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

Tuesday (6/28/11) 12:15am - ... wherein Peter goes to Minneapolis.

I figured I'd just make one big post explaining how the Minneapolis trip went, instead of splitting it up into separate days.

Thursday
My flight out was delayed for 3½ damn hours.

But once I was actually on the plane, the trip started going quite a bit more smoothly.  They gave me a $50 flight voucher for the (rather massive) inconvenience.  I spent the 3-hour flight efficiently puttering away at blogposts and correspondence.  I landed without incident, light-railed to the hotel without incident, and checked in without incident.

I got to my room, and I unpacked.  I grabbed some incredibly overpriced groceries at the shop next door.  Then I headed to Brasa Rotisserie, where a bunch of Austin improvisors were eating dinner.  We mostly talked shop, and we got a family-style collection of meats and Southern side dishes.

Then, on to the theater.  Fortunately, there was a bus that took us straight there.  I got there, and recognized absolutely nobody, apart from the (sizeable) Austin contingent, and Jill Bernard.  Meghan stopped by and bear-hugged everyone before heading home.

Then we headed in to watch a couple of hours of improv.  I took some photos, but it'll be a while before I can process them.  The shows finished up around midnight, and the entire Austin contingent was suddenly exhausted.  There was an afterparty in the theater, but the free booze held little appeal to me (I don't drink), and I have trouble chatting up strangers even under the best of circumstances.  It becomes absolutely impossible when I'm nodding off.

So we all got ready to go home.  To our collective surprise, Butch, one of the TCIF administrators, offered to drive the whole bunch of us back to our hotel in his van.  So we all clown-carred into the van and rumbled back to our respective hotels.  I got to my room, ate some of my groceries, and collapsed into bed.


Friday
I had taken a sleeping pill before going to bed, so I managed to sleep late on Friday morning.  I finally staggered out of bed around eleven.  I showered, dressed, and wandered downtown.  I hit an office-building convenience store and (finally) bought a transit card.  Then I followed the downtown Habitrail of Skyways to Target and picked up some reasonably-priced groceries there.

Then I toted my groceries to a crowded, sad-looking bus stop and headed back to the hotel.  On the way, an old man on the bus broke into an impromptu -- and surprisingly-good -- beatbox/rap performance.  (I keep forgetting that the Twin Cities have a vibrant hip-hop scene.)  The city generally made a good impression, but this may just be because it wasn't 100° outside (like it had been in Austin every day for the previous two weeks).

Back at the hotel, I fried up & scarfed down some eggs, and then lay down for a while.

I walk around very little in my day-to-day life, so even a quick walk to the grocery had wiped me out for the time being.  After maybe half an hour of lolling about, I headed out again, this time to the Lowry Hill/Loring Park/Walker Sculpture Garden area.  I wandered around for a while, and then took a bus north to Emily's Lebanese Deli, where I picked up a couple pieces of kibbeh and a couple of small stuffed zuchhini.

But by the time I'd sorted all that out, I was running late.  I barely had time to bus back to the hotel, shave, and put on my all-black outfit for that night's performance.  So, out again I went.  I literally ran to catch the bus to HUGE, and arrived just in time for call.  Our improvised puppet musical was really well-received, and I immediately moved out to the audience to watch the rest of that night's acts.  I stuck around 'til the end to see the Splendid Things set at 12:30am, and it was hilarious and fun.

After that, the Austin contingent shared a couple of cabs back to the hotels.  I got back to my room and went to sleep.


Saturday
With the assistance of a sleeping pill (again), I slept 'til around 11am.  I finally got out of bed, made myself breakfast, and headed off to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  I wandered around a bit, then tagged along with a museum tour, then finally headed off to a 2pm workshop.

I got there a bit early and chatted with the other students.  They were mostly locals -- all the other Austinites were going to the *other* 2pm workshop, the one taught by TJ & Dave.

The class itself was fun, and mostly covered "group games", which is a style of scene you see a lot of in Chicago improv, but very little in the Canadian/Johnstonian style you see at the Hideout.  It was all a bit new to me, and I rolled with it as best as I could.  We wound up doing some really engaging work, and all of it was entirely unlike the sort of improv I usually do.

