Archive

Archive for the ‘performance’ Category

Your Friday Recommendation #40

I’m excited that my fortieth Friday recommendation is for the third-annual Twin Cities Improv Festial on Thursday, June 25 – Sunday, June 28 at the Brave New Workshop (2605 Hennepin Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN).

June 25-28, 2009 @ The Brave New Workshop

June 25-28, 2009 @ The Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis

Whether you’re already a fan of improv or you haven’t ever seen any live, this is the festival for you. Many of the most-reputable ensembles and performers from the Twin Cities are pairing up with amazing out-of-town guest performers to present thirteen shows of high-quality comedy. Each show features one local act and one national act to ensure the audience sees something they know and enjoy as well as a new treat. And at only ten bucks per show plus multi-show discount passes, it’s one of the more affordable improv festivals out there.

So who’s up this year? Plenty. There’s a slew of ensembles (Adorable, Batterymouth, Bearded Men, Beatbox, The Cosby Sweaters, Darby Lane, Dirty Water, Fingergun, Five Man Job, Girls Girls Girls, HUGE, Improvabilities, Splendid Things, Tarantino), several duos (After the Party, Ferrari McSpeedy, Iron Cobra, Jokyr & Jesster, Muse, