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“Ask Jill” Archives for 2014

Would you like to read the 2014 archives of all of the “Ask Jill” answers from the HUGE Newsletter? Here they are!

JANUARY

Sean D asks, “What’s your favorite animal and why? Also, any tips for duo performance?”
1) Numbat because OMG 2) Take some or all of the MICHAEL KEATON WORKSHOPS Mondays Feb 3, 10, 17, 24   - Hannah Wydeven and Butch Roy will guide you through some absolute essentials that will make you a strong duo.

Hannah W asks, “Hey Jill, what exercises do you recommend to get an improviser to explore their silliest side?”
Take everyone to a private karaoke room and just sing like crazy with each other, sing songs that you don’t know at a way-too-fast tempo. Have a snowball fight or a tickle fight or a paper airplane attack. Make sugar cookies together. Borrow some kid’s Duplo blocks to play with. Go ice skating and fall down a lot. These aren’t really improv exercises, but they trick people who’ve gotten to serious about improv into being human animals again. A classroom exercise to do is to make everyone do the worst possible improv scenes in the world on purpose.

Alex C asks, “How important is having fun on stage? Can you go too far, or is it ok as long as the audience enjoys it?”
I am scared to answer this question because improv bullies use the phrase, “C’mon, I was just having fun!” as a way to rationalize steamrolling their partners, ignoring offers, rejecting the director’s notes and the team’s goals; or being sexist, racist or generally awful. But assuming we are not using the phrase “having fun” in that sense, there is a question to ask as a litmus test: Are “we” having fun, or are “you” having fun? There’s the rub. This is about “us” and us includes everyone in the room, on and off stage. Make it fun for all of us and no one will ever really be mad.

Jen K asks,  “How do you deal with body image or any pressures to appear a certain way as a performer?”
Unlike movies or TV, in improv anyone can play any part no matter what they look like – that’s one of the most beautiful things about it. As a result, if anyone ever pressures you to appear a certain way as a performer, you can ignore them completely because they don’t get it. (Unless we’re talking about a troupe dress code. I’m a big fan of improvisors that put on clean and similar clothing to create an impression of ensemble and professionalism.) I read a great tweet the night of the Golden Globes. The actress Gabourey Sidibe wrote: “To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK”. Improv is my dream job, and although I don’t have a private jet or even a car, I for sure am only #JK crying about anything anyone has to say about my body.

Kelvin H asks, “How would you go about communicating establishing a location that isn’t modern day? Like, say you were initiating a scene that was set in 1957, but the whole concept of ‘the past’ wasn’t immediately obvious from the suggestion or structure. How would you make sure it was a scene set in 1957 and not about some crazy guy who uses old-fashioned stuff, is a technophone, has Alzheimer’s, etc?”
The way I’ve seen the improv troupe Splendid Things handle it is that the three of them are incredible improvisors well-versed in genre and history, who pay acute attention to their partners’ every move and play the genre proposed because they’re sensitive enough to detect it. Clues will be in the language, word choice, posture and references. Barring THAT, I would say propose it as a goal with your team. “Hey, I’ve noticed all our scenes are modern-day, could we get a little flexible with that?”

Christian U asks, “How do you balance the ‘rules’ of improv with trying to be in the moment and spontaneous? I know it’s a basic question but it’s my biggest hurdle. The reality is that you CAN make a ‘mistake’ in improv and not everything can be spun into gold. I’ve watched those mistakes completely derail sets before.”  
Walt Whitman said, “Be curious, not judgmental.” It’s hard for people in various professions to wrap their heads around how improv works; if they spend all day making something run perfectly and there’s a specific outcome expected and desired, it is really hard to convince them there’s an entirely separate paradigm under which to operate. The truth about improv is this: if there was something specific we needed to have happen we would write a script. All the best scripts, particularly in comedy, are being written by improvisors right now. We are more than capable of writing scripts if that’s what the situation called for. But we’re not writing scripts because we’ve decided something else is important. The “rules” of improv are a series of derived ideas that make for some lovely moments, but a moth can upstage you if it finds its way in front of the lights, no matter how many rules of improv you are nailing. e.e. cummings wrote: “since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you.”  The reason the sets you are referring to derailed is because the participants lost faith or hope or courage and didn’t play the hand they’d dealt themselves like the winner it could be. It’s already gold, no spinning needed.

I can tell you these words but I don’t know how to tell them to your heart and not your head.  I can only hope that maybe someday you get off a train at the wrong stop and there’s no train back for hours and instead of being upset you wander through the village and discover a small shop where they make a sweet candy in a small shop \more delicious than you’ve ever had, and the old man behind the counter tells you a story like you’ve never heard before, and there just happens to be a small string band playing in the gazebo in the square where people are dancing badly but with passion; and then when you finally get on the train it turns out they were fine without you all day long at your original destination.

FEBRUARY

This month I chose to do a JILL ASKS column instead of an ASK JILL column. Here are just some of the great answers:

What is the best way to get to sleep after a show when your brain is thinking improv improv improv! but your body is thinking s-l-e-e-p?
Casey H. recommended: “Concentrate on your breathing. Lay on your left and count 8 deep breathes, repeat on the right. Continue this pattern but adding 8 more breathes on each side until you fall asleep.” Several people recommended meditation, reading or writing. One person recommended listening to the sound of the Star Trek Enterprise engine on idle (*cough cough* Maria).

When you’re intimidated by the size of a task before you, what do you do to get started?
Butch R. said, “I usually start with ‘Oh yeah?!? We’ll see about that.’” And that’s why he’s the HUGE President. Several people recommended breaking it into smaller tasks. Amanda U. said, “I sit down with a notebook and pen and write down every single thing that occurs to me that will need to happen to complete the huge task. I give my brain time to make connections and inevitably new things come up I haven’t thought of yet. After that, if it’s relevant, you can divide up the tasks into categories on different lists. I have been known to make myself a cover sheet that says ‘don’t panic.’ After I get it all out of my brain and into paper, I can give myself permission to take it one step at a time because I’m no longer worried about forgetting something important.” Pat S. quoted, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time?”

Teachers across the country notice that the students who hang out together are the ones who stick with improv. How can I as an improv teacher make sure my students socialize with each other even though I am too introverted and sleepy to go out with them?
Erin S. said, “HUGE classes have a nice advantage since students can see shows for free — so if going out somewhere is prohibitive (cost, too late for week night classes, etc.), you could recommend that students attend the same show and then chat about it afterwards — sort of like a book club, but with an improv show (or showsssss).” This is why Ben G. nominated Erin for “Social Chair” in his answer. Danny S. said, “Up front, on the first day, explain that improv works better if you know and trust your scene partners. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to get to know each other outside of class.”  Blake W. added: “Every improv teacher I’ve ever had has stressed the importance of hanging out outside of class, yet only one or two of those teachers ever actually did that with us. The best way to get students of any age and discipline to do something is to model that behavior, even if doing so makes you a little uncomfortable. And I say all of this as a very introverted (and often sleepy) person.”

