Just to clarify – The MN Fringe does not begin until August 2nd.
However we are closed 7/28-8/1 for Fringe tech week to allow the Fringe technicians to load in and all the shows time to prep in the space for opening on the 2nd.
The Minnesota Fringe Festival is upon us! Whoo hoo!
Schedule of Fringe shows at HUGE:
The first HUGE show after Fringe is Thursday August 16th
(8PM Sean and the Ladies followed by Space Jam.)
This doesn’t mean you’ll be improv deprived! The Minnesota Fringe is chock-full of improv, including work by Ferrari McSpeedy, Tim Hellendrung, Emily Schmidt, Joe Ye, Sean Hansberry, Laura Baller Mahler, Theatre of Public Policy and Le Cirque Rouge. August 2-12. Go to www.fringefestival.org for all the details!
Hey all – just an update on the HUGE Happy Hour Meeting
August 23rd we want to invite everyone to come with questions, ideas and whatever else they like – but we also want to open the theater up and invite everyone to come take a look. We’re adding “Open House” to the already very hyphenated Public-Meeting-of-the-Board-Happy-Hour session.
If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind those walls, I can assure you it isn’t nearly glamorous or magical – but now you can come see for yourself!
5pm – 7:30
ALL WILL BE REVEALED IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME
The State of HUGE – Spring 2012
I’ve been working on this post for so damn long, trying to get it done but there’s always something big we’re figuring out or something I’m just waiting to finish so I can include it, etc but here it is.
The short version is: Things are going very well at HUGE. But…
The trick with good news is always that we don’t want to make the same mistake I think we had fallen into last year when I/we may have people the impression that we were doing super and we didn’t need their donations so much any more.
There’s always a “but…” with things like this and as things are shaping up and going well I am trying to temper the excitement with some realism – that our street could be the next to get torn up, our air conditioner could break down, something unexpected and costly could be around the corner. We’re still a new company and we’ve had more than our share of good luck, so it may not always be natural for us to remind ourselves that things aren’t always going to go so well.
But as we make our way through this spring it’s been impossible not to make comparisons to last spring, especially last July when I posted a desperate plea for help – it should also be mentioned that help showed up in force and saved the day. For anyone just tuning in, we had just taken a couple big hits at the worst time and were at a very critical point in getting the theater on its feet. Jill showed me a screen shot from her computer that she took at the time – it showed our bank balance of $94 a week before rent was due for the next month – and just looking back on that time fills me with anxiety. It was difficult.
But we are still here – and lots of “this time last year” conversations that are very exciting and give a really great perspective, looking both forwards at the work ahead and backward at how far we’ve come.
End of 2011/Early 2012
At our One Year Anniversary Show we were able to announce that not only were we able to stay open but, in the space of one year, we were able to pay off all our institutional debt from the construction and opening. That’s incredible. We took on a very aggressive payment schedule with the loans we had and they came at the right time to get us through. Because we made the choice to run as all-volunteer and because our donors, members and supporters are SO aggressive, we were able to get the theater out of debt inside of Year One.
There are so many insane examples of the support we’ve received from the community, audience and performers – but a couple stand out in my mind as stories we should tell.
The Annual Silent Auction and Fundraiser :: Matt Donnelly joined us again for the annual show that is our biggest fundraiser, Justin Pierre was back to donate his time and talents and PUNY Animation Studio took part in bringing the night home. While a fundraising event by itself may not seem like a story, you have to remember that this is HUGE – I’ve done many a fundraiser on the crew side in my former life as a technician and I can tell you they’re usually very stodgy, proper affairs. Not us.
The show was a blast – Matt Donnelly may not live in Minneapolis but he is absolutely part of the HUGE family and I love any time we can have him here. Justin Pierre has always been so crazy supportive that he’s come to us with ideas of how he can throw his talent and music and his name behind what we’re doing – and that night he asked if he could get a few improvisers to sing the horn part of a song. PUNY partnered with us earlier in the year and asked at the last minute if they could throw money out in the crowd, rap video style.
