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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Tuesday (6/7/11) 12:20am - ... wherein Peter recounts how the Marathon went.

Here are some notes about how the 42-Hour Improv Marathon went for me....


Sleepiness
I was nowhere near as sleepy or as loopy as I expected to be in the Marathon.  I squeezed in, I think, three naps.  There was a ten-minute nap sometime in the wee hours of Saturday morning.  I slept for about half an hour after the Saturday Maestro.  And finally, I got another ten minutes of shuteye very early on Sunday morning.

During the shows, so long as I was engaged by the show I was in, I wasn't tired.  But if I just didn't "get" the show for one reason or another, I started fading.  Honestly, there were times I went to the backstage-hallway bed not to sleep, but to just waste time on social-networking sites.  I think that kept my brain a bit active, and kept me from getting sleepy.

I managed to get really tired late on Friday.  Even once I was eliminated in the first Maestro, I wanted a nap.  That sleepiness got worse until the Intentions show at three in the morning, which lit a fire under all of us and got us prepped for the rest of that day.  Sleepiness set in again after the Live Nude Improv show, and it wasn't 'til Your Dad's Friends that I started coming to again.

But even staying awake for forty hours didn't feel as bad as, say, getting ready for a workday after only five hours of sleep.  It's odd.  But then again, most sleep research has found that sleep deprivation only harms your ability to do boring tasks.  If you're excited about what you're doing (showering and dressing at the start of the day = not exciting), the sleep debt doesn't matter so much.


Other Health Issues
Generally, my health hung together for the whole run.  I did run into some minor problems, though.  My feet tend to bruise easily, especially if I'm on my feet for long stretches.  By the end of the marathon, I had uncomfortable archipeligoes of bruises on both feet.  Also, it turns out talking for forty-two hours eventually makes my voice all froggy -- though Kareem delivered some sorbet at 7am on Sunday morning, and that helped out quite a bit.

Apart from that, nothing really went wrong.  I didn't have any chronic-pain issues.  I didn't get any headaches.  I didn't come down with a cold.  I didn't get 'emotionally brittle' and weepy, as sometimes happens when I'm sleep-deprived.  I got really gassy towards the end, but that was just a minor problem -- it mainly meant that I farted like a foghorn as soon as I got home.

I also kept on top of hygiene pretty well.  I packed three complete changes of clothes, and marked them by time/date so that I would change clothes every ten hours.  (This also ensured I'd be wearing boxers for the Live Nude Improv show.)  I also packed a stack of terry-cloth washcloths and some soap, so that I could take a quick sponge bath every time I changed clothes.  I shaved halfway through the marathon.  I brushed my teeth regularly.  I think I avoided getting particularly smelly.


Show By Show
1.  Inaugural Show - Montage
I don't remember much about the scenes we did for this one, but I distinctly remember getting about five minutes into it, realizing we were *already* doing scenes that were batshit insane, turning to Jordan, and saying, "This is hour *one*."


2/3.  Maestro #1
I mainly remember that we had a sparse crowd for this one, but hell if I can remember what happened in the show.


4.  Junk - More or Less
I feel a bit bad that I never stepped up to direct anything.  On the other hand, I played the protagonist in both Troy's submarine thriller and Jordan's Lone Wolf and Cub-inspired medieval-Japanese epic.


5.  Parallelogramophonograph - Impromatic
This is Parallelogramophonograph's narrative show based on random old photographs.

I hung way back on this one, maybe appearing in one or two scenes for the whole show.  I think at this point in the marathon I was still hesitant about bounding into somembody else's format -- which is something you absolutely have to get over if you're in the Marathon.


6.  Theatresports
It's been ages since I played in the Hideout's Theatresports tournament, but it seems like I still have a knack for coming up with scene setups to match challenges.  We never got to deliver our challenge to "the most Australian scene".  I banged my head against a chair pretty bad in our "The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2 in one minute" scene (this after my sole kiss of the Marathon, where Troy kissed me with the line, "it was you, Fredo").


7.  Girls Girls Girls - Improvised Musical
This was another one where I was just a timid background performer.  It was a musical about an apple orchard.  I had a few scenes as a migrant worker, and contributed a few words and phrases in Spanish.  (Note that this was where the «¡Sí se puede!» running joke got its start.)  I'm good at improvising songs, but I'm always too reluctant to just jump in and sing.


8.  Sarah 7 - Anecdotes & Scenes
We alternated between telling anecdotes about an audience-suggested topic, and doing scenes based on those anecdotes.  This was another one where a ton of people were on-stage (six of them, eight of us), so I tended to hang back.  I only told one anecdotes (only mentioning my grandmother's horribly-packratted old plantation house), and only jumped into a few scenes.