What’s a good dinner to pack for long improv days that doesn’t need refrigeration?
Bryan P. and Joden K. suggest peanut butter sandwiches. Bryan says: “Peanut butter is magical. Bring that with things like bread, graham crackers, bananas, whatever and just snack all day. The protein will help keep you going too.”  Maria B suggests, “Meat sticks.”

MARCH

This month HUGE Executive Producer and veteran improvisor Butch Roy answered questions:

Casey asked : How do you personally continue to grow and improve in improv?
Keep looking for that feeling of fear and discomfort, which keeps me looking for people that push me.

Avoid the comfortable and familiar. Keep asking yourself the questions that make you uneasy instead of telling yourself that everything is great

It all demands a high degree of honesty — to keep honestly asking yourself if you’re still challenging yourself or if you’ve found something you’re good at and are comfortable with, if you’ve found people willing to push you or just someone that complements your style and you get laughs together, if you really did your best work or if you just got big laughs. It’s hard. And, as humans, we tell ourselves all kinds of things to avoid facing those questions.

I saw a long thread on Facebook about how to handle criticism and the overwhelming majority of the replies focused on the person giving the negative feedback or the situation in which it was given — all of which feels like avoiding the question we’re all scared of, which is “Was the person that said we weren’t good at something RIGHT?” I would say the best place to start would be to grapple with the possibility that they were right and we’re not as good as we think at what we’re doing. To accept, in advance, that we might not be good enough . . . yet.  It’s not a process so much as a motivation to keep trying, to ask harder questions of ourselves than our critics will, which ultimately results in always having a higher standard to pursue.

MJ asked: Any advice for future Tech Savvy Improvisors?
Get in there and push buttons and twist knobs — find out what they do by taking risks instead of playing it safe. That’s the same way you have to learn improv but at least improvising on stage you know your tools. You have to know what the keys do in order to play music.

Jen asked: I’d like to know how to properly share your improv successes with fellow performers. For example, as we all audition for the same shows, some of us will get in and some won’t. Some will be asked to teach classes or perform in special shows. How do you approach sharing this news with fellow performers without ruffling feathers or making them feel inferior?
That’s a tough one for a couple reasons — mostly because I am rarely asked to be in shows, I usually make my own instead. Maybe that helps, because then your success is your own and you get used to looking at it in terms of something you’ve created instead of something you’ve taken from someone else (like a spot you both auditioned for).

All you can really do is know that you only control yourself — you can’t control if someone is going to feel bad for your success, why you might have success where others don’t or any number of other things.

Not only that but you have to practice keeping that in mind no matter which side of it you’re on — it’s just as crucial when someone else succeeds to know that you haven’t failed because of it and there’s no reason not to be happy for them.

Jeremiah asked : Exactly what color IS that?
Nuclear Red by Special Effects

Mirabeau asked: Just how awesome are mohawks?
Pretty fun but they require a lot of upkeep, which can be a hassle unless you get good at shaving your own head or know someone really patient and willing to do it for you every couple weeks.

Alex asked : This is a quote from you from a video of the first HUGE Fundraiser: “We really want to find a home for all the disparate improv elements in the cities that want to have a common stage and really represent the whole spectrum of what improv can do on stage . . .” – What did you mean by “disparate” and do you think that HUGE represents this spectrum now, 3 years in?
Just that the only thing they need to have in common for us to be their home is that they are improvised. We wanted to be really clear that it wasn’t just our style or any one style that would be welcome and I think it was also really important to know that not everyone will want to be on one stage and might want to build their own thing, and that’s awesome. I think we really do represent that spectrum as best we can, still. I feel it’s fair to say that HUGE has been consistent with that goal all along. We might lean toward genre here or some other style there but there is no favorite style or kind of show that will get you on the stage at HUGE.

I say “as best we can” because it would be foolish to say that it’s even possible for us to represent the whole spectrum at any given time. We are only a place, in the end. And only one place. We can only put up a small fraction of the ideas that come in the door and for all the shows on our stage there are so many more that should still be on a stage AND even more beyond those that don’t come in our door at all.

I think one thing that I might not say enough that I meant in that quote is that it’s incredibly important to me to support improv theater, not just improv comedy. When I say “what improv can do,” I mean that it’s so much more than just funny and we should never stop pursuing the rest of the possibilities. Improv can be beautiful and touching, smart and thought-provoking and everything that we expect from other forms of theater. It just happens to be so funny that we have to keep reminding ourselves about the rest.

APRIL

This month HUGE Director of Education Jill Bernard answered questions:

Blake W asks “When you are teaching a short, one time workshop with a group of students you might never have again, how do you choose which few bits of your vast improv wisdom to share with them?”
Great question, Blake! I ask them what they are working on, how well they know each other, what prompted this workshop request, and what they envision the ideal feedback after the workshop will be. There are usually a couple hints in there that let me know what direction to head.

David L asks, “As a performer on stage, what is the most effective way of dealing with a heckler?”
I am very fortunate that the places I perform most often, HUGE and ComedySportz, are very heckler-light. It almost never happens. Ideally, someone from the theater’s house staff will deal with a heckler. If by circumstance it falls to the performers, it is best if someone not in the scene slips offstage and speaks to the heckler as privately as possible. I personally use the improv skill of low status, I whisper to the heckler, “I really need your help, we’re trying to have an improv show but your yelling is very disruptive, can you keep quiet? Thank you so much.” Other people have different approaches that work for them. If the heckler is belligerent beyond that, I take them out of the room and ask them to leave the theater, issuing a refund because I think issuing refunds is a smooth move for anyone who finds out our show is not what they expected. If it has to be dealt with from the stage because there is no one in the cast to slip off discretely, there are numerous ways to handle it, and it depends on having a good read of what this particular heckler is demanding. Do they just need a moment of attention and then we can move on? Do they think they’re helping (e.g. they misunderstood what yelling suggestions is) and it would be best to explain to them that they are not helping? Are they so awful that only appealing to their friends seated nearby to remove them would help? It is all your best judgement in the moment.

Joden K asks, “Are oil changes really necessary every 3,000 miles?”
Yo, brother, obey the sticker.

MAY

Adam asks “Why do people laugh?”
There’s a lot of great theory on this, from Plato, Aristotle, Bergson, Freud, Hobbes, all the big names. Local improv legend Stevie Ray discusses this question in his book, What We Laugh at and Why: Stevie Ray’s Medium Sized Book of Comedy.  He has some excerpts here: www.stevierays.org/bookofcomedy_excerpts.html.  He lists Laughter of the Unexpected, Laughter of Recognition, Laughter of Superiority, Laughter of Delight as the types of laughter you’re likely to encounter.  People also laugh as a signal to play, and they laugh when tension is broken. You can delve even further than that, the University of Minnesota has a wonderful class called “Comedy Text and Theory” that was a great source of insight for me and other local comedians, most notably the Scrimshaw Brothers.

Max asks, “Who am I?”
Well, this destroys the relative anonymity of “Ask Jill”, but you’re Max Maliga, one of the four members of Positive TERI who lights up the stage every Saturday night at 10:30pm, $5!  If you look around and you see Bradley, Dustin and Matt, you’re the other one.