Of course we said yes to both these things. Honestly, I didn’t understand either of the moments from their descriptions, but that’s not important. What was important was that Justin performed one of the most beautiful musical moments I have ever seen on any stage and PUNY went from “makin’ it rain” to “church collection plate” so fast it would make your neck snap – both were so totally well done and fun that it was shocking.
I found myself sitting in the tech booth, just watching these things unfold and thinking if we were anyone else, any other organization, this event would be serious and somber and here I was, at one of the most important moments in our calendar year, watching Shad and James throw money into the air and then collect it again, thanking everyone profusely for their generosity. I have said it several times before and it holds true at all times : Nobody has fun like we do.
Hangout auction :: The hangout auction is the other amazingly odd story in our growth right now.
Bree and Josh approached HUGE with this idea that I don’t think I even fully understood at the time – to auction social activities with improvisers to raise money for the theater. And it’s been a smashing success. We just saw the close of the 2nd Annual Hangout Auction and people bid on everything from performing with Jill to SkyZone with Lipkin and other. It was a brilliant way to address the fact that we are always approached by people that want to know how to help but may not have money to give.
There is ALWAYS something going on that people come up with to support HUGE theater – sometimes I don’t even know about them – but I think those two are really great examples of when people have blown us away and make great answers when things get hard and people ask why we do this crazy thing.
There is still a lot to cover – I will try to break it out by topic since it’s a lot to take in.
Education :: I will let Jill’s words sum it up since she is the heart of our Education program. Though I will add that I knew what we had to teach at HUGE was a major strength of ours, I didn’t realize how much interest there was until we had to add another room to the theater to accomodate all the students that enrolled!
In September 2010 we had 11 courageous students. Now we have 89, not counting the dozens that come to drop in class every Wednesday.
We’ve gotten to work with kids in some small summer programs here at the theater, plus workshops for SALT Alternative High School, Como Park Senior High School, the Arts-In Program at the MN State Fair, and Breck High School, for a total of 117 participants.
We’ve also taught private workshops for a variety of organizations: Intermedia Arts, University of MN, Americorps, Education Minnesota, Creative Community Leadership Institute, Majestic Shores (Camp Courage), and Twin Cities Public Allies. Feedback has been great, including: “You definitely got us working together in a new way and created a safe and positive environment for brainstorming. The day ended beautifully and we couldn’t have done it without you.” – Theresa Sweetland, Intermedia Arts.
Probably the most exciting part is we’ve gotten to use those tuition dollars to pay our teachers for their hard work, thus providing a little financial support for great local talent.
HUGE Shows and TCIF :: This is, of course, what we do. And we have more fun doing it than you know.
We’ve been able to work a little smarter as a company to better promote and produce improvised shows, and we’re still learning and developing better ways to do so – Finding or creating shows has never been an issue since there is a massive surplus of extremely talented improvisers, that’s why we exist. But over the last year we’ve gotten better at supporting them and are always looking at more ways to put more improv on stage more often.
Ticket price changes/Groupons – last year around this time we made the hard decision to raise ticket prices to keep the theater open and I’m happy to report that it was the right call and things have been looking better and better ever since. Raising prices is hard, and people will always tell you that you can lower prices but you can’t raise them – but we transitioned from all tickets being $5 to $10 weekend shows just fine – because there’s no disputing the quality.
We ran a successful Groupon that introduced a lot of new people to the theater – some of them refuse to believe that we’re really improvising. Because writing a new show every day seems simpler and easier… Anyway.
We also introduced the Final Friday of every month as a Pay What You Can Night and Rent Party in the same blog that begged for help last year. It may seem counter-intuitive to add a night every month when people can opt to pay nothing when we are struggling for every penny we can get – but running a theater will certainly give you a unique empathy for people that might not have $10 to afford something fun at the end of the week, as well as an appreciation for how much difference being able to go have a night of laughs can really make if that’s the position you’re in. Everyone should be able to enjoy what we do, otherwise we are doing something wrong.