9.  Three Hot Chicks - Sitcom
The improvised sitcom!  I had low participation, only showing up as a silent assistant to Andy's Korean billionaire.  But I felt like that character added a nice bit of color to the show.  It was fun seeing what happened to their sitcom format when it was blown up to a full hourlong -- it seemed to expand things out from a simple, domestic, 'wacky hijinks' story to some massive thriller where somebody was planning to detonate the UN building.


10.  The Intentions - High-Energy Montage
God bless the Intentions.  This was the show that really got me out of my shell and got me up-front and performing for the rest of the run.  They do quick, high-energy montage, and if a scene tanks, they have no problem bailing on it immediately.  So the stakes were low, the energy was high, and the troupe was committed to having fun to a degree that nobody else had been so far.

I recall only bits and pieces of the scenes.  I know that we had a runner that opened with someone shouting "Ebola!" in the manner of the old Ricola commercials.  I walked over, said, "I'll take two!", ate what was handed to me, and then dropped dead, saying, "Oh, god, I'm bleeding out!".  Later in the show, someone would advertise "Baklava" the same way, and I bought two, ate one, and dropped dead with the same words.

It was that kind of show, and I sorely needed it.


11.  Local Genius Society - Family Feud
This was the improvised Family Feud setup.  Neat little structure (playing the feud, and then improvising a scene based on successful answers), but I remember little of what we improvised.


12.  Firth&Arjet - Worst Day Ever
The two ladies, along with Ruby Willmann, provided stories about horrible things that had happened to them that day, and we did scenes about that.  Tim and I got to do a good run of scenes about the robbery at Marc's place.  I had fun chatting with a police officer while, in the background, ninja thieves overran my home.


13.  The Truth Chair - Scenes Based on Truths
I had an absolute blast telling my anecdote for this (as a reply to "what do you find the most awkward?").  I remember little of the scenes, though.


14.  Student Show #1
Andy directed straightforward scenes and games with the marathonners and a batch of students.  I got to be "worst advice" in a game of "good/bad/worst advice", which had a great student-portrayed host.  (I introduced myself with growling, "I do the things that the voice of god tells me to do.  Sometimes people don't like that.")

(In both student shows, occasionally I would lay on a set of empty chairs and watch the show form the audience.  I think this was disrespectful to the students, and I feel bad about it.)


15.  Midnight Society - "Blank" and Friends
This was a Saturday-morning cartoon format -- in this case, we wound up performing the cartoon Santa and Friends.  A villain with a "doubling ray" fired it at Santa, creating "good Santa" and "evil Santa".  The show quickly went from "G" to "PG-13" to "hard R" to "Faces of Death-style film unfit for legal distribution".  It was really funny, but this was another one I almost completely hung back from.


16.  Bad Boys - Harold
I'll come right out and say it:  this is the easily best Harold I've done, and probably better than any Harold I've seen.  It felt like the show had a perfect balance of technique and fun.  With the group games, for example, we absolutely followed finding a very simple thing and playing it over and over -- but we all committed whole-hog to finding the *fun* of that.  One often sees a stuffy, mannered, self-important seriousness to group games, and this was more like "We're all leaping on-stage because we've got something hilarious and fun to contribute to this quick heightening exercise.

The scenes were just awesome.  I had a blast doing three scenes with Brett.  That chunk was pretty much narrative, which, even if that's not strictuly Harold-kosher (is it? I am not an expert on this), felt like a nice variation from the other, more abstract sets of beats.  At one point I got to deliver a half-minute rapid-fire monolog of technobabble, something that would happen repeatedly before the Marathon was through.


17.  The Institution - The Film
Holy shit this was amazing.  I had never seen their "Film" format, and I'd rarely-if-ever worked with most of the improvisors that came by.  Their format includes heavy scene-painting, where you're not in the scene but you're coming in to provide details about the setting and cinematography/editing choices.  For instance, at the start we were setting up an Arabian, dissolute setting, and I leaped onstage to say "the camera pan reveals blood slowly pooling across the floor."

It's not a format that focuses on plot, but rather on tone, and this had tone out the wazoo.  It was a world of weary, washed-up hired assassins, and the large cast went great guns at creating a world full of telling detail.  I mean, goddamn, we even had Asaf setting up a *match cut* at one point.  And while we didn't focus on plot, the plot came to a fairly tidy resolution.


18.  Dubbed Indemnity
This is the show where performers improvise a soundtrack for movie and TV clips.

The problem with Dubbed Indemnity is that it takes, literally, about eight hours to put together a new DVD of clips.  This means that if all the people who are into setting up show DVDs get swamped by a bazillion simultaneous improv shows, you stop getting new show DVDs.  Ideally I would have used my first "TV Party" Dubbed Indemnity DVD, but we'd used that one three times already.