Jeremiah asks, “Can you suggest some comedy/improv podcasts or YouTube channels you enjoy?”
I can’t think of any YouTube channels offhand, but I have some podcast recommendations. Nationally, a good listen is. A.D.D. with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley. I’ve recorded a podcast myself, here are the episodes.  Locally, two fun improv podcasts are The Mustache Rangers, who also have a live show at HUGE with even more adventures Fridays at 9:30; and Next At Bat with Matt McCloud and Philip Simondet, they interview improvisors and other guests, and then do some improv.

JUNE
Drew K asks, “What are the best post-improv hangout bars in town (both now and back in the day)?”
Oh man, I still miss The Poodle Club on East Lake Street. We’d all go sing karaoke and sometimes win drink tickets or breakfast tickets for our hilarious stylings. Eric Knobel was so young he had to hide between us. The Green Mill is always and forever an improv bar. What’s funny about it is I know that ComedySportz and the Brave New Workshop performers and students used to both hang out there before any of us really knew each other. How many nights must we have spent at adjacent tables never challenging each other to a sweet game of Arkanoid? Now The Herkimer (TCIF party sponsor) and Moto-I (another TCIF party sponsor) are very popular, as is the VFW.

Michael K asks, “How do you deal with waiting to hear back from a festival? Is there an appropriate amount of time to wait after the ‘we’ll let you know’ date, before enquiring?”
Take a quick peek at their homepage, Facebook and Twitter to make sure no delays have been announced, then go for it. A politely worded email is completely warranted.

Alex C asks, “Do you have any ‘big ideas’ in regards to HUGE that were either too expensive, didn’t have support, or that you never even bothered to share that still excite you?”
I dug into the first note we wrote when we only just met Molly Chase who thought she was just going to help us write a Strategic Plan about this time in 2011 – but then she fell in love with HUGE and stayed. Highlights of that list that never came to fruition are:

  • “Start having universal auditions, both for HUGE but also for improvisers looking to cast/be cast” – we gave it a shot, maybe we’ll bring it back some day.
  • “College outreach” – boy, the colleges are just really far away and it’s hard for them to get here.
  • My favorite – “Rooftop space with grass for outdoor meetings/rehearsals” – structurally impossible, but still sounds really awesome.

Jeremiah Z asks “What other art form is most similar to long-form improv? My metaphors always fall flat.”
Jazz. Gotta be jazz.

JULY
Alex asks, “How Will Positive TERI End?!”
The improv groups that you really love never end. They’re a piece of the improv that you do til you die.

Jeff asks, “Do you find it more valuable to improvise with a wide variety of people in different transient groups, or to concentrate on working long-term with a few groups?”
EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME! Which is to say, I like at least one of each.

Joanna asks, “How do you surrender control (in a scene, a group, a relationship)?”
I do not know, but I just thought of six pithy pieces of advice on the subject. Improvise faster than your brain can fix what is not broken. Love your partner’s choice harder than you can judge it. Honor an idea that is not your own. Breathe instead of boss. Put yourself deliberately off-balance. Chase joy rather than perfection.

Breanna asks, “Do you have any advice for a bunch of new improvisors feeling lost when they practice outside of a class?”
Hire a coach! There’s a list at http://giveusnotes.com. Alternately you can just ask someone you admire. Barring that, it is fun to work through a book together, like Improvising Better (Carrane/Allen) or the Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual (Walsh/Roberts/Besser) or The Viewpoints Book (Bogart/Landau) — depending on what kind of work you would like to do. If you are self-coaching, it is more important to focus on what you like about each other’s work. Criticizing each other teaches you to play in judgement, which is a difficult mindset from which to play.

Daniel asks, “You ever think about getting a pet? You seem to like animals a lot.”
Sometimes the neighbor cat comes over to inspect me. His Yelp review is scathing.

SEPTEMBER
Alex asks, “What’s the worst landlord situation you’ve had to deal with? How did you handle it?”
One time the sink was leaking, but I had both a live-in boyfriend and an extra cat the landlord didn’t know about. So the landlord came and fixed the sink, meanwhile the boyfriend and the cat spent the whole time wrapped up together in a blanket like a burrito. A large squirming blanket burrito.

Anonymous asks: “I find myself, and dear lord I hope others, having this internal struggle constantly: my dear friends are in amazing shows and I sit there fighting with myself, going back and forth between feeling super happy for them and then feeling incredibly jealous that I am NOT in those shows. How do I leave the jealousy behind and truly appreciate the amazing work my friends are doing? And how come I don’t get asked to be in the things???”
You don’t get asked to be in things because you haven’t been in the exact right place when someone else thought of a great idea you’d be perfect for, or your brief audition did not contain the incredibly specific elements the director was looking for; it’s not personal, it’s very slim odds. I know how you feel, I was not asked to be in ANY of the hot improv groups of the early ’90s; Vortex, Jump Up And Run, True North, Bad Mamma Jammas, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. I do remember feeling pretty pouty about it. By the time I was finally asked to be in The Impossibles it felt, well, impossible. I have three strategies to offer, one of which may resonate for you: 1) What I learned from auditioning for commercials is that there are a lot of jobs I would be fine for that someone else would be equally fine for. Really it’s nothing against me, I am nearly identical in talent and likability to lots of other people — when set against each other, the odds will be in their favor at least some of the time. 2) According to Deepak Chopra, at the atomic level we are all composed of the same parts. We are all the same thing. So your success is my success and your failures are my failures. I can be as happy or sad for you as if you were myself, we’re one thing. 3) Alternately, you can check your ego and take it as a wake-up call. The message you give yourself should be “Oh #$%!, I better up my game.” That means create a project that is at least as interesting to you as the projects you are not in, and build your skills to be even more of a powerhouse than you are. If you are not a creator, it means find a teammate who is a creator who can make a project for you. Soon you will be so busy that you would not have had time to be in that other cool project anyway.

Heather asks, “Say I’m moving to another part of the country, perhaps even a part of the country with a weak, small, or devoid of life improv community, what one skill/word of wisdom/quirk/piece of advice/other part of the Minneapolis improv community should I bring with me?”
First of all, noooooooooooooooo don’t goooooooooo!!! Second of all, you don’t need to consciously bring anything, we buried it in you. We wormed it into your heart and your smile, and your positive outlook. We found a way to be part who you are for the rest of your life. Whenever you need us, just make yourself a hot dish and we’ll be there. If that’s too squishy an answer, I leave you with a bit of wisdom from Dudley Riggs, the founding father of Minneapolis improv: “When I left New York fifty years ago, my agent said, ‘If you’re not in New York, you don’t count.’ I never agreed with that because what counts is the work.”

