarious, and I’m really looking forward to what will come in the next couple months!