Friday, December 2, 2011

Playing in the Sandbox

Ayla and friends at her party

After years of standing on street corners and asking innocent passers-by for suggestions ranging from "Give me a non-geographical location" to "What's a reason someone might be limping?" I recently got adopted by the Dixie Cups. I've never improvised in an estrogen powered team before, and to be honest, I wasn't all that sold on the idea at the start. For the most part, I tend to relate to men more easily than I do to women. (Might have something to do with my missing shopping and crafts genes. And with my penchant for foul language and inappropriate humor.) I worried we'd be mired in scenes about PMS, hair products, and how diets suck. But color me tickled pink that these wacky women invited me to become a D-Cup, too. (Insert boob joke here.)

Improvising with fellow funny gals has been liberating. Sure, we can do a good scene about bad hair, cramping, and binge-eating. But that's merely the tip of the femme-prov iceberg. At our most rehearsal alone, I played a Latin lover about to get a tongue piercing, a therapy patient with possibly deadly telekinetic powers, a singing dog, a Herpes angel, and a purely ambient character employed for the sole purpose of providing creepy mood through song. And that was just me. The other women each brought similarly diverse, random, and inventive characters to our little basement rehearsal stage.

So why are all female teams something of a rarity?

A great gender imbalance plays out as the norm in most improv circles. A troupe with six men and one or two women stands as the typical breakdown. The whys and wherefores behind this fact are a bit more complex. (Let's not even get started on why improvisers tend also to be Caucasian.)

The gender disparity has been discussed for as long as I've been involved with the form. Longer, I'm sure. You can read what smarter people than I have had to say about it here (from 1993!) and here. And if you women (and the men who love them) want to get really good and pissed off, read Christopher Hitchens's infamous and polarizing Vanity Fair article "Why Women Aren't Funny", in which he uses a Stanford University Medical School study to make such endearing conclusions as:
For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing. Apart from giving them a very different attitude to filth and embarrassment, it also imbues them with the kind of seriousness and solemnity at which men can only goggle...Is there anything so utterly lacking in humor as a mother discussing her new child? She is unboreable on the subject.
Breathe. And then nod vigorously as you read Alessandra Stanley's well-researched and... dare I say it?... witty Vanity Fair reply "Who Says Women Aren't Funny."

Playing with the Dixie Cups has opened my eyes to some startling truths about how I play.

Improv is all about getting out of your head. It's about asking your internal censor (you know that guy) to step aside, allowing unleashed spontaneity to have its way with you. In order to tap into the core marrow of your funny bone, you have to be bold enough to try anything, yet relaxed enough to surrender to the flow when your partner changes the tide. And then there's that nano-pause as the lights come up and the scene starts, when you and your partner somehow come to an ESP agreement as to who makes the first offer.

To make the first offer, to establish the scene's who/what/where, is universally smiled upon by the improv community. And it's such an important role to serve. After all, whatever your offer, your partner (in the spirit of "yes and") has no choice but to go along with whatever you say. When improvising with the Cups, there's a sense of calm. Someone will bring it, or (more likely) you'll all find it together. Sure, scenes sometimes start with a bang. But sometimes they start from a place of calm, of quiet stasis. And those scenes have an equal chance of finding the funny.

When playing with the boys, though, it's different. As a female player, I find that if I don't pounce on that first moment, I'll usually have to yes-and to being someone's girlfriend, mother, prostitute, or waitress. These aren't necessarily bad roles- but they ain't no Herpes angel, telekinetic therapy patient, nor choral ambient. So I find myself doing one of two things to avoid such a fate. Either I cleverly twist the scene so I'm not the girlfriend's mother the prostitute waitress, usually by playing as though I'm one of the guys eagerly awaiting the female character in question- or I come on stage and make sure to make the initiating offer before anyone else has a chance. It can be fun, of course. But in a way it feels like improvising with my dukes up. I either have to passively accept the typical female roles, cleverly twist my way out of them, or come in aggressively and assert my own will. Whichever way I choose, it affects my playing.

I want to be clear that I'm not in any way saying that I hate men or don't like improvising with them. I love men! They're team players, they're generous improvisers, and you bet your sweet bippy they're incredibly funny. It's just that playing in the Girls Only sandbox has illustrated for me how differently women play on their own than we do with men. In point of fact, I count myself as incredibly lucky. I get to play in the See You Thursday sandbox with gals and guys (shameless plug: you should come see us every other Friday at the Wild Goose)... and let's be honest; I tell at least as many boob and fart jokes as the next guy. I just feel really fortunate I have the rare opportunity to play in the sandbox with my sister Cups, where I can put my dukes down and just enjoy pure play. Sure as heck beats begging for suggestions from some dude waiting for the bus.