OCTOBER
Sarah asks, “I am going to school and improv has naturally taken a back seat in my priorities. Any advice on how to keep from rusting over?”
Keep looking for the connections. What are you learning in school that is really a metaphor for improv? In a more hands-on way, I have a list of exercises you can do by yourself. They’re intended for anyone but they’d be fun for improvisors keeping their hand in the game too: http://www.hugetheater.com/2014/some-improv-exercises-to-do-by-your-onlies-to-make-a-more-creative-life/

Find a once-a-week chance to hit up Space Jam or the Wednesday Drop In Class, (5-7PM, $10) at HUGE.  Alternately you can set up a lunchtime improv get-together like the “Lunchprov” Blake Wanger founded — you can invite your classmates to do some simple improv exercises over a lunch break and everyone will have fun.

Jane asks, “Improv philosophies tend to mirror life philosophies, in my experience. How do you advise improvising with people who do not share your life/world view?”
Here is an essay by Andrew W.K. that explains it much better than I can: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2014/08/ask_andrew_wk_right_wing_dad.php

Sean D asks, “Is there anything — other than improv itself — that you’d specifically like to see more improvisers studying or learning about?”
I wish more improvisors knew theater arts: how to find their light, how to speak loud enough to be heard, how to make a stage picture that looks as beautiful as a painting. It is one of the things that holds improv back from being accepted as theater. It doesn’t always look or sound as good as theater. Few improv groups — The Bearded Men being a notable exception — understand the power of theater as art.

Mary K asks, “What do you do when you have a ‘I just went over the line’ moment in a scene?”
There are lots of strategies, of course. If it is really terrible, I’ve stepped out of the scene and apologized at that moment, which has gotten a laugh. I have also done an “apology” scene where I play a character appalled what just happened. But the best option in my opinion is to accept that “over the line” is a thing that can happen, and I play it through. I support my own choice as if it were an offer someone else had made, even though I’ve skeeved myself out, and I make a mental note not to go there again.

NOVEMBER
Q: Jonathan asked: “How does one find the balance between asserting one’s needs and character in a scene without plowing through others’ gifts? I can’t seem to find that balance yet, and I’m often feeling lost as to what I ‘should’ be doing.”
A: I wish I could teach you an exercise from The Physical Comedy Handbook by Davis Rider Robinson. You need a partner. You throw them a sound and motion. They take it in, really take it in, absorb it and are impacted. Then they throw back their reaction. You take it in, then send back your reaction. It is important not to skip either of those steps 1) take in 2) respond. It is paying attention to both of those steps that shows you the balance you seek. Then of course to take it from the tidy metaphor of an exercise into actual practice, as Matthew asks about below…

Q: Matthew asked: “What are some of the more effective ways you have bridged the gap between understanding techniques intellectually and implementing them into your improvisationals? (Or one – maybe “some” is being greedy)”
A: Psychological change takes six months, and improv adjustments often are psychological. You’ve just got to wait it out. The only shortcut I know is to get a bunch of improv nerds to workshop the ideas with you.

Q: Al asked: “How To Improvise With Anyone! – What clarity can you condense for less experienced improvisers to focus and accelerate our ability to play well with a wider range of players?”
A: There’s a little bit of the answer in my answer to Jonathan above, but the real key is to love everything your partner is offering you and treat it as if it is exactly right. Every move they make is the absolute correct answer and they are a genius. Let everything they do be incredibly important. Whatever you think it means, it means; whatever it looks like it is, it is. Be curious and assumptive and suspicious and invested.

Q: Alex asked: “Lions: scary?”
A: So scary.

DECEMBER
Q: Sean asks “Playing at the top of your intelligence” is a concept I’ve encountered several times in improv training, but it seems like different teachers have different interpretations of what that means. What’s your take?”
A: It does have different interpretations! All of them have utility. Here are two: 1) Your brain tries to protect you from the unknown, and that gets in the way of doing your best improv. One of the ways your brain tries to protect you is by making the character choice to not know things. One of our favorite old scenes featured one improvisor as a carrier pigeon. The pigeon said, “I have a letter for you!” The other improvisor said, “Why don’t you read it to me?”  And the pigeon said, “I can’t read,” and they both giggled because the scene was just stuck there. One useful version of “Play to the top of your intelligence” is just to go ahead and know what the letter says and read it. Know how to crack a safe and fly a space shuttle. 2) A second really useful application of the idea is to do intelligent work, create sophisticated pieces that are worth watching.

Q: Alex asks “Have you seen Bob Odenkirk’s recent opinions on sketch and improv comedy? He says that young people should get out while they can as both forms are about to collapse, making way for the now burgeoning storytelling scene. Do you feel the same or different and why? WHATS HAPPENING I AM SCARED?!”
A: The quote is, ““I honestly would tell anyone young to start looking at stories and learning story, because I think that’s the next step after people go, ‘Okay, I’ve had enough of that improvisation, I’ve had enough of those short comedy bits. Tell me a story, tell me a more complex story, something that lasts and maybe has a little more meaning to it.’”  Which, fortunately, is what the best improv does. The best improv is very rich with meaning, so we have nothing to fear from the improv comedy discipline being any more unstable than it inherently is.

Q: Tane asks “I got this question from a foreign exchange student in theater class at a local college. He came to The Unscripted Minnesota Holiday show and after the performance asked me what I found to be one of the best questions of an improv comedy show ever: ‘What is the point?’ How would Jill answer a question like that?”
A: To take a step back, there is no point to anything.  There is no reason we’re alive, there is no reason hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen joined together to make a breathable atmosphere and no reason that first tetrapod climbed out of the sea. But it happened, and we somehow were each born and have survived despite the odds. Rather than succumb to the meaninglessness of existence, we find ways to entertain ourselves, like making music or adopting poodles or – in this case – creating theater. The further choice to create unscripted rather than scripted theater is a salute to the ephemeral and arbitrary nature of existence. We have chosen to create comedy with the same air we use to breathe because it is the most alive a theatrical production can be. We have so many entertainment options at this point in history, the significance of live theater in 2014 is that it’s live, we are sharing a moment of being truly alive. Also it is really funny. That’s a good side effect.

WORKSHOPS: Mayhem Workshops, January 11, 18, 25 3PM-6PM

Mayhem Workshops: January 11, 18, 25  3PM-6PM

Duos strongly encouraged to sign up together (but individuals are totally welcome)!

$40/workshop, or $100/all

Mayhem’s performance style is marked by the “anything-you-can-do” physicality that only an Crossfit trainer and an ex-skateboarder can bring to the stage.  They joyfully trap each other in corners that other improvisors would shy away from, and fearlessly push the limits. Learn how to play with intensity and curiosity through a series of three workshops, which will get you out of your comfort zone and give you a new set of tools for the stage.

January 11th: Characters In 3D

January 18th: Emotional Stakes & Personal Investment

January 25th: Maintaining Long Scenes

  Register HERE.

WORKSHOP: “Love The One You’re With” with From Justin To Kelly from New York

5pm-7pm | $20 Tuesday December 9th
“Love the one you’re with” taught by NYC improvisors Justin Peters and Kelly Buttermore of “From Justin to Kelly”
At HUGE Theater, 3037 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408

If most improv scenes were real life, most meetings with your boss would lead to your firing, the divorce rate would be 95%, and no one has ever, ever had a positive experience in a restaurant or retail store. But what if instead of choosing conflict, we chose love instead? Making a conscious choice to enjoy the company of and care deeply about your scene partner can be a much more interesting, rewarding and empowering choice that can only serve to enhance your scene and make it that much more fun to be in. We’ll run exercises to illustrate these points, and help improvisers focus on the things that bring them together, rather than those that drive them apart.

