Some notes about my (peripheral) participation in the marathon this year:
Friday 6:00pm ("And They're Off"): I missed the very start of the marathon, but caught the next few hours. I was very pleased to see the opening montage take on a Living Room format where the improvisors made a deliberate effort to get to know each other. I've never seen that done before, and it makes perfect sense.
Friday 7:00pm (Start Trekkin'): This is the first time I've seen the show's Enterprise prop get destroyed by accident. It was absolutely perfect that the cast reacted to it with "oh, crap, the Enterprise has been destroyed".
Friday 8:00pm (The Fancy-Pants Mash-Up): I think Lacy contrived to pair up marathonners with the newer improvisors she'd invited, which made for a very charming show.
[I had a nice late dinner with Corey, an old-school Austin improvisor who's visiting town this week.]
Saturday 1:00am ("The Queen Is Not Amused"): I only caught the very end of this, but it was still delightful to see Monkhouse delivering this show in person this year.
Saturday 2:00am (The Black Vault): We notified Monkhouse that he was narrating the second story about five minutes before showtime. This is because we are bastards. Monkhouse, after a baffled pause, took it on with glee and played a terrifying, serial-killing preacher. I also loved how the two stories mirrored each other, with both of them addressing toxic relationships with parents.
Having the frame story return with Monkhouse's friends all dead was my suggestion, but it didn't make its way all around the backstage grapevine. So the lights went up on two frame characters mysteriously passed out. The two remaining performers handled it with aplomb: "Looks like we finally outdrank them."
[sleepytime -- I wish I had woken up to play in the alumni show or to see the latest Dubbed Indemnity. Ah well.]
Saturday 11am (Pick Your Own Path): I felt a little nervous going into this one just because of the sheer number of people onstage. Again, we notified Monkhouse that he'd be narrating the second story. (He demurred a bit, not wanting to hog all the narration, but we insisted.) But the show went well. I narrated "The Legend of the Ice Queen" with core cast member Katie Dahm as the heroine, and we got a pleasant little adventure going. Ferstenfeld showed up as her best friend, and we managed to get him kidnapped by the bad guys, which is always good for Pick Your Own Path. (Meanwhile, Lindsey scored us with music that was almost exclusively from the Frozen soundtrack.)
I mostly hung back from the second story -- I think I stepped onstage as a tree, once -- and lurked backstage, but it sounded like everybody was having a lot of fun. I know the core cast had a great time, and that makes me feel proud and happy. Whenever I guest for an hour of the marathon, I really want to make the poor sleep-deprived folks feel like they're well taken care of, and can just play.
[home, nap, food, tragically missing History Under the Influence]
Saturday 5pm (Charles Dickens Unleashed): Narrating the Dickens show was easily the best thing I did in the marathon. It was the first time I'd done the format since the last marathon, but apart from a stammer here and there, I slipped right back into its rhythms. Probably the most notable bit was where I grabbed on to an offer about "children stitching together bits of carpet" and made it the center of the piece: "I am sure all of us know the dolorous ambience of a traditional carpetbittory..."
We even got the story more or less tied up towards the very end, which is a marvel, given how sleep-deprived everyone was. I stumbled a few times, like when I insisted that Ferst's character hadn't killed a couple of people whom he clearly *had* killed, but all in all the end felt like the end. I even had a neat little half-poetic paragraph to end on. Good times.
(Side note: two minutes before that show, I managed to gash my finger pretty good. Kudos to Kaci and Lindsey for getting me bandaged up while I was bleeding profusely.)
Saturday 5pm (Girls Girls Girls): This show kicked ass. And I am jaded and judgmental towards improvised musicals. Seriously: sing off-key, sing a song that has no real structure, make songs advance the plot/dialog instead of just chilling out and just *feeling* something, and I will be sitting back with my arms folded and my mouth quirked into something between a wince and a grimace. But this was just damn good work. Girls Girls Girls has always been good, and they keep getting better.
Saturday 9pm (The Professor): I had no idea what was going on in this show. It was a good scene and a half before I realized I'd been endowed as the Professor. I just kind of gave myself over to the chaos and tried not to become a completely passive passenger in the story. There were Nazis. There was a drinking contest. There was a court case about the freedom to marry. Everyone went to Schlitterbahn. I dunno. Hopefully I didn't ruin it for everybody.