Want more Danielle? Go see her personal blog here!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hot Off The Press! An October Dixie CUPdate!

Well hello there! Fancy meeting you here. The Dixie Cups are on fire! We just wrapped up an amazing performance for CCAD on October 7th. We're also planning performances later this month, November, and December. Book us!! We'd love to perform for your group or even do some improv workshops!

We'd also like to welcome 2 hot, new Cups!

Danielle Mari
Vicki Stewart

(Bios and headshots to come!)

These ladies are amazingly funny!

Stay tuned for news, photos, and more Cup performances!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Columbus Unscripted: Columbus' First-Ever Improv Festival

I'm sure most of you already know that I'm helping organize an improv festival called Columbus Unscripted. I'm pretty excited for our troupe. This is a big undertaking and we're all pitching in to help make it a great time.  I have been performing and studying improv for about 10 years. I've performed to crowds of 1 and 100. Hopefully, this year will be the biggest crowd yet. Through a generous grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, we're providing FREE workshops for children and adults. I'm a firm believer that ANYONE can improvise. Even if you don't want to be a performer, I guarantee it will help you improve public speaking. I'm no longer nervous to give presentations at work! I'm attaching a schedule of the weekend's events. Contact me if you want to learn more. I hope to see you there!
Saturday August 20, 2011
9:00am - 11:30am
Children’s and Adult’s Basic Improv Workshops (No previous improv experience is necessary for these workshops)
9:00am - 10:30am
Workshop A: Grades 3-5 Instructor Amanda Aring (No fee, limit 15 participants)
Workshop B: Grades 6-8 Instructor Robin Starr (No fee, limit 15 participants)
Workshop C: Grades 9-12 Instructor Barbara Allen (No fee, limit 15 participants)
Adult Basic Workshop Ages 18+ Instructor Bill Sabo (No fee, limit 18 participants,persons who complete this workshop are eligible to take Megan Grano’s workshops)

10:45am - 11:30am
Skills Showcase Grades 3-12 (Students will show learned skills in a short performance on the Whetstone Community Center Stage.)
Location: Whetstone Community Center
3923 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43214
5:00pm - 7:30pm
Improv Workshop I, with Megan Grano
(Participants must have basic knowledge of scenic improv and have taken basic level improv classes to
enroll in this series of workshops)
Cost is $50 per workshop or $95 for both workshops, limited to 18 participants
8:00pm - 10:00pm
“Messing With A Friend” Susan Messing performs her signature show* with her very
special friend Megan Grano.**
“See You Thursday”*** will open for “Messing With A Friend”
Tickets for the show are general admission and are $15.00 and can be purchased online, at the door or
from any member of “See You Thursday”
Please note, there is an additional surcharge for online purchase. If the show is sold out you will be
notified immediately and you will receive a full refund.Seating is limited. You may reserve you ticket by purchasing online or by sending check or money order made payable to:
Pull The String Productions, Inc.
8203 Snowhill Ct.
Westerville, OH 4308
Location: The Roth-Ressler Theatre
The Jewish Community Center Greater Columbus Ohio
1125 College Ave.
Columbus, OH 43209
*”Messing With A Friend” is a production of The Annoyance Theatre in Chicago and can be seen there
every Thursday night.
** Megan Grano performs weekly at io West, and Second City, Hollywood.
*** “See You Thursday” performs two Fridays per Month at the Wild Goose Creative in Columbus.
Sunday August 21, 2011
1:00pm - 3:30pm
Improv Workshop II. with Megan Grano.
(Participants must have basic knowledge of scenic improv and have taken basic level improv classes to
enroll in this series of workshops). Cost is $50 per workshop or $95 for both workshops, limited to 18 participants.
Location: Community Capital Development Corporation
900 Michigan St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215
5:00pm - 7:00pm Troupe Reception
The reception is free but will be ticketed and reservations must be made online or by personal invitation.
Ticket quantities are limited.
7:00pm - 11:00PM Local and Regional Improv Showcase.
Local troupes will perform throughout the evening and include:
“Angry Ladies of Improv” All female guest troupe from Cleveland Ohio
“Dixie Cups” All female troupe from Columbus Ohio
“Dutch Company” Columbus Ohio
“Fishbowl” Columbus Ohio
“Not From Concentrate” Columbus Ohio
“Parkprov” Columbus Ohio
“PTSP Level I Improv Class (premier performance) Columbus Ohio
(As of 7/23/2011, there are a few spots remaining for the showcase. There is a $20 per troupe fee to
participate. This fee includes the pre-show reception and two tickets to the showcase)
Tickets for the showcase are general admission and are $5.00 they can be purchased online, at the door
or from any member of “See You Thursday”. Seating is limited. You may reserve you ticket by
purchasing online or by sending check or money order made payable to:
Pull The String Productions, Inc.
8203 Snowhill Ct.
Westerville, OH 43081
If the show is sold out you will be notified immediately and you will receive a full refund.
Location: The Wild Goose Creative
2491 Summit St.
Columbus, OH 43202
For further information or to make reservations please contact Pull The String Productions, Inc. at:
Phone: 614-846-0205
Web site: www.columbusunscripted.comThe events of the Columbus Unscripted weekend are made possible in part by a generous grant from the
Greater Columbus Arts Council. Funded by the Franklin County Commissioners.
Also ,by and in partnership with Columbus Parks and Recreation, Whetstone Community center.
And by The Community Capital Development Corporation