That finished up.  I wandered back to the HUGE Theater to catch the 6pm and 7pm shows.  For me, the highlight of this section was Twinprov, which alternated scenes and stretches of freestyle hip-hop.  I have some notion of how difficult rapid-fire, polysyllabic rhymes are, so I have a lot of respect for how well this troupe does it.

I bailed after that set, went back to the hotel, and regrouped, scarfing down some food, putting on some dance shoes, and heading out again, this time to the local blues-dance scene's monthly event.  I ran the ten blocks or so to the bus stop, catching the #15 Express two minutes before it sped off to St. Paul.  (I wound up running to catch buses several times on this trip.)

I got to St. Paul, and I walked another ten minutes to the venue.  Their monthly dance party is a house party, so the venue was a house where several dancers lived.  I arrived, and almost immediately Laney, the friend-of-a-friend who'd first told me about the event, came by to say hello.  Shortly after that, they ran a 'jam' -- a long song where they put me in the middle of the dance floor and then had all the follows there dance with me, one after another after another.

Basically, I got to spend four hours being the shiny, out-of-town person that everybody wanted to dance with.  And not only that, but the Minneapolis blues-dance scene is follow-heavy.  Apparently these days, nearly *every* metropolitan blues-dance scene is follow-heavy... except Austin.  I assume this is because Austin has a bumper crop of tech companies with socially-maladroit (male) engineers.  Follows were asking *me* to dance, which rarely happens in my hometown.

I had a lovely time, and I stayed to the end of the night.

After that, a dancer dropped me off back at the hotel.  Meanwhile, there was a TCIF after-afterparty going on at an improvisor's house, but I didn't find out about that 'til the next day, so I ate some more groceries and went to sleep.


Sunday
This time, I had to get up early, as I'd signed up for a workshop that started at 11am ("What We Laugh At and Why").  Among other things, the class included an enumeration of types of humor, which is useful, in that you can look at your own work, see what *types* of laughs you're getting, and see if maybe you can learn to lean on the *other* types as well.

After that, I headed over to the main TCIF theater.  I wandered off and grabbed a falafel sandwich at the nearby "Falafel King", then came back to the theater for, first, a Q&A session and, after that, a workshop with TJ & Dave.

The class mostly focussed on 'respecting the start of the scene'.  That is, at the very first moment of a scene, the moment the lights come up, you want to take some time to observe your scene partner and use that to determine both who you are and what your relationship to that person is.  It seems easy, but performers have strong (and misguided) instincts to both (1) invent material instead of drawing from what's there, and (2) ignore their scene partner.

So we did a zillion different scene starts, and it was basically an exercise in chilling the hell out and observing.  See that relationship onstage, see how it feels, and go with that.  Stay *true* to that.  We also did some proper scenes, again focussing on avoiding invention -- we'd do scenes as more-or-less ourselves, responding as authentically as we could to what was going on. 

Sure, this didn't lead to plot, but we weren't aiming for plot.  We were aiming for simple honesty.

The workshop finished up.  Meghan came by, and we walked for about half an hour to her favorite ice-cream shop.    Then we met up with some of her friends, and the group en masse deposited me at Famous Dave's before they headed on to the last set of TCIF improv shows.

Famous Dave's is a chain barbecue restaurant whose flagship store is in uptown Minneapolis.  They have a live blues band there every Sunday.  So a smattering of blues dancers regularly show up there for the band's set, and they stick around for the subsequent free-form blues jam with visiting musicians.  So I danced for about three hours before the jam finished up and I headed back to the hotel.

Meanwhile, the improvisors were gathered up at a nearby bar, but I only found out about this when I reached my hotel -- and by then I was too exhausted to be much use socially anyway.  So I went back to my room.  I ate most of the rest of my groceries.  I noted all my travel expenses.  I packed my bags.  I went to sleep.


Monday
There's not much to report about Monday.  I got up after about six hours of sleep and stumbled out the door about a half-hour later.  The flight was uneventful; it was only slightly-delayed this time.  There was a chance to volunteer a seat for a $300 flight voucher, but I was too slow.  Plus I was ready to go home.

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Mood: [mood icon] cheerful · Music: none
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