Tonight just happens to be PWYC Night – you should join us, because there’s no place better.
The Twin Cities Improv Festival just ended this past Sunday and it is the biggest weekend of our year – groups came in from all over the country and local talent showed up with their A games and crushed it. Old friends like pH, TRIKE, SCRAM and Pimprov returned and we were able to bring in Susan Messing and Christina Gausas, Aphasia and Matt Naas (and more) to introduce them to this place we call home. My brain has not yet recovered from the levels of dopamine that you risk being that happy and laughing that hard for that long.
the Improv A Go Go turned 10 this May!
That is the show that started it all for me. There is a clear and direct path from the IAGG to the opening of HUGE theater as something we have always done to support improvisers and introduce audiences to what we love to do. We celebrated 10 years of Sunday madness by announcing that the IAGG will be Pay What You Can when we return from the Fringe Festival break – August 19th will be the first IAGG in a long time you can show up with whatever you can shake out of your couch cushions and take in some of the best improv you will find anywhere. It’s been too long.
Fringe Festival – we are proud and happy to be a Fringe venue again, which means from July 28th-August 15th they will have our building and we will get our annual 3 days of sleep. Fringe has been amazing to us and always fun to work with as an organization, just like we try to be.
If you’re worried about your improv fix, don’t. There is a ton of improv in the Fringe this year at various venues!
Memberships – Memberships have been doing alright BUT… we always need to stress how important they actually are and we will never be able to stop asking people to become Members. The increase in membership is what allows us to do things like make the IAGG tickets PWYC all the time, as Members provide the stable contributions that those ticket sales do not. If you aren’t a member, you should be. This isn’t a call for memberships by an organization that also has funding to fall back on, this is the place where your $20 per month makes a tangible difference.
Grants/Bassprov – We are always applying for grants. We get few of them. But the one we did get is bringing BASSPROV back to the Twin Cities this fall! Trust me, we will be making announcements and posting details as they roll in. If you don’t know why you should be excited about BASSPROV, come to a show and ask anyone that improvises. It’s going to be great.
Volunteers – Every time you walk into HUGE you will encounter our fantastic volunteers. That’s because everyone here is one. Carolyn took up the thankless role of doing scheduling and keeps our counter staffed at all times. Matt Pitner and Joe Rapp manage, train and schedule our bar staff. Molly Chase is our amazing volunteer Managing Director. The volunteers show up with energy and love for what we do and that same, slightly crazy, willingness to watch the shows on a little TV so they can help you go inside and watch the shows in comfort. Thank them when you’re here – I thank them as often as I can but I think it’s better coming from everyone.
The big news coming up this year is that we are finally rolling out payroll!
Starting after the Fringe Festival, for the first time, HUGE will be paying staff for their time and talents. Not much. But it’s long overdue – We can’t ever properly repay everyone for all the countless hours and efforts that got us here – but this weird, wonderful playground we all get to share is still here against all odds, predictions and common sense. We are no longer in the place of just trying to hang on my our fingertips to keep this place open one more month at a time. We’re building something together that is going to be around for a long time.
Meeting announcement :: August 23rd, 5pm-7:30
So you’ve heard far too much from me – this is one of the things I’m most excited about. We are having another public HUGE Happy Hour Meeting of the Board to give financial updates, news and plans for the upcoming months.
But we also want to hear from everyone else! If we are asking people to give and trust us with their money and efforts, we want people to be able to ask any questions they have, challenge us on ideas, contribute to the discussions on future plans and also get to see the space, have a beer with us and enjoy a Happy Hour at HUGE.
Mark your calendars. Skip out of work early.
I will keep saying it as long as I am lucky enough to be in this position – for what we have and are able to do, for everyone that brings this place to life, for all your help making this crazy dream a reality – my words seem so small but my thanks are so big.
I am the luckiest clown in the world.
Executive Director and humble servant.