Read Justin and Kelly’s bios by clicking on their pictures here.

Spots are limited, register now by clicking here!

 

 

 

 

We’ll See This Thing Through – There Are Hundreds More Just Like Me and You.

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The numbers are in, most of us have gotten some sleep, we have sponsors to thank and winners to announce!

IronAudience2014

To say that this year’s Improvathon was amazing would be a crazy understatement

The group of delirious individuals you see above watched and took part in the entire 28 hours of improv this year – kept awake by coffee from Common Roots and we were even able to surprise/wake up our Iron Audience with a sundae bar donated by Haagen Dazs in the middle of the day!

THANK YOU to our sponsors!

CommonRoots HDShops LOGO


The results

This is what it’s all about – Give To the Max Day is THE fundraising day of the year for HUGE Theater since we made the (potentially risky) decision to give our supporters a break from constant fundraising and focus our efforts on our biggest event of the year – we reached out to members, friends, families, co-workers, audiences and everyone else we could reach and the response was genuinely overwhelming. We checked our math over and over again when we saw the numbers coming in and many tears were shed as HUGE not only exceeded our fundraising total from last year, we did it before GTMD had even officially begun and then went on to destroy our fundraising goal for this year!!!

The Numbers – $25,000 was our goal…

Our official GiveMN.org tally is $37,657.

HUGE won the 5am Golden Ticket – which was increased to $2,000 this year thanks to the generosity of the Bush Foundation and GiveMN!

Grand total with all online donations, Golden Ticket and door proceeds, our total comes to:

$44,965! 

Even more amazing, we had 776 gifts online, the 12th highest number of gifts overall among every group that participated in Give to the Max Day.   To be clear: HUGE is a tiny little tugboat among oceanliners participating in GTMD. This is astonishing, humbling and cause for much celebration.

Every single person who participated is part of this achievement – staff, photographers, techs, donors, cleaning volunteers, runners of errands, and ALL the performers – Thank you so much!


The Winners

We are also thrilled to announce that our top Iron Audience fundraiser was Breanna Cecile!

She brought in $1,044, and her fundraising page is #8 among 67.

Top five fundraising performing groups:

1st place:  The Away Team, which brought in $3,155.

2nd place :  Snack Time

3rd place:  Ladyfriend

4th place:  Horseface

5th place:  Community Ed!


In closing, another heartfelt thanks – if you know anything about this theater you probably know how much difference every single donation, no matter how big or small,  makes to this place.  If you know anything about me you know how important it is to try and thank people enough for all the help they give and let them know how much difference they make to this place and to me.

The numbers are the simplest way to measure the success of a day of fundraising but the impact of this single day cannot easily be described – I can tell you that there are lots of important days running the theater along the way.  Some incredibly fun days, which we try to share with as many people as we can. There are some hard days and some scary days, which I try not to share unless I have to.

And then there is a day like this year’s Give to the Max Day, which is difficult to share at all because words fail at the task and it feels like more love and joy than any one person can contain.  This past Thursday so clearly, vividly demonstrates to everyone how amazing this community is, the unbelievable things we can do and have fun doing them and – more than anything – why it is such an honor and a privilege that I get to spend my days in service of this place and all these people.

All the amazing people and performers did not choose to call HUGE their home because it is a special place – HUGE is a special place because these amazing people choose to make it their home.  And for that I will never stop thanking everyone and it will still never be enough.

Thank you for making this dream possible and keeping it going.

Butch Roy

- Executive Director of HUGE Theater and Humble Servant

WORKSHOP: Musical Improv with Madde Gibba

NOVEMBER 30th from NOON-2:30, $40 cash or check preferred
HUGE Theater 3037 Lyndale Ave S

Madde Gibba’s drop-in class was so insanely popular that she has agreed to teach another session.
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Please register here, do not delay!

WORKSHOP: Auditioning for Scripted Projects with Heather Meyer

DECEMBER 7 1-4PM, $45 cash or check preferred
HUGE Theater 3037 Lyndale Ave S

So you’re an improvisor! But what if you wanted to be in a play or a film? Do you know what is expected of you at an audition for a scripted show?

Improv is an excellent tool for performers, but auditioning for a play or film is a different process. This class demystifies auditioning for film and stage projects, and gives guidance and tips for before, during, after the audition and what to do when you get cast. You’ll get help finding a monologue that works for you and understand how to prepare yourself. You’ll also learn about the different types of auditions, behavior at audition, resumes & headshots, cold reading, national auditions, local auditions and how to leverage your improv skills to really shine in the audition, even if you’ve never done a scripted audition before! No need to prepare anything in advance of the first class.

Heather Meyer has been working in casting for the past 7 years for various theatres and production companies. She is currently the Casting and Development Manger at The National Theatre for Children. She sees over 800 auditions across the country every year.

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Please register HERE!

Riots Squads and Fire Hoses

Bradley recently emailed me with some concerns, presented politely, which led to a wide-ranging discussion that’s published here.  

Negative/constructive feedback, in some form or another, has been going on since the IAGG started – I did the scheduling, ran the website, paid for the hosting, worked the box office and hosted the show and gave out all the money at the end of the night – and what I’ve found along the way is that people don’t really trust altruism. 

They don’t understand when someone is willing to do a shitload of work just to give them something to be nice or because they believe in it. So they make some assumptions that there has to be something nefarious they aren’t being told and sometimes they make some petty, incorrect and hurtful accusations about someone who is working their ass off to try and do something for other people.

I should be used it by now and it shouldn’t bother me as much as it still does. But it does. I have been told that somebody must be making money off the IAGG or the improv festival or that I’m just doing it to help myself and my friends and screw everyone else, that there MUST be something else behind it. There isn’t.

And as much as the conversation I had with Bradley gives me hope that it’s getting better and maybe I’ve earned some measure of trust with my efforts – the message we got the next day from the Anonymous Contact Form is exactly the kind of thing that makes me want to give it up.

I would like to just put this in the “hate mail” pile and move on but I thought it was a good chance to show a contrast between this exchange I had with Bradley – which was productive while being honest about things that HUGE does that upset him and included great questions and suggestions – with one that is based on anger and assumptions and doesn’t do anything to help anyone make things better.  

It would be great if this exchange could be a good example going forward of how to approach things (even if you’re going to do it via the Anonymous Contact Form) and say something before you get to the point where you want to sit down and send something like this to HUGE about all the things we do wrong that you hate.

I have tried to limit my personal responses but my in-line replies are included below as several points seemed directed specifically to me.

Message sent 10/31 just after midnight:

I can’t believe that Mayhem is up again in their own show time. Duos I would rather see and who don’t get as many opportunities because one of their members isn’t on the Board of Directors: We Know Each Other, Polar Bear Centric, License to Krill, Ferrari McSpeedy, and the list could go on.