Saturday 10pm (Maestro): Ah, the delightful game theory of "I want to win Maestro but I also want to take a nap". As far as I could tell, only Ruby was competitive enough to go full-on "I am in it to win it". In other news, I was the idiot whose phone blared a bunch of noise during a scene -- because I was surreptitiously logging into the UStream app to see what people were chatting about the show. Bad audience member. No biscuit.
Sunday 12am (Franz & Dave): I hope this is in the marathon every year. I especially liked Ferst as the corrupt sheriff of Pine Falls, Florida.
Sunday 1am (Puppet Improv Project): And things get more and more surreal. Now there are puppets. I don't really remember the Bible story -- I mostly remember the cast all happily swarming in as a puppet plague of rats.
Sunday 2am (Hurly Burly): I was really impressed that they pulled this off, doing their usual format in a new venue in a one-hour time slot with eight additional cast members, one of whom was jumping in as the lead. Somehow it all worked. I was taking photos of the show, which always removes me a bit from the proceedings, but I could see the story rumbling along, with delightful character moments along the way. And "Kitty" killed it with her dance number.
Sunday 3am (Tech Nightmare): Lindsey got to fulfill her dream of teching for Tech Nightmare. :) The show ran the players through the usual gamut of lighting and sound offers, and watching the cast feel a sustained "whaaaat is haaaaappeniiiing" for a solid hour is always fun. I love that it is now customary to end a marathon Tech Nightmare with a cast-and-audience singalong of "Bohemain Rhapsody".
[One last bit of sleep, tragically missing "Care Bare Stare" and the Institution Theater's consistently good movie-format show.]
Sunday 10am (Secret Show): Ceej's secret show wound up being a sort of "clip show" for the marathon. The conceit was that this was hour 42 of a 1950's dance marathon, and we occasionally cut away from that to callbacks to earlier hours of the marathon. Ceej asked me to host the show.
I had wound up with very little time to prepare for this, and I arrived on Sunday with a list of five or six vague scene ideas and five or six vague 'interview questions' for the cast. I had a last-minute powwow with Ceej, trying to nail down which shows the cast would be most excited to go back to.
I took the stage with little idea as to how I would make it all work. Once I hit the stage, I made a bunch of tweaks to the format that helped quite a bit. For starters, I changed my mind about the mic -- going into it, I thought I would *not* use the mic, but then I thought better of that. We had long known we would do interviews with the couples, but we had no idea how the logistics of that would work -- would the dancers go on break for a bit, and I'd just grab someone handy, maybe? But there in the room, it made sense: "Couple #4, please report to the interview booth. Couple #4, please report to the interview booth."
Couple #4 looked baffled ("wait, where is the interview booth?") -- understandably, since this was something I had not told any of them about at all -- but eventually made their way towards me while the music went down a bit and the other couples kept dancing. I found ways to make the cutaways all commercials for other programming on the TV network that was broadcasting the dance marathon.
And, best of all, I made use of the improvisors who happened to be there watching the show. So Kevin sauntered up to narrate one more skewed tale of the Boer War, and Brad jumped in as Franz Kafka for a few more "Pine Falls" scenes, and Cat related a few more medical stories to serve as scene inspiration. All in all I felt really proud of myself, and happy that I could bring Ceej's ideas to fruition. Yay!
Sunday 11am (Fakespeare): I don't think I really did much in this one. We guests were basically there as a safety measure -- if the core cast were feeling passive or un-Shakespearean, we could lure them onstage and talk Shakespearily at them. As it turns out, the core cast were doing fine, so I mostly let them do their thing.
Sunday 12pm (The Frank Mills): Back to being an audience member. This mostly reminded me I need to see shows at ColdTowne more often.
Sunday 1pm (The Final Countdown): Whereas the last hour of last year's marathon was a bit "big", operatic and complicated, this year finished with an hour that felt small and intimate. The most notable image for me was the whole cast gathered around an imaginary campfire as the sun went down. And there were no long, high-flown speeches at the end, just simple, honest sentiments. ("First time.") If last year's finale was a French horn, this year's was a pennywhistle, and equally lovely. Well-played all around. :)
Mood: contemplative · Music: none