Saturday, July 7, 2012 at HUGE Improv Theater
Casting agents ask us all the time if we can send them improvisors to audition for commercials! It’s fun work and great money, but you need a little bit of prep to get it. To serve this need, HUGE is offering its first-ever Headshot and Resume Day. Participants will receive: help generating their performance resume, a digital file of one or more headshot options, and coaching on acting in front of a camera. The day is designed to give performers a basic headshot and resume to get them started, and introduce them to some of the casting agents looking for them.
Register in advance for the event, and visit a series of stations at the theater:
– Makeup consult and basic touch-up
– Video audition coaching session
– Resume review
Depending on availability, casting directors will also be on hand.
The cost is $30. Scholarships are available; contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Spaces are limited.
Registration is now open! http://tinyurl.com/cjk5hu7
I have been chewing on this for a week or so, trying to get to the bottom of it so I can reply to the person that sent it, but that doesn’t seem possible since it was posted anonymously – but talking about it has brought up some interesting points that I wanted to get down here.
I am going to leave the comments open so people can discuss if they want – I’ve been shutting them off because of the ridiculous number of spam bots we get comments from that I have to spend my time screening out. We’ll give it another try with this because I think it is important that we get feedback on it, not just from other improvisers but from the public as well.
Ok. Here we go.
We got feedback from Groupon customers, one person in particular posted several, all of which were in the same vein, but the final one says:
“This theater is NOT an improv theater. everything is scripted. I was very disappointed. Maybe they should change their name to the Huge Scripted-Improv Theater”
Now, before I go any further I want to make it absolutely clear that this person is incorrect. Could not be any more wrong. EVERYTHING at HUGE is improvised. Absolutely nothing is scripted. Everything else is 100% improvised, 100% of the time.
But this person went on and ON about it. Even made some suggestions along with their wild accusations and suggestion that we change our name. I want to address the important pieces.
“not really improv”
Now we get comments all the time from people that some of the shows MUST be planned beforehand or someone will stop us on the way out and say “Ok, c’mon – how much of that did you guys really make up?” and that’s something we should be really proud of and it’s part of what makes improvised theater so fun and amazing – that you can do something on stage that is fun and unique and totally playful but still come together as a cast and really listen to one another and improvise a show that people can’t imagine being able to do without planning in advance.
That means we are doing great work and I’m very proud when I am asked those questions – some people ask and still leave convinced that we are faking it, no matter what we say. They will never believe us. There is no proof that would be enough. They have forgotten how to play and would rather spend their energy trying to get us to admit that everyone else has too than just sit back and enjoy it.
“could have been scripted”
They also went on to suggest that we do shorter “skits” instead of longer sets, because the longer scenes could have been scripted and we should do shorter scenes that keep coming back and using the suggestion to “prove” that it’s being improvised.
We exist to further unscripted and improvised theater, to help explore all the amazing things it can do and shapes it can take. We will not cripple that effort and limit where we can go just because you have no idea what is possible.
Plus – we can never PROVE we are improvising.
We always COULD BE pretending to improvise and play when instead we have really written a new and different show for every night, rehearsed it and are spending our time reciting it instead of really being in the moment on stage enjoying something magical and surprising. Sure, we COULD do that – be we aren’t stupid.
And if you think that sounds easier and more plausible than the fact that people can get on stage and pretend together and create something amazing – you are so painfully wrong and I feel bad for you. Your world sounds like a boring place and we are not going to spend one second letting your lack of imagination distract us from all the awesome things that are possible.
Any suggestion that we should spend any time trying to prove that we are improvising is soundly rejected.
We are improvising. You just have to trust us or not, but I suggest you decide if you trust us before you give us your money.
We are not here to prove it.
We are here to do it.
Visit eBay (CLICK HERE) to bid on social outings with your favorite local performers and friends in the second HUGE HANGOUT AUCTION!