[ Butch’s Note:  this is already predicated on Mayhem being selected while others were not because of my position on the Board.  If there’s one positive thing I can say it is that I’m glad they just came out and said it instead of implying and hinting.

Second – None of the groups listed had proposed a show at the time we were programming November. Another area where HUGE can’t really be blamed for the actions of outside shows. If you want to see all those groups on our stage, send them angry emails telling them to propose shows.

Third – the wrong-est assumption made here is that any of these issues are this simple, as illustrated the conversation between Bradley and I in the previous post ]

Then there’s the slew of non-duo shows I’d rather see than a duo for 45 minutes, which I won’t go into – I’ll just say that this incredibly talented and creative community comes up with actual hundreds of great ideas, and you squash them with a duo that we’ve seen just a few months ago.

[ Butch’s Note:  This is like saying there are hundreds of shows that The Fringe Festival “squashes” in favor of only putting up the shows that enter the Fringe lottery.  We decided a duo would be good to put up between two larger-ensemble shows for contrast, actually. And we chose the duo that we had the strongest proposal from at the time ]

Honestly, Mayhem is not special

[ Butch’s note: That’s because you live in an awesome city full of awesome improv. I’m ok with being average in this town, that’s still better than most ]

and I’d rather see people that I can’t see in the hour right before them or on every Monday night. I am so sick of this theater and its management not caring about providing opportunities for the students it creates. It’s infuriating that Butch is such a loud proponent of people starting shows at other venues, and then blatantly poaches one of the best time slots for a duo we’ve seen recently. Mayhem, why don’t YOU go start another show at another venue and worry about only getting 4 audience members instead of poaching a time slot that you know will have attendance because of Family Dinner? Your management is so flagrantly socially irresponsible, it breaks my heart for Twin Cities improv. This theater does not belong to the city, to the improv community, or to its students – it belongs to a few selfish and often incompetent board members and the people they favor.

[ Butch’s Note:  I did that. That’s why there is a theater for you to complain about my management of.   

I not only did shows for 2 people when we opened, I did it in a building I spent my life savings leasing and built with my own hands so that everyone can have an improv theater – I also worked to create the 8pm time slot I’m accused of “poaching audience” from and the 9:30 showtime that was created so improvisers at ComedySportz wouldn’t have to choose between doing shows at CSZ or HUGE so we could be good neighbors and good members of this community ]

The answer to the issue at hand is this:

 

The Board of HUGE are improvisers

HUGE is built for improvisers as a place to perform

The means HUGE is also a place for the Board of HUGE to perform

 

I won’t apologize for it and it’s not going to change – we will continue to make the best, most impartial, decisions we know how about what to put on our stage. If you find that infuriating or it makes you sick, that’s unfortunate but I won’t pretend that we’re not going to program shows like Mayhem, Drum Machine or any others that include Board members.

We are going to put those shows up and we’re proud of them.

If you don’t believe that those decisions are impartial, nothing I say is going to matter – I will have to just stand by my thirteen years of hard work for this community and all the thought and consideration that was put into all those decisions along the way.

I can do that and sleep well at night – I wish you the same.

Bring on the Days of Wine & Roses…

This exchange took place via email on a recent afternoon between Bradley Machov and Butch Roy. It started as one thing, and expanded into a whole lot more. It’s presented much as it was written, with slight edits for public presentation.

 

Bradley:

I think you should seriously consider, every time you announce new show lineups, posting a paragraph or so description of why that show was selected–both for the run itself and for the timeslot chosen.

The August Happy Hour with the Board went a long way for me in elucidating the process of how shows are chosen, but for one thing, not everyone was at the happy hour. And as I’m sure you’ve noticed (based on questions asked at the happy hour, as well as that long blog post you published a few months back) you have a bit of a perception problem when it comes to lineups. I’m one of HUGE’s biggest fans and supporters, and even I’m sometimes baffled–and angry–by decisions made about shows. I think more upfront explanations would help dispel at least some of those negative feelings.

Really, the big issue is not about the shows themselves, but the people in the shows. HUGE makes such a big deal about it being “your theater” and a place for everyone. However, how many shows put up in 2014 had an audition process for that run? Zero, by my count. Granted, not every show needs auditions. Star Trek, for instance, would probably kill its momentum with brand new casts each year. But why doesn’t a show like Creature Feature and/or Survivors of the Undead Plague mix it up yearly? Or hold auditions to at least potentially mix it up? As it is, the only show that provides a consistent opportunity for “everyone” to be a part is Throwback Night. And while Throwback Night does a commendable job of getting some new faces on stage, it has also–for example–cast one of the board of directors for all three years running. (Again, a specific example of the larger point. That one thing alone does not justify this whole email.)

[In that last paragraph I had forgotten that Darjeeling Unscripted and The Improvisors held auditions. So the “Zero, by my count,” point isn’t completely valid, but 2 still isn’t that noteworthy. ~Bradley]

The more often you return the same cast/people to your stage, the less chances there are to discover new talent. Duh. But not only does that discourage said new talent, it also discourages anyone with a vested interest in seeing HUGE fulfill its mission: supporting the improv community in the Twin Cities. By definition, you’re only supporting the people you put on stage.

Granted, the community is way too big to give all deserving performers consistent stage time at HUGE. I totally get that you have to draw the line somewhere. But I wouldn’t be writing this email if I was the only one who felt this concern. I’ve talked with enough people about the issue of stage time (who gets it and who doesn’t) that it’s an issue possibly bubbling under the surface more than you realize. (Maybe you do fully realize it, but it’s then still an issue that you’re having trouble resolving.) I’m an advocate for finding more opportunities to hold auditions. But for now, an explanation of why the show was chosen for the run it got could at least be a step in fixing the problem.

Butch:

I think that is a fine idea, posting what exactly it is that got that show chosen for that time slot – might be a good, ongoing way to illustrate some of the thinking that goes into selecting shows

We really don’t have a terrific “announcement” process and that’s something that could really use some help as well, with this feature a part of it. Shows don’t really get announced when they are booked since we’re booking all over the calendar at all times but we could issue announcements along the way, yes.

To the second part, I do know and understand that it’s an issue, and it is something that we’ve tried to address – but a big part of the problem as I see it is that the perception around who gets into shows and how opportunities are counted is a bit off from the reality. By which I mean, the assumption that it’s something that HUGE neglected or failed to do.

Throwback Night may have been the only show we held auditions for but that accounts for 30% of the shows that HUGE produced in-house last year (given that the Throwgram shows are the same casts from Throwback night) which is much higher than zero, but I do get complaints that say the very same thing.  

Creature Feature held auditions last year as part of an effort to introduce auditions to the longer-standing shows and invite newer people to be part of them instead of just having them be something that happens every year that nobody knows how to get into. We didn’t hold auditions this year because that cast is still so new to doing that show that we wanted to push them further before changing it up.

HUGE produced: Creature Feature, Star Trek, Throwback Night, #hashtag, He/She/Them and Dr. Harold. That’s it.