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hot Off the Press! -A Dixie CUPdate

I just called our "Update" a "cUPdate." Awww. We are running full steam ahead! This summer is going to be FANTASTIC! Here is what's happening in Cupworld:

Friday, June 24 (Tomorrow): We'll be opening for See You Thursday @ The Wild Goose! 2491 Summit St. CBus, OH. Show time is 8pm. $5 at the door. We've invited a Special Guest Cup to join us! Miss Erin Donovan, from the fabulous troupe Not From Concentrate, will be playing with us. Come check it out.

Saturday, August 20th: A Taste of Improv!  Come out and enjoy Columbus' first all-improv festival! We'll be featuring acclaimed improvisers Susan Messing and Megan Grano, as well as showcasing Columbus' own improv troupes. More details to come. Please visit for up to date information.

And finally, we've got MERCHANDISE!!! Check out our store at Cafe Press!

Buy shirt...or a thong!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

short attention span romance

My Freshman year of college is mostly a blur. However, I do remember sneaking a duffel bag of liquor up to my room, trying to communicate with a very dead Jim Morrison, playing spades hours at a time, and of course going to class!
During the winter quarter, I was trying to think of creative careers I could get into with an English degree. I thought the romance novel business might be worth looking into. To practice my "craft", I would take requests from the girls on my floor. They'd give me the name and description of their perfect man, celebrity, or college beau, and I'd create a steamy love story just for them. Nothing fancy. I usually got down to the nuts and bolts of the story (pun intended) within 2 lines. I quickly became the most appreciated person in my dorm.

So, if you've got a request, I'll dust off my smut reference materials just for you.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You can't make this up!

I was at World Market on Saturday looking for a birthday gift for my daughter (which means looking for stuff I want). I found myself in the spice isle and there was an old guy with his 10 year old-ish daughter. The daughter was kneeling in the isle pawing among the spice options, and the old guy was doing a monologue in the style of Tom Waites. He was a scruffy little 50 something year old guy - I can say that because I could be described the same way - and he was riffing on nutmeg and sugar. In a monotone he says,"Don't pick up that colored sugar. Your mom doesn't need any more sugar of any color, or any encouragement. And she don't eat colored sugar, or raw sugar, or honey, or any of that kind of stuff. And don't look at the nutmeg! God, you start by smelling nutmeg, and then the next thing you know you've bitten in to it and your hallucinating and running around spitting on the walls and taking your clothes off in the kitchen. God, no. We don't want that on Mothers Day". Remember, this was to the 10 year old girl. And possibly for my benefit? I like to think so, anyway. Best show I've seen this week. I saw them later and he was still talking...

the house of wax

Every experience I have in a spa or nail/waxing establishment is odd. There was the time about 4 years ago when I went in for an eyebrow wax and came out crying. My skin was too dry. I didn't use the right moisturizer for day AND night. I didn't drink enough water... You get the idea. I tend to get aestheticians who are really passionate about skin. Last year, I went in for a quick lunchtime wax and my Vietnamese waxer looked at me and said "You need it!" Thanks. I know. That's why I'm here.

I guess I felt up to a little punishment today when I went on another lunchtime run. I said I just needed and eyebrow wax. She looked me over and responded, "Hmmm. Are you sure you don't want lip too?" I said, "ok that's fine do the lip too." After she did my brows and lip she said, Um, you sure you no want cheeks?"

Good grief.