We did surprisingly well with the first show DVD.  We did a good job of committing to strong offers at the top of each clip, and we stuck with them even during the really long film clips, of which the DVD had several.


19.  Student Show #2
This was very similar to Student Show #1 (hour 13), only with a different group of students.  I can't remember any of the scenes that happened here.


20.  Secret Show - One Hour, Eight-Person, Narrative Hell Dub
This was originally supposed to be "Jason's Birthday Party", but then Kaci found out that Improv for Evil was doing that -- so it became a ginormous hell-dub.  I had trouble remembering to watch the talking character instead of the performer providing his/her voice.  The story was probably the craziest one of the Marathon, with lots of murders, a magical hot tub, "special oxygen", and somebody turning into a "unidragon" and then (IIRC) turning back again.  I think it was all we could do to hold onto the helldubbing; at least it wasn't one hour, eight-person, narrative "He Said/She Said".


21. Confidence Men - The "Blank" Variations
The Mamet group was doing a show inspired by The Duck Variations -- just a series of two-person scenes based around some particular topic.  (In this case, we got the topic "Opryland".)  I was intimidated going into this, but wound up doing my favorite scene of the Marathon, a scene where I played an artist (I was channeling Rebecca Pidgeon as best as I could) drawing a picture of Jordan's character, a performer.  IIRC it opened something like this:

[I sketch for a bit.]
[Jordan moves his arm.]
"Maintain the arm."
[He moves it back; I continue sketching.]
"That's not easy.  I have this cigarette, and if it burns down --"
"Do you want me to help you?"
"Yes, but --"
"Do you want to let me help you?"
"Yes."
"Then maintain the arm."


And we were off and running into a discussion of how horrible the entertainment industry is.  My other scene was with Chris Allen, and I deliberately introduced a beleaguered, Jack-Lemmon-in-Glengarry energy that I hadn't yet seen in the show.  Afterwards, the troupe said really lovely things about me, so I definitely didn't let them down.


22.  Pick Your Own Path - Choose Your Own Adventure Style Improv
I hosted and narrated this show, where we periodically pause the action and give the audience a choice between two actions for the protagonist.  I was satisfied with my job here.  I did an adequate job of getting the audience suggestion.  I didn't really give the show enough meaningful decision points, and (as Vines pointed out from within the show), I had trouble keeping the story oriented towards the audience suggestion.  But I was playful, killing off the protagonist a few times ("Okay, let's go back and pick the other one.") and going amusingly meta in a section where I realized I'd forgotten to read a paragraph or two of the book.  I also introduced 'a city in the clouds' at one point, which led to a lengthy Star Wars running gag.


23.  Happy Butter - Interweaved Narratives
This is the troupe formed from the Hideout's first 601 class.  They do a show where they alternate between two different narratives.  I wound up in a story where Jordan and I were actors in a high-class porno.  This makes the story sound much sexier than it was -- we saw only maybe half a minute of the movie, and then the rest of it consisted of behind-the-scenes production work and downtime.  This one got bizarrely meta at the end, when we staged my character's death, and then the two actors sat in the audience and provided running commentary on the *other* story's final scene.


24.  The Knuckleball Now - Montage
This was another high-energy montage show, à la The Intentions.  I think I acquitted myself okay, although I did stop things dead in one scene when I interposed a couple of puns for no good reason.  But generally the show was playful, with a good sense of when to move on from one scene to the next and one game to the next.


25.  Start Trekkin' - Improvised TOS
This was another one where I held way back.  I played a minor character on the away team, but there was a long stretch where I was chilling on the backstage-hallway bed, catching up on facebook.  It was another case where there were lots of people onstage and I didn't want to botch their format.  (Yes, I know, I have beliefs that are irrational and self-defeating.)

But the bits that I did show up for felt useful.  On the away team, I found neat ways to heighten the danger, and I found a couple of scene buttons that felt like act-outs for the show.


26.  The Nightmare Video Project - Improvised AtmosFear
My main memory of this one was a bit of scene-painting gone awry.  During a date scene, Troy entered to endow Jordan's heart as beating very fast.  Problem:  Troy forgot which side of the body the heart is on.  Jordan corrected Troy, putting it on the correct side.  Then they pretended there were two hearts.  Then I entered to endow Jordan as The Doctor.

There was also a gorgeous silent scene that was nothing but Tim and Vines doing a contact improv fight-dance, while the rest of the cast attacked them in a variety of ways.


27.  Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! - Improvised 1960s TV Batman
This was the one I held back from the most.  I appeared at the start as a couple of random background 'millionaires', and then plunked myself in the backstage-hallway pallet and futzed around on the Internet for fifteen minutes.  I ventured back into the backstage proper, and Heiberg (bless his heart), grabbed me, handed me a collection of costume pieces, and dispatched me onstage with "we have gathered up the King of Denmark!".

