It has been a busy Fall so far. Although I’m currently “between paying gigs,” which can cause no small amount of anxiety and force some existential questions if one isn’t careful, I’ve also learned that the best use for these “down” periods is to re-double all creative efforts. Doing this helps remind me what really is (or at least should be) important to my mental health and feelings of well-being. Instead of wallowing in a place of fear, we have to see these times as a chance to remember why we’re here. Why we’re really here.
So, I’ve been writing. A lot. I don’t really measure my self-worth and feelings of well-being by my daily word count… but in some ways I do. Another draft of another screenplay. An outline of a new screenplay. Another pass at re-working all of my stories of Punk Rock misadventure into a new one-man show. Writing new stories too, and trying them out at some of my favorite essay and ‘spoken word’ shows around town – which also helps me re-connect with the many kind and talented writers and storytellers I know, but rarely get to see around town.
I’ve also been teaching some Improv and, I’ve been taking some improv classes. Even though I’ve been doing improv for, eeks, 20 years (!!), I eagerly signed up for a level 1 beginner class at the Upright Citizens Brigade training center here in Los Angeles while, at the same time, teaching/coaching some advanced Improv technique to alumni from UCB, iO and elsewhere. That isn’t as strange as it sounds. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing Improv, you can always learn (or re-learn) something in any improv class. I know I can, and did. It also helped re-excite my imagination, and helped me remember why learning, and doing improv has been such an important part of my life. It isn’t just about climbing on stage and getting some laughs from strangers. It is a way to approach life, people and the world with an open mind and a hopeful heart. If that sounds hokey to you, I’m OK with that. I had a good time in my level 1 class and I’m certain I will take some more UCB classes when my budget again allows. The UCB teaches a very efficient form of improv, a straight-forward “comedy delivery system” that, now that I’ve witnessed it firsthand, explains their current domination of the LA (and possibly the entire US) Improv landscape. Is it the only way to do improv? Of course not, but it is a great approach. No doubt about it.
And so we plow on. Getting the words out. Getting the thoughts down on paper. Climbing on stage. Doing the work – more importantly, enjoying the work. Trying to spread the joy.
It has been a quiet lately. Sometimes Los Angeles is like that in the Summer time.
The biggest news is that one of my spec sitcom pilots “Ogre Stone” has been picked up by a small animation company and it looks like we’ll be developing it as a possible series. Obviously there is still a loooong way to go, but it is a nice start.
Ask A Punk continues to pull in new readers and friends. Sales of the ebook have been slow lately, but I can tell you that the whole ebook/self-publishing thing is definitely worth the effort and clearly the wave of the future. I’m working on another non-fiction title and dusting off a 1st draft of a ‘New Adult” detective-ish novel that I wrote some time ago.
I have been having trouble with the “Upcoming Events” calendar plug-in that, until recently, was visible in the right column of the website. When they say “works seamlessly with Google Calendar” …don’t believe them. I’ll get it straightened out soon. Then I’ll be able to post details about some upcoming shows in August, September and November as well as some upcoming “Improv for Writers” sessions that I’ll be teaching.
That’s all for now. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
A small but influential “Blackbox” theater in Hollywood closed its doors tonight for good. This isn’t an unusual happening here in Los Angeles, in fact, small theaters “go permanently dark” with alarming regularity. …but this time it was different. This time it was my theater.
By “mine” I don’t mean I had any financial stake in the place, I didn’t pay the bills. I just showed up there. A lot. For nearly 15 years. I had done some improv classes before, both in Boston and when I first got to LA. I had also done a tiny bit of stand-up in Boston, but not much. After a couple rounds of improv classes at some of the better-known LA improv venues, I audited a class at bang. that was being taught by the founder & creative director, Aliza Murrieta. Within ten minutes I knew that I had found the place I needed to find. I started as a student and went though the program & graduation like most people would but then — I didn’t leave. I stuck around for years of “Master Classes,” weaseled my way into more shows than I could possibly list here, became a teacher and even, for a little while, an actual “Board Member.”
Bang was special because they wanted “alumni” to keep contributing. No idea was too outlandish to pitch to Aliza. A 36-hour improv marathon? Sure! ….oh, you’ve never done more than 10 minutes of stand-up but you want to do a one-hour one-man show? We’ll give you a Saturday night slot! I couldn’t have asked for a better, safer place to really figure my shit out, to “fail epically” a million times and still feel welcome back on the stage to do battle again. As I said, I couldn’t possibly name all the shows I was a part of, or all of the great people I performed with… There is just too much to remember.
As often happens when humans congregate regularly, bang. became more than just a theater for many of us. I agree that the whole “family” thing is a cliche’ but one thing you do need in a big anonymous city like LA is a central place for your creative self that also gives you some real human connections. A “home field” kind of place. So bang. wasn’t just about the shows & the comedy. Some of the longest-enduring friendships of my life were started there. We’ve attended weddings, and funerals together. Nearly every paying job I’ve had in the past decade has come from a bang. connection. Heck, I even (accidentally) made my first, and I’m pretty sure only, real “enemy” there… a painful, but very useful lesson. What I’m saying is, okay, I’ll avoid the word “family,” but I’m going to have to go ahead with the word “community,” because that is what it was, a very family-like community. There is just one problem with being the “best-kept comedy secret” in Los Angeles…. No one knows you exist.
Tonight’s last show was, fittingly, a Student Group Graduation night followed by an alumni jam. Nothing fancy, just bang doing what it always did: Improv for Improv’s sake. I’ll miss it. It would be lying to say otherwise, but I also know that it would be doing all of my improv training a disservice if I didn’t keep looking forward and saying “yes, and…” to whatever is going to come next. …because something always comes next.
The first week of ZODIAC THRILLERS was a blast. A Sell-out crowd got to see four great improv sets from four great teams… but in the end VIRGO won and will advance to the ‘Night of Champions’ on Aug. 28th. Pre-sales for next week’s show are already going strong, so guarantee your seat (and save yourself 2 bucks) by buying in advance online. Where? at the BANG WEBSITE of course.
In other news: Should have a couple more bookings for ‘spoken word’ shows around town by the end of the month.