Those are the six shows with casting under our control that we could hold auditions for, one of which we did hold auditions for and the people cast in that show were automatically the casts of the subsequent Throwgrams.

Survivors of the Undead Plague, Adventures of Tim, Troy and Damian, The Mess, The Improvisers, Family Dinner, Polar Bear Centric, Mayhem, Mustache Rangers, Speed Goat, Off Book, Yes Anderson, M4W, OMG, Positive TERI, This is Yay, Bearded Men, Secrets of the Twin Cities and Followers of Djibosh  (that’s all the rest of the weekend shows for the year 2014) are the eighteen shows came to us from outside with casting already done.

HUGE doesn’t produce those shows and can’t very well hold auditions for them.

[Touching on a legitimate legal issue that will be addressed further in a bit]

I think when people look at the big picture of what happened at HUGE for the year and opportunities that were given out, they often fail to count those shows as whole casts of improvisers that got an opportunity on our stage – it’s easy to choose to see “HUGE didn’t do anything to let us into those shows” but the reality is more like “HUGE did a lot of work to give all those shows an opportunity (in fact we took KaBaam!! (a HUGE show) off the calendar to give more opportunities to more shows) and those independently produced shows didn’t do anything to let you into them.”

Part of that problem is that the difference between “our shows” and “not our shows” is largely invisible. We want to give them all the same weight and stand behind them equally to our audiences; we don’t want to put our stamp on “our” shows and leave it off the others. When we first started I always jokingly used the tag line “This is a HUGE production” on our shows, but we quickly stopped because we never wanted there to be a “mainstage vs second-stage” feel to any of it, or make it seem like we were endorsing some shows but not others.

If the show is on our stage we put all the same weight and resources behind it, and calling out the difference felt like it took away from that; but it may have led to the confusion we’re having now as well.

And you are correct – almost none of those shows held auditions – but that isn’t HUGE’s failure, and I think we can help promote the general idea that people proposing shows should also hold auditions, and we’re happy to be the venue for those auditions any time we can.

But rather than people being upset at HUGE for what we could be doing, everyone should remember to ask their friends that produce shows the same question.

I know we’re never going to make everyone happy with the number of opportunities there are, because there are too many people and groups to fit into the schedule AND still give any of those shows enough of a run to call a fair amount of time to build any audience. But rather than seeing how few people we’re opening things up to, I see the open proposal process via our website submission form as a giant open door. And I’m proud of the fact that whole casts of improvisers from the community are getting chances – not just to come be part of something we create and tell them what kind of show to do, but also to put together a show they imagine and want to put on stage.

The problem you touched on isn’t as simple as it looks to those people that are inclined to be upset at HUGE. Could we work on communicating this in some way? Maybe so. I’ve always shied away from HUGE telling groups how they “should” run things, since we neither have nor seek any authority over how things are done outside our theater; and it’s hard to give simple advice from HUGE’s voice without that advice sounding like “rules.”

We ARE adding a line to the show proposal form about auditions, and using HUGE as the venue for auditions to further encourage them.

Thank you for bringing it to us – that’s a step that too few people take.

I’m always happy to explain (in far too much detail) why HUGE does things, but people seldom ask.

And yes, some of those shows include members of the Board of Directors – we’re an artist-led theater and I make no apologies about putting members of our Board in shows. If the inference is that they are in shows because of favoritism, that’s a very different conversation that speaks to whether or not the board can be trusted to make those decisions impartially.

I maintain that we can and do, but if people don’t believe it when I say it – and some do not – then really the issue is that they don’t trust what I say in the first place and nothing else I say will matter anyway.

 

Bradley:

Thanks for the reply. It went a long way towards answering many of my concerns not answered at the happy hour.

There’s still clearly that perception problem, though. I think inviting the public into your thought process will help. If the perception is that there’s favoritism, or impulsive decisions, or whatever; laying out the thought process should help dispel that. The explanation won’t be good enough for everyone, but if it’s a reasonable explanation it should be good enough for most people.

The Creature Feature/Survivors of the Undead Plague (SOTUP) example perfectly captures that point. I’m sitting here thinking, “Why couldn’t Creature Feature have held auditions again? Why did the same cast have to return?” Regardless of whether I’m happy with that explanation, I feel like I at least now understand why.

And I know intellectually that SOTUP is Damian’s thing. But from the outside it feels very much like a HUGE show. Maybe just because of how well it fits with Creature Feature, maybe something else. But again, I’m sitting here thinking that it’s a show that could easily hold auditions every year. If I saw something from HUGE like, “We love SOTUP and love the job Damian does with it. We love how perfectly it complements CF in our fall lineup. So we’re more than happy giving our 9:30 slot to those guys…etc etc…” That would probably at least help me understand the rationale more. Just putting a show on your stage is standing by it in a big way. I don’t think there’s too much harm in making it clear that it’s an outside producer, but one that you trust completely to produce a great show. But I definitely could be wrong.

There’s clearly a fine line here. A duo like Polar Bear Centric, or even a group like my own Positive T.E.R.I., is clearly not HUGE’s doing–that’s a group that developed on its own and approached HUGE with a show. But again, perception–SOTUP (again, as just one example) seems different in a way I can’t put my finger on.

Butch:

There are so many levels at play in the relationship you described – it almost entirely has to do with creative control and intellectual property – but they are real, legal concerns that we have to answer around shows.

SOTUP created their own show long before HUGE existed and it has evolved over time, over which HUGE has no input and doesn’t seek any either. They created the “improvised zombie movie,” and that was such a great fit for our show that we built a longer relationship with Creature Feature around that understanding.

This past year Damian came back and said he was thinking about doing something different with the show, and I had to tell him that the 9:30 Halloween show is based on it being an improvised zombie movie – we had an agreement for a zombie movie show and if it wasn’t going to be an improvised zombie movie we’d have to evaluate the new idea as a brand new proposal.

This year, I was asked to direct SOTUP (which further muddies the water over whose show it is from the outside, I’m sure) but I was only the director of that show this year – Damian still owns it just as much as HUGE still owns the 9:30 show slot. HUGE could decide to put up a different show in that spot just like Damian could ask someone else to direct the show next year.

If HUGE told Damian how to do his show or reached out and tapped Damian to “come up with an improvised zombie movie for our lineup,” then it would be a commissioned work and we’d have to parse out who owned the end result because of how the laws around intellectual property work in Minnesota. We are purposely not a “work for hire” stage; we want to give groups the utmost freedom to take their shows anywhere they want without worrying if HUGE needs to give them permission or have any credit.

The example of the flipside is probably The Score. HUGE cast the group Crab Hands as a whole group to do our show called The Score. If they go elsewhere to perform it, they are called Crab Hands and so is their show, even if they perform the same structure with iPods from the audience, etc. If we remount The Score at HUGE they know there is no promise that they will be the cast, etc etc. All of which is an understanding we had to learn along the way to be clear about with the casts themselves, but we have left it out of things the public needs to know or worry about in regards to the shows.