I started speaking 'Danish'.  Apparently my version of gibberish Danish includes the phrase "kok fokker", which I totally didn't mean to say in a show with children present (but hey, it had the right phonemes).

Later on, I appeared in a scene where several millionaires had been turned into hippies.  Heiberg to the rescue again -- he showed up in the wings holding a guitar, which I happily grabbed from him.  Then he said, "sing us that hippie song in your native Norwegian!"  And off I went, singing a breezy, catchy collection of vaguely-Scandinavian-sounding nonsense.

But mostly on this one, I tried to stay out of their way.


28.  Improv for Evil - Jason's Birthday Party
The Saturday during the Marathon was core cast member Jason Vines' birthday, so his troupe put on an hour that was basically a big party for Jason.  Every so often, Jason would tell a story from his life, and then the cast would act out how things would have turned out for Jason if that event had never happened.

We did a great job of heightening the consequences of seemingly-uninfluential life events.  We had one story where, if Jason had *not* won first prize in a karaoke contest, he would have shot himself in the face with a rifle after a failed attempt to assassinate the president.  We had another story where, if he hadn't worked out that you can use pantyhose to remove fiberglass insulation from your skin, he would have wound up being a supervillain who achieved world domination only to be taken down by Iron Man.[1]


29/30.  Maestro #2
If Confidence Men had my favorite scene I got to do, the second Maestro had my favorite bit of show-mechanics I got to be involved in.

I was trying really hard to get eliminated from Maestro as soon as possible.  Once I was eliminated, I could go back to my little sleeping bag and take a nap for an hour or so before the next show got started.  To that end, I tried telling the directors, "Don't be afraid to challenge us!"  Tim said from offstage, "Play realistic women!"  So Vines and I did that and got a "4", dammit.  This killed my chances of getting eliminated in the first round; instead, Lisa was on the chopping block.  I went to Marc and offered to give her a couple of my points.[2]

Marc denied the request and instead told me I had to eliminate one of the existing, non-Marathon improvisors instead of Lisa.  I looked over the three non-Marathoners who were left; they all had roughly the same score; so I eliminated Ceej.  I figured I had known him for going on a decade, so he'd be least likely to harbor hard feelings over it.  And I couldn't think of any way to make the decision fun, so I just picked Ceej and was done with.

After round three, everybody had similar scores.  And somehow (perhaps at Vines's instigation?), the whole cast and crowd started chanting, "Bring! Back! Ceej!  Bring! Back! Ceej!"  A cast member was dispatched to look for Ceej... but he was gone.

"Lemme call him," I said.  While the directors sorted out the next scene, I made the phone call on stage, and then paced back and forth while it rang, and then wandered towards the exit while the next scene's performers showed up.  "Eh, I got voicemail," I said absently as I left the theater.  But Ceej got back in touch a little bit later, so I went to the backstage-hallway pallet and chatted with him.  He was only ten minutes away, so we agreed that he should try coming back to the theater.

We'd see what happened.

Ten minutes later, Ceej ran into the theater, and the audience went berserk with joy.  The directors put him in every single scene in the last round.

One other, small thing that made me happy:  I finally had the confidence to wave down a scene shortly after it started.  I was in a scene with Ruby.  I think it was a scene from nothing.  She started in with a young, girly character:  "I just absolutely can't believe it.  It's crazy!  It's absolutely insane."  She went on like this.  I responded with, "I know.  It has no integral solutions."  Then I realized that this worked far better as a quick, snappy joke than as a scene, so I waved the lights down.  It got a great laugh from the audience, but more importantly, I felt like I'd done what the scene (and the show) needed.


31.  McNichol and May - Improvised Mockumentary
Bob McNichol and Erika May did a format that opened with a series of Errol-Morris-style interviews, and then followed that with a monoscene for the rest of the hour.  In this case, the audience suggested we do a show around a barbecue contest.  So we were interviewed pairwise.  For my bit, I was paired with Troy, and we were a father-son team entering the competition.

Our interview started with a mistake.  Both of us were about to start speaking at once.  I didn't notice that Troy was about to speak too, so I launched into an opening speech about barbecue and father-son relationships.  Troy yielded.  And then he turned it into a thing.  After I got a sentence out, he started to speak again, then gave way once I continued speaking.  And then it just... kept going.  Shortly, I could tell Troy was doing *something* in my peripheral vision, and the gales of laughter from the audience had nothing to do with my fairly straightforward speechifying.