Right now we have several amazing auction items, including a beach party (with the Class of 94), karaoke (with Sean & the Ladies), a customized tour of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (with artists in residence Brandon Boat and Tane Danger), ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s (with the Minneapples), and so much more!
All money from this auction will go to HUGE Improv Theater, an artist-led non-profit dedicated to supporting the Twin Cities improv community through performance and education. Located at 3037 Lyndale Ave, Minneapolis MN 55408, HUGE is the only all-improv longform theater in the Twin Cities. The winning bid amount is a tax-deductible charitable contribution, and the auction winner will receive a receipt for tax purposes
We had a couple ladies come in on Sunday with a Deal Chicken deal – basically just a 2-for-1 we ran through a local promotion called Deal Chicken – but she had also purchased a ticket for a third person that wouldn’t be joining them.
She could have asked to refund the purchased ticket, and we could have done so very easily, I would have been happy to.
Instead she said “…and the third ticket, I’m just going to ‘pay forward’ so the next person that comes in can get in for free” and the next person in line was told they lucked out. They were happy, she was happy, the show was crazy fun.
While that was really cool of her to do, that’s not what makes it remarkable. The really remarkable thing is that this has been perfectly typical behavior at the Improv A Go Go for years now, and absolutely something you would expect to happen at HUGE Theater. We used to have people come into the IAGG when it was $1 and give us $5 with instructions to let the next 4 people in free, or pick 4 people at random, etc.
Somehow we have created a place where things like that are normal.
I love it. It makes me so proud and happy of what we do and what we are.
This isn’t a post about instilling values at the corporate level or some jargon-heavy business talk about how to engineer your customers’ reaction. I find that gross, insincere and maybe the most crass reaction you could possibly have to the story above. Plus, even if I was one of those people that lectured on “creating moments” or some other BS, I couldn’t give you instructions on how to do it if I wanted to. Pay those people thousands of dollars if you want to but I’ll say what I know for free and you can take it or leave it.
I just know that we show up and run the place as ourselves.
We treat people like we are happy to have them here because we are.
We are nice to people, not because a training manual tells us we have to be or because “that’s how you maximize customer loyalty”, but because that’s how we should be to people if we want them to be happy and we want to be happy with ourselves.
Turns out, there are fewer places than you would think that encourage us to just be awesome to one another just for the sake of being awesome – somehow people can tell that’s the kind of place this is – and it’s really cool and heartwarming the way people will surprise you when you give them an outlet for their better instincts.
Last weekend we had the pilot of our Teach The Teacher program! I’ve felt like it would be great to offer improv teachers training for a long time, but I never wanted to do it, because I’m not a perfect teacher and I’d hate to crank out a bunch of Jill Bernard clones. It’s a goal of HUGE Theater to take artists to the next step, however, and training teachers is an essential part of that.
Would you like to hear a few of the tips on teaching improv I shared?
Teach in your own style. No style is wrong as long as the students learn something of value and don’t leave feeling like shit. For example, here’s something I learned the hard way about my own style. There are two types of travellers, some like to have an itinerary planned down to the minute including bathroom breaks and all the tickets purchased and plans locked down. There’s a second type of traveller that lands with just a guidebook and a few ideas and wanders at will. I’m a dissatisfying teacher for the first group of people. I don’t try to change to suit them, rather, I offer them books and handouts to give them the reassurance they need.
Introducing warm-ups and exercises. It’s important not to overwhelm the students with instruction right at the beginning of a game or exercise. Consider:
- What’s the bare minimum to get us started?
For example, for beginners I often introduce just the “Zip” portion of “Zip, Zap, Zop” and we just pass “Zip” around until people are comfortable. There will be a student who wants to ask a lot of questions about how an exercise works before we start. You can say “Let’s get started, you’ll see in a second.”
- Once we’ve played for a second, what are the pro tips/what’s level 2?
“You guys are great at Chairman/Mao, let’s add in Cat/Meow and Moo/Cow” or “This will honestly be easier if you put your energy forward and make really good eye contact as you pass it.”