Likewise with Family Dinner and Neutrino – Family Dinner was created by Michael at ComedySportz a long time ago. HUGE did not put the show on until it was resolved that Michael could bring it to our stage. And if Michael chose to take Family Dinner elsewhere next year, we’d have no way to stop him (nor would we seek to). But while it is on our stage we promote just as hard as any show that we produced. We love it and we’re proud that it’s on our stage and, more than anything, that is the message we want to communicate to the public.

Neutrino was still in the hands of the last group that ran it, even though it hasn’t run in the Twin Cities in 7 years – we still had to wait for the rights to the show to be officially transferred to me before HUGE would even discuss doing it ourselves – and that’s an even deeper level since it gets into the rights to do a show that neither group involved came up with.

These are lines that may seem fuzzy and/or invisible from the outside, but they are lines that we actually have to maintain very clear definitions for in order to protect ourselves from disputes and problems down the line – and to make sure that groups that want to create a show and mount it on our stage know that we’re not going to try and assume ownership of their show in any way. So I assure you that those things are very deliberately treated the way they are in order to make sure that our door is open to everyone with as few hurdles and snares as possible. That is part of how we support artists – we make it as easy as we can on them, even though it means more work on our end sometimes.

Sometimes, as you may have noticed, we have to scramble and insert a show into the lineup. That’s a great example of HUGE being responsible for when people outside of our control drop the ball, or expectations aren’t communicated clearly by me when booking shows. Sometimes communication around show end dates, absences so groups can do a festival elsewhere, etc., get fumbled and mistakes are made and we get caught less than prepared.  I’ve had groups forget about shows after the Fringe, or I’ve not clearly confirmed the run dates that change because of holidays, etc and then we’re in a position of telling shows they’re expected to put something up they might not have been planning or ready for.

But if they say, “Well we can’t,” then we would be the ones left holding the ball and scrambling to fill the schedule, which happens far more than it should (even though it doesn’t happen very often at all). But we don’t have any way to compel people to do what we say (which is funny when people claim that we “control” things) and I don’t think anyone does it intentionally or maliciously but there is a point when people find it easier to say, “Well I give up;” because they have tried all they can think of but they also know we HAVE to do something to fix it. HUGE can’t just shrug and tell the audience, “Well there was supposed to be a show now, but they didn’t show up.”

So that’s the downside of not producing all the shows ourselves – when we scramble and put up Solomon Kane for three weeks of Wednesdays, it’s not because we saw a chance to sneak in one of Nels’ projects for more stage time, we did that because we emailed everyone with a submitted Wednesday show proposal and couldn’t get any takers. The buck stops with us, so I had to turn to Nels and basically force him to put something up with no notice, just to fulfil the promise of our Wednesday show. That’s not something I want do to someone outside of HUGE if I can avoid it.

When it comes time to screw someone by asking them to do something we know sucks, I will always see if I can do it myself before asking someone else to take a deal that sucks. People do too much for us for me to feel OK asking them to do the things that suck.  If there’s a scheduling error and a group needs to be cut, my groups get cut first. Some people might choose to see greed that I put our shows in first, but that is why the Board of Directors shows are 2-3 weeks over odd dates – we fill in the weird gaps in the calendar because offering another show 3 weeks in the middle of June is bullshit. I would be insulted if someone offered me 3 random weeks but expected me to do all the marketing and everything just as seriously as a full run. So rather than insult someone else, we will just take it and do it since we have to market all the shows anyway.

If we did produce all the shows, we could hold auditions, schedule everyone and just worry about hiring and firing actors and directors – but that wouldn’t serve the overall mission nearly as well. And I think giving shows the chance to step up as producers is a valuable one that teaches lots of people what that means and all that goes into it. The occasional scramble is the price of doing things that way, when people find out it’s harder than they thought. And then we learn along the way as well.

 

Bradley:

Man, if only there was a clear and concise way to get that out there.

To button things (at least for now), I haven’t seen anything to convince me that my original idea isn’t a good idea. If anything, I think it’s an even better idea. But ultimately it’s up to you, and I’ll obviously continue to support and stand by HUGE regardless of whether it’s implemented or not.

 

Butch:

Oh yeah – I’m on board with that part all the way back from the first email

I always attach my usual caveat to things that I hope will help people feel better about what we’re doing: That no matter what or how much you say, there are always people that either don’t believe us or assume there’s something “more” that we’re leaving out or hiding.  

All of which is me saying that, at some point, people will decide what they believe about what and why goes on here – and no amount of talking makes that any different. But it makes it so much better when someone actually does come forward and ask questions, make suggestions, or tell us something that bothers them.

So thanks for doing that.

 

Events and meetings at HUGE!

Did you know you can rent HUGE for an event or meeting?   Contact jill@hugetheater.com for information! 

HUGE Theater Rental: Special Events

Fully ADA accessible 3,200 sq. ft. space with an attractive lobby and adjacent parking lots. The space can accommodate up to 100 guests.

Lights, projector and sound equipment are available for use. A technician will be on site to answer all your questions and to respond to technical needs.

Daytime theater reservation

7 days a week, pending availability

Our best value base price for the space for up to 6 hours; includes a host and technician (both required). Extra charge for each additional hour.

Client selects start and end time; theater is available between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Evening theater reservation

Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays, limited availability, higher pricing

 

BEER AND WINE BAR

HUGE carries an excellent selection of local and micro brews at our bar, and can usually accommodate special requests for beer and wine with advance notice.

 Pricing models:

  • Cash bar (your guests would pay $5-6 per drink)
  • HUGE can run a tab for you and take 10% off your total bill
  • You can make a bulk purchase in advance at a 15% discount rate. Once the pre-purchased drinks ran out, we could switch to either running a tab for you or running a cash bar for your guests.

 Small additional charge for bartenders.

We require our theater bartenders to run the beer and wine bar.

CATERING

HUGE Theater does not require use of a particular caterer, nor do we require a minimum catering purchase. We recommend Common Roots Catering, but you can use the caterer of your choice.

3037 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408 | 612 412 4843 | hugetheater.com

 

Throwback 2015 Rosters

It’s done!  After much rigorous thought and deliberation, I have created the team rosters for the 2015 season of Throwback Night!

As mentioned before, these were not easy decisions to make.  Over 80 people auditioned, and only 33 were assigned to teams.  A giant thank you to everyone who auditioned!  Here is the breakdown:

Harold – directed by Joe Bozic

Kevin Albertson
Madhu Bangalore
Michael Blomberg
Lizzie Gernes
Eric Heiberg
Drew Kersten
Josh Kuehn
Mark Mikula
Cody Nelson
Lauren Schwein
Dawson Walker

Close Quarters – directed by Nels Lennes

Jordan Bainer
Sophie Brossard
Dustin Brown
Molly Chase
Zoa Green
Ellen Q. Jaquette
MJ Marsh
Sid Oxborough
Kristen Pichette
Erin Sheppard
Anna Tobin

Deconstruction – directed by Butch Roy

Alex Carlson
Lauren Chesnut
Mike Fotis
Beth Gibbs
Casey Haeg
Adam Iverson
Adam Litz
Kenny Pierce
Michael Renner
Brian Rice
Mike Trost