Somehow, Troy kept this joke going for five minutes.  It was at least partly to do with the *way* he did it, emotionally.  He made it seem like I wasn't steamrolling him.  Most typically, he would start to speak as if he were going to raise an objection -- and then, after my next clarification, ease back as if yes, that was exactly what he was going to say.

Erika got in on the joke, ending our segment asking Troy a question directly, and then stopping him, "Oh, sorry, we're out of tape.  Sorry about that."  This became another thing, as did Troy's unveiled hostility towards the Erika's character each time it happened.

I have little sense of how the monoscene went.  I know we strongly benefitted from having these great character dynamics set up.  (I know I would watch an entire show about Jordan and Karen's toxically passive-aggressive couple.)  But I had little awareness of what was happening in the whole scene, mostly concentrating on my stage business with Troy on our stage-left corner of the world.  I suspect the main action of the scene might have been kind of chaotic -- there seemed to be a lot of talking over each other? -- but it was apparently still really entertaining.


32. Coldtowne - The Bat
The Bat is a Harold, performed entirely in the dark -- it's sort of an audio-play version of improv.  I went into it with a bit of trepidation -- I like the people I've met at Coldtowne, but I've never really had the feeling I fit in there.  I'd never improvised with most of the bigwigs there, and I had an irrational preconceived notion that (1) I concentrate on Johnstonian narrative, (2) Coldtowne is more Chicago style, ergo (3) I should generally leave the Coldtowne people alone.

So it was to my happy surprise that the Bat felt like an easy conversation with friends I've known forever.  Of all the shows in the Marathon, this one felt the most natural, where none of us were worried about anything -- we just effortlessly leapt onto the next thing that the show wanted to do.  It wound up pretty crazy, and random, and meta -- but those weren't bugs, they were features; it was an off-the-rails tone that the Marathon needed at that point.  We found hilarious ways to weave together running gags, and we used the audio format to create a sort of fever dream where you weren't always sure where one scene ended and the next began, and where you were already three lines into a scene before you realized what the physical setup for the scene would look like.

I don't know how much of 2012's Improv Marathon I'll have time to see, but I will sure as hell *make* time to see The Bat.  (And if there is no Bat, I will cry.)


33.  The Puppet Improv Project - Improvised European Folktale
I actually didn't do much for this one -- which is odd, given that I'm *in* their current run at SVT.  I provided a porcupine-cow in one of the farm scenes, and maybe played a few extras, but that was about it.  Mainly, the show reminded me of the delightful kind of chaos that you can create with puppets.  At one point, we had a puppet making out with an audience member (Mike Ferstenfeld), while the pink-dog puppet looked on, masturbating.


34.  Live Nude Improv
So apparently I'm now something of an AIC folk hero.

For this hour, the cast of Live Nude Improv came by to do basically the complete opposite of their upcoming mainstage run at the Hideout.  If you take nothing else away from this post, know this:  WHAT HAPPENED AT THE MARATHON WAS TOTALLY NOT WHAT THE MAINSTAGE SHOW IS.

The mainstage show is based around the conceit that we're all showing up, (performers and audience alike) to do a 90-minute rehearsal for an upcoming play.  We open with a discussion of themes of the play, explore the material with some theatrical exercises, and finally we put, say, the last act of the play on its feet.  But of course, under the hood, there *is* no play, we're just making it up from an audience-suggested title.  Our rehearsals have gone really dramatic.  And yes, there's nudity, but it's used sparingly, typically to heighten the drama of serious situations and to put the audience on edge.

The marathon was 45 minutes of silly montage, wherein the LNI cast found wacky excuses to try to get the Marathon cast naked.  It was hilarious, and for the most part it was great fun for cast and audience alike, but IT IS NOT THE MAINSTAGE SHOW.

Ahem.

So, by about halfway through the show half of us (including me) were down to underwear.  Then we had a coaching scene set in a locker room.  I think it was Jordan, as a coach, who told a player, "Hang on, I'm gonna stand behind you and inject you with steroids."  Then he took off his belt to tie the player off.  Then Brett jumped in behind Jordan:  "Hang on, I'm gonna stand behind you and give you a hit of heroin."  He took off his belt to tie Jordan off.

I jumped in behind Brett.  "Hang on, I'm gonna stand behind you and get naked for no reason."  I think I heard from the audience a gasp and a "Wha--?" but before that could coalesce into a collective audience reaction, I'd dropped my boxers to the floor.  A second went by.

Then my penis got a full minute of ear-splitting, room-shaking applause.

It was one of the wildest, most insane reactions I've ever heard from an improv audience.  Me, in my head, I was wondering:  "What's the big goddamn deal?"  It's a dick.  Approximately half of humanity has one.  If you're an adult, and you've never ever seen one, I probably don't want to know you (unless you're a lesbian who figured that out real, real early on).  I figured it was a good point in the show for *somebody* to get completely naked, and I figured I could do what the show needed.  And I loved doing it for no reason whatsoever, after so many scenes that teased in-story reasons to disrobe.

