A lot has gone on these past couple of weeks. Where to begin?
Two weeks ago I went to a friend’s birthday party, who decided that for her 30th birthday she wanted flying trapeze lessons. So a bunch of went to the local circus school to do their introductory course, which consisted of a couple of hours swinging in the air above a giant net.
As with most things, the scariest part is probably the anticipation. This meant the whole phase of climbing up a ladder to a wobbly little platform 30 feet in the air, having them switch safety lines on you (and telling you to “hold on” while you’re being switched), and reaching out in an incredibly unnatural position while trying to hold a heavy bar at eye level, with nothing but air and net beneath you. We each did about four or five jumps, though, which meant I got to revisit the scary anticipation phase several times. In my brief time there I didn’t get to the point where it became second nature… in fact, I think I actually got a little more scared as I went to do subsequent jumps.
The first jump was straightforward and fun enough: jump from the platform and swing from the trapeze, then when given the command lift your legs into a sitting position and drop into the net. My eyes grew wide with alarm as she described the second jump to us, though: we were to jump off the platform, then at the far point of the first swing lift our legs up into trapeze bar, then at the near point of the swing release our hands and swing by our legs, then once we’d swung once grab the bar again, remove our legs and return to an arm-swing, then as the next swing began kick back-and-forth three times, release and do a backflip to land in the net.
Perhaps even more surprising to me is that I was able to do almost all of it. I had trouble getting my legs into the bar and that delayed me a swing, and then my kicking was pretty uneven so my dismount lacked sufficient speed, and I only did a three-quarter backflip. The next time I went up, though, I managed to do the entire thing (although I still took an extra swing to get my legs into the bar).
Don’t believe me? Well I’ve got proof:
Last few weeks have been interesting for improv. Same weekend as the trapeze, I was fortunate enough to get cast in two teams: one on Friday and one on Saturday. Unfortunately my Friday team didn’t do so well, but my Saturday team had a pretty solid show and I felt good about my performance. We ended up losing by a single point… but what was really odd was that the audience practically revolted against the judges with their booing, to the point that the emcee decided to give us one more challenge to attempt to settle the score. Due to a judge’s error at the end of that challenge, we ended up tying (something which isn’t supposed to happen), so we ended up in a “sudden death” skill competition that my team got shut out on. So it was about the most crushing defeats imaginable, and one of our team members (who happens to also be the artistic director of the theatre) proposed we come back the next week for a grudge match. This felt a little weird to me but I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to perform again. So we came back and we lost a second time, fair-and-square.
The whole judging thing in Theatresports is awkward. It’s designed as a way to engage the audience, focus their attention and galvanize them alongside the teams on stage against a common enemy. Whenever I judge, I always play the “arc of the show”: throwing lower scores at first and eventually opening myself up to higher scores at the end. But with King of the Hill and teams returning from week to week (which we’ve been doing for about a year now), the scores are a lot more significant and it’s a lot harder to get stage time if you don’t win, so it’s harder to keep the competition friendly. I, for one, would be happier if we returned to random teams, and we may do that eventually, but for now it is what it is. This weekend I am doing tech and judging, and who knows when I will improvise on stage again.
That said, I could certainly use the chance to redeem myself… Wednesday was Cinco de Mayo and my friend really wanted to do a tequila-inspired drunken improv performance with five players. I’m usually the first to shoot down drunk-prov as something that almost uniformly goes bad and is a bad experience for the audience, but he’d never tried it and I felt both obligated to him plus the need to challenge myself to something I expected to be very, very difficult.
So myself and four others showed up on Wednesday with bottles of tequila and prayers in our hearts. Now I’m a very light drinker to begin with, but knew I was going to have to show some mettle… we started downing the shots then eventually moved the table out to the right side of the house so the audience could see us getting sufficiently liquored up for our performance.
Now I’ve been plenty drunk before, but almost never to the point where I’ve had trouble walking upright. I did at least seven shots of tequila that night, and was a total mess. The improv went predictably similar to a car going at highway speeds through, say, a tree, but to my credit I at least tried to hold it together and had the sense to take my time responding, for all the good it did us. Elizabeth drove me home that night and put me to bed, and I was pretty much useless for all of the next day. It seems I just can’t recover like I could when I was twenty anymore.
In the midst of all of this, something rather unexpected has happened: I’ve joined the cast of another play. Driftwood Players is doing And Then There Were None (better known as Ten Little Indians), a murder mystery by Agatha Christie. This show isn’t normally the kind I exactly leap out of my chair to do (not the least of which reasons include I’m unable to do a British accent), but I got asked by the director personally to fill in after one of their leads had to back out for health reasons just before rehearsals were starting. It looks like a fun cast and a decent play, and I get to do a nicely comedic character role. Plus I’ve wanted to work for Driftwood in the past so it can’t hurt to do this show for them. I am going to need an unbelievable amount of dialect coaching, though.