- When we’re done, what’s the feedback/result?
“What did you notice about this game, was it hard? What makes it hard?” “This game is a model for improv scenes – if we say YES to each other’s ideas, they grow.”
Purpose of a Warm-Up
NOTE: Many warm-ups serve more than one purpose.
- “Our” warm up (a warm-up that the cast always does as a ritual to build team spirit and shared mindset)
- Show specific (for example, if the show has rap, we practice rapping; if the show is very intimate we might do some intimacy exercises; if it’s improvised Shakespeare, we’ll practice Elizabethan English)
Opening Schpiel/Ground Rules
At the beginning of the first class, you’ll want to:
- Introduce yourself and speak a little bit about your background and philosophy.
- Set expectations and the tone for the class.
- Explain anything technical: free parking next to the theater, bathroom and water fountain in the hall, free shows with your student i.d., etc.
Organizing a Workshop
Essentially, you’ll come up with a theme for the class and find exercises to support that objective. The class should be divided into:
- Diagnostic exercises that show us what we want to study, (i.e. “yes and”)
- Application exercises where we get to use those ideas – sometimes this means just doing scenes.
Train the students to let it wash over them. Sidecoaches should be as short and clear and positive as possible. If what you have to say is more than a sidecoach, freeze the scene and talk it out instead. Avoid “choicecoaching,” instead try to train them to make their own choices.
Keith Johnstone has a status trick he uses to get students to give him feedback – he sits lower than the students so that they open up. Be direct yet gentle. My personal preference is to get the students to talk about how the exercise went for them. I ask them “Was it hard/was it easy? What made it hard?” “Was anything ishy about that scene for you?” “What did we like about that scene?”
Students report that they really like getting direct specific feedback, but there is an art to giving it without hurting the students’ feelings. I like to remind them that we’re always talking about the work, about the improv, it’s never personal. But the problem is it may feel personal anyway. There are phrases that soften the blow – you can say, “It seems like…” or “From the outside it looked like…” or Mick Napier has a way of saying, “I worry about you because…” and then giving the note. That one’s nice because then it’s a problem you have, not the student. Place the blame for a bad scene elsewhere – blame yourself, the carpet, the chairs, the suggestion, anything – even as a joke, it makes students feel better.
As you teach, you may encounter students who:
- fight you on notes.
- won’t participate/say they “hate” this exercise
- teach around you because they’ve studied or performed elsewhere
- judge other students
- are drunk or high (send this student home immediately)
- are looking for therapy
- are jokey
- are frequently absent or late or leave early or won’t come back from break
- make others uncomfortable in scenes by being overly sexual or vulgar or making too much or unsafe physical contact (stop this scene immediately)
- talk during other people’s scenes, or the feedback for other people’s scenes.
- dominate the discussion during feedback
- have poor personal hygiene
There are several choices of response:
#1: In some cases it’s important to give the note in front of the whole class so that everyone hears it and knows it’s being addressed – particularly in the case of sexual or vulgar or violent content.
#2: You can always speak to them privately.
#3: In rare cases, it is perfectly valid to ask them to leave the class.
It’s important to remember the 10,000 Things theory. We don’t know the 10,000 things that have happened in this person’s life to make them who they are today. They might not be deliberately disrupting the class, a conversation can clear up the misunderstanding.
Dumb basics I hate to mention
Be on time, start on time, be prepared, don’t date/sleep with your students, find energy and enthusiasm for every class.
Coming up with suggestions for the scenes
I just use the alphabet. Algebra, Banana, Cabin, Doorknob, etc. If you’re working on a specific exercise that requires a list of emotions or genres, prepare one ahead of time. It can be nice to let the other students yell suggestions, if it isn’t bogging things down and if they’re not using it as time to be assholes or chatty cathys.
For further reading:
Spolin, Viola. Theater Game File. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1989.
Includes a little primer in how to organize a workshop.
Gwinn, Peter, and Charna Halpern. Group Improvisation: The Manual of Ensemble Improv Games. Colorado Springs, CO: Meriwether Pub., 2003.