People like Jordan, Kaci have called me really brave to do this.  While I'm really flattered, I think 'bravery' is when you do something you're afraid of.  When you do something that doesn't really bug you, that must be some different word.

And I'm not saying I particularly *dig* being nude.  I don't have any patchouli-scented conviction that it's "like, really *real*, man" and makes you "so connected to other people, and natural-ness".  I just have this detached, medical conviction that parts is parts, and it's all going to rot into dust someday, so for god's sake, spare your umbrage and concern for the things that really deserve it.

This was actually the first time I was naked in public.  What surprised me was how many people had to tell me, in jest or in earnest, how disgusting my body is.  Tim mentioned in one scene, "I really wish I didn't have peripheral vision right now," when *I* was in his peripheral vision.[3]  I overheard one conversation where a random girl remarked, "I'm straight, but I just don't want to *look* at those hairy, lumpy men, y'know?"  I don't think of myself as vain -- there are many, many things I'm good at, but "standing around and being looked at" isn't one of them, and that's okay -- but this still struck me as un-classy.

Later in the show I was giving a Lear-like monolog, and an audience member shouted, "Put it back on!"  That nonplussed me for a second; then I just assumed that this was one of my followers, aghast at seeing the old king pontificating in the nude, and pressed ahead accordingly.  (Later on I'd discover that it was a very flummoxed Rachel Jordan, which retroactively makes the heckle charming and hilarious.)

There *were* things I didn't like about the show.  Like I said earlier, the "Live Nude Improv" title is almost a bait-and-switch -- the show audiences expect from that title is the opposite of the show we're doing -- and I think this Marathon show has only exacerbated that perception-problem.  I think we needed to have a serious conversation with all the Marathon people about how comfortable they were with nudity, and we needed to make it clearer that if your scene partner didn't want to disrobe some article of clothing, then you should back the fuck off.  And we needed to have that conversation *before* the Marathon, when we were all well-rested and in our right minds.

But even with those caveats, what a hell of a show this was.  It may not have been good scenework, but it's still one for the AIC history books.


35.  Secret Senate - Monoscene with Callouts
For this one, the whole cast, Senate & Marathonners alike, were all seated on one long bench, one which Lisa endowed as a rowboat.  Then we did a monoscene in the rowboat, occasionally cutting from it to short callout (usually flashback) scenes.

This was another show I had trouble getting into.  I had hit another energy lull, and I think by this point I'd had too much randomness to really get into a story of sea monsters and governor correpondence and magical submarines.  So it was an off show for me, and I spent most of my time being a passenger, except when I bickered with Jordan about English grammar.


36.  Dancy Street - Cop Musical
This one stood out for me for two reasons:  (1) It was the only show where I sang a song with lyrics ("Our Parents Are Wrong"), and (2) It absolutely cinched that Karen Jane DeWitt is a badass musical improvisor.  She was more or less the protagonist of Dancy Street's cookie-dough-centric caper, and she did some gorgeous singing throughout.  Again, I was still in a slump, energy-wise, so I mostly just watched the show.


37.  Doctors Without Boundaries - Improvised Gray's Anatomy
I did two things in this show that I was really happy with:  (1) I did a fun scene as a consulting neurologist where I got to riff off of random made-up medical jargon and employ the sort of peevish personality that's endemic to the doctors in my family; (2) someone jumped out a window, and I did the 'long shot' method of using a two-finger person to show her fall... then I said a loud  "Bong!" and started rotating the 'person' in her descent.

I dub this "The Titanic Technique".

That said, the energy slump continued through this hour, so I have little idea what the story was about.  It seemed pretty chaotic, but still fun.


38.  Your Dad's Friends - Improv Intervention
This was a format based around doing an intervention.  In this case, we were doing an intervention on Jason Vines for his addiction to (audience suggestion) lawn-mowing.

This one got my head back in the game.  It had a strong structure:  people gave monologs about how Jason's addiction had hurt us, then we had the intervention where the characters read letters to him.  Even though the content obviously started in crazy-town and then went from there to the outer suburbs of Random-Insanity county, the structure was nailed down, so I could focus better on what was going on.

For my part, I played a (audience suggestion) telemarketer who'd been harmed by Jason's addiction.  So I put on an Indian accent and did my monolog as "Steve", the AT&T cold-caller who was so saddened by Jason's plight.  That gave me a character and a story I could sink my teeth into, so I started getting my bearings again.


39.  The Amazon & The Milksop - Montage + Coin Flips
This was pretty straightforward -- each player had a quarter.  When you started a scene, or when Curtis or Kaci said "Flip!", you would flip that quarter.  If it came up heads, your character would become more positive.  If it came up tails, your character would become more negative.

It was nice to get back to a small number of guests for the first time since hour 31.  It seemed to calm us down a little.  Even though the material was really random and jokey, we were dealing with known quantities again.  The coin gimmick was a lot of fun, too, as it meant we were never at a loss for what to do.  "Aha!  At this point in the scene, I must find a way to make my character more bitter and miserable -- because The Coin has said it must be so."

And I loved buttoning that hour with having our characters getting obliterated by a newly-manufactured star.  "We shouldn't have created a star in this train compartmeeeent!"


40.  False Matters - Improvised Philip K. Dick
A couple months back, I was sad that I didn't get cast in False Matters[4], so getting to be in this marathon segment really meant a lot to me.  The two words that were our story prompt -- "Sex / Time" -- were also auspicious.

I had a minor role in the story, but I got to do at least one really nice scene with Marc.  We'd done something illegal at work, and we were convinced our boss (Lisa) was going to get us in trouble.  But our boss was busy with a romantic liaison, so she deployed a cheap AI representation of herself ("Seriously, it only has, like, a quarter of her personality") to meet with us.  I got to technobabble like mad at the AI-bot about time-travel stuff -- plus I established the year (1995).  The AI, played by Kyle, heard me out, and said, "Great!"

Peter:  So you can't -- wait, what did you say?
Marc:  Wait.  Is that a formal statement?
Kyle:  It's cool.
Peter:  There's the downward inflection.
[Marc shuts off the feed and high-fives Peter.]
Marc:  I love crappy AIs!


The story didn't wind up making logical sense, but the way in which it didn't make logical sense was perfect for the genre.  It was the sort of story where you keep trying to piece everything together, because it's all so fascinating, but it never quite fits.

And that's okay.


41.  Improvised Shakespeare
I think I'm the only one who really dug this hour.

Here's our story:  Anna, a commoner, fails at a royal-defense task and gets demoted back to palace-cleaning.  Meanwhile, Michael and his two friends whore and thieve their way through the countryside until they cross two magical fairies.  The fairies curse the three men to speak compliments when they hate people, and speak insults when they like people.  Back at the palace, royal figures connive to marry off Anna to the king, who needs an heir and has only taken a liking to this one woman.

Michael falls in love with Anna.  Michael also realizes that he is the king's secret bastard son.  The Fairy King comes through and forces the other fairies to reverse their curse.  Finally, the king banishes one of his evil advisors, and allows Anna to marry his son.  Everyone dances.

You see, the fact that I can remember what happens means that the show actually had a plot.  I consider this a good thing.

I myself wasn't really contributing to the plot.  Instead, I was playing a video game called "speak in iambic pentameter", and I got points every time I spoke a proper line of verse.  I think there was some sort of combo bonus for ending a scene in a rhymed couplet of iambic pentameter -- which I did for the show's first and last scenes.  It honestly turned some of what I said into gobbledygook -- but gobbledygook that scanned! -- and gave my speech odd little pauses as I quickly rearranged bits of oncoming syntax.

Then I did a long speech as the Fairy King where I rhymed about a dozen consecutive lines on the word "well".  At this point, I was just showing off.[5]  "Look at meeee!  I can do verse after 41 hours of improvising!  I AM A GOLDEN GOD!" </almost_famous>


42.  The End - Speeches and Requests
We finished the Marathon with a special show.  It opened with each of us talking about what the Marathon had meant to us.  Then, we did scenes.  But it wasn't really montage -- it was mainly just players requesting bits that they wanted to see.  Jordan set up one last Duck Variation between his scene partners from the Mamet show (me and Karen).  I got Troy to give one last episode-ending monolog as Captain Kirk.  Vines had us all do contact improv with Tim.  And so on.

It felt like a really *right* way to end the show -- one last bit of rumination on what had happened, and one last bit of mutual support before we parted ways.


General Improv Notes
As far as I can tell, the Marathon shows for me fell into four categories.

There were maybe eight shows where I just didn't have the energy to do much, and I didn't have a feel for how I could contribute to the show.  Those were the ones where I hung back and mostly watched.  There were another maybe six shows where I was doing formats I was already very familiar with, and they were solid, but not particularly mind-blowing.  Then there were another six shows where I didn't contribute much to the show, but I found some distinct bit to contribute -- like the King of Denmark from the Batman show, or the peevish neurologist from Doctors Without Boundaries.

That leaves about twenty-odd hours where I was firing on all the cylinders I had available.