Gwinn does a nice job here of categorizing the purposes of improv exercises/games, and describing a bunch of great ones.
Improv Encyclopedia. Web. 03 May 2012. <http://improvencyclopedia.org/>.
This website is an improv teacher’s dream, loaded with ideas for exercises.
Johnstone, Keith. Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. New York: Routledge, 1981.
Includes a discussion of teachers and status.
McKnight, Katherine S., and Mary Scruggs. The Second City Guide to Improv in the Classroom: Using Improvisation to Teach Skills and Boost Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.
Includes instructions on how to sidecoach.
Ronen, Asaf. Directing Improv: Show the Way by Getting Out of the Way. New York: Yes And, 2005.
Includes thoughts on getting out of the way, and some anecdotes from improv teachers.
Completed a project that made me really happy today – and it ended up being a lesson in Number 6 from my lessons from being a tech blog.
One of the struggles with the space is…space. And I created some today, that alone makes me happy, but the challenge of coming up with creative solutions is more satisfying than just solving a problem.
The theater is not complete yet, something that’s easy to forget since it’s up and constantly running, but there are still planned additions to the theater space, the classrooms, even some in the bathrooms. All part of the plan but still in the works as time and money allow.
But as we’ve evolved it’s been a constant struggle to just have space to put things away, as we use the entire building from wall to wall and sometimes that’s not even enough.
Plus we are always “having company over” as Jill put it – we always have the public coming, and the one day we aren’t open to the public we have classes in every free space in the building – so there’s always a finite limit of time to complete anything before everything has to be cleaned up and put away. We have three classes on Tuesday nights, due to terrific enrollment, but only had two class spaces until a couple months ago, when I had to build another room that was long-needed anyway. I’m still trying to create a proper class space, which is where I was working today.
Add to that the always changing resources we have on hand – we very very very very seldom purchase lumber or materials of any kind that isn’t directly related to daily operations (trash bags, etc) so anything that needs to be built, fixed or done gets done using only the weird collection of wood, metal, screws, wire and L-brackets we have on hand from whatever else I took apart or someone gave us.
We have only the tools that I have collected over the years at home – including a set I had to buy for my sculpture class in MCAD and the tool chest my dad gave me when I moved out of the house – which often leads to interesting problems. I did purchase a drill (that came with a free saw) after the one we used to build the theater died – my dad handed it down to me, I think the stamp on the side said it was manufactured in 1979.
It was a workhorse, but even workhorses die, eventually.
I have no blade for my free saw currently – it wore out. It was the free blade that came in the free saw and the only blade I’ve been using – it’s gotten more mileage than it probably should have and I haven’t purchased a new one yet.
All of this leads to interesting construction and design challenges when trying to carve more space out of the building quickly so I can finish and get the space cleaned and ready for classes – which I decided to do by adding levels to my tech workbench in the back…with only the material on hand and no saw.
So the height was dictated by the length of the only 4 boards I had that were all exactly the same length. I had no sheet materials that fit the bill and can’t cut them to fit so the top deck is a re-purposed IKEA table that Josh Nelson donated to us before he left town.
Screwed the boards to the only wall in the room with studs, attached the table down upside down with washers I had to pull from the truss ceiling, attached the bolt-on legs facing toward the ceiling and BOOM – it’s perfect overhead lumber storage, which added about 8 square feet to the classroom space after I was able to move lumber up off the ground and shift some things around.
the project itself was a simple one, I’m no carpenter or engineer – so the building of the object isn’t the accomplishment and I’m not bragging about my skills in that department. The best part is remembering that great solutions are possible beyond just spending money to buy some pre-fab product.
I don’t know if/when we’ll ever be in a place as a company where spending money is easier than coming up with inventive ideas and being smart about how we use what we have, but that’s a place I’m not in a rush to get to and might even avoid.
I like having to use my head and there are so many better things to spend money on than NOT having to be creative.