In my closing speech before the final hour of scenes, I mentioned the scene from Unbreakable where Bruce Willis just keeps lifting more and more weight, to his own astonishment.  A lot of the Marathon felt like that.  The show kept throwing me into situations I would never try on my own (a Harold? Mamet? filmic scene painting?) and I kept doing them really damn well.  And somehow, I had an Abed-like ability to stay awake without too much loopiness for three days.  Even just waving down a Maestro scene after only a few lines -- even that was something I'd rarely if ever tried before.

So I guess my main takeaway from this Marathon is that I'm capable of a lot more than I thought I could do.

But predictably, those eight shows -- the ones where I couldn't sort out how to participate -- still bug me.  Now that I know I can do all this stuff, I need to be bolder about throwing myself into improv situations where I feel out-of-sorts and uncertain.


Yay Logistics
Perhaps the best compliment I can give to the volunteer staff is that I quickly started taking them for granted.

I just accepted that there were always going to be people manning the tech booth and the box office and the ticket desk.  I figured that every so often a smörgåsbord of delicious food would magically appear on the food table.  I knew if I needed something, anything, I could contact the support staff and the request would be carried out.  (This is how I got much-needed sorbet at 7am on Sunday morning.)  I never had to worry about a thing as far as show logistics or keeping myself fed.  I could focus exclusively on the Marathon.

I don't know how that experience compares to the previous two Marathons, but I do know that supporting the Marathon at that level of skill is just staggering.


Recurring Themes from the Marathon
Iron Man
Star Wars
Robots
Bears
Rowboats
Sex
Time travel
Elaborate locking mechanisms
The moon crashing into the Earth
Surgery
Quetzalcoatl
«¡Sí se puede!»
Martial arts


Favorite Shows, AKA: "Everyone Gets a Trophy!"
The "Exact Right Show at the Exact Right Time" Award:  The Intentions
We were in a serious slump at 3am on Saturday, and the Intentions knocked us the hell out of it.

The "Format Rehabilitation" Award:  Bad Boys
I liked their Harold so much, I can probably use it to tease out what I typically don't like about Harolds.  ("What is this show doing that those other Harolds are not doing?")

The "Legends of AIC" Award:  Live Nude Improv
Maybe there have been a lot of Marathon shows with better stories, but I'm betting there are hardly any Marathon shows that viewers will tell more stories about.

The "Legends of AIC (Non-Nudity Edition)" Award:  Saturday Maestro
Surely Ceej's triumphant return to round #4 will go down in the annals of the local improv scene.

The "Like, Half the Best Scenes of the Marathon" Award:  Confidence Men
Their take on The Duck Variations was just one phenomenal scene after another.

The "When Can We Hang Out Again?" Award:  Coldtowne
The only thing better than hanging out and joking around with your best friends at one in the morning is the realization that half of them are people you don't even know. Hooray for The Bat.

The "Yay I Get to Be In This Show, If Only For an Hour!" Award:  False Matters
The award name speaks for itself, I suppose.

The "Whoa, I Can Actually See the Setting, You Guys" Award:  The Institution Theater
I talked in my bio about hoping sleep deprivation would send me "straight into crazy-imagination-world".  The Institution's "Film" format was definitely the show that got me there.  Now I have memories of sets that have never been constructed.

The "Fondest Farewell" Award:  Finale
... it was one big glorious ♥ -fest.

_______
[1] Note that Iron Man kept showing up in the Marathon, over and over and over and over and over.  (Literally; I think there were five such references.

[2] *Asking* for this was tactically-misguided; I should have just taken the initiative and, in the confusion, left for my nap.

[3] Ever sensitive to other people's needs, I responded to this by doing a little dance that waggled my dick around.[3b]

[3b] Just to be clear, I realize that these annoyances are nothing compared to the body-image stuff that women get to deal with.

[4] Not in an 'affronted entitlement' sort of way, but rather in a 'aw, that would have been fun' sort of way.

[5] Also, if I'd been thinking, I would have switched gears to tetrameter for this, which is more apposite for the Magical Fairy King's Big Magical Speech.

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Comments:

[User Picture]
From:gregstoll
Date:Tuesday (6/7/11) 10:27am
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That sounds like all kinds of awesome! Congrats on surviving :-)
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From:hujhax
Date:Tuesday (6/7/11) 12:04pm
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Thanks!
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From:shadyglenn
Date:Tuesday (6/7/11) 10:33am
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Rachel was having quite the night on Saturday. She heckled Greg Izor at Summer's party earlier - I didn't hear what she said, but Greg laughed, shook his head, and dubbed her "Shit-Talkin' Rachel Jordan".
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From:hujhax
Date:Tuesday (6/7/11) 12:05pm
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Ha!

(Really, "Rachel Jordan's Dream" is the best track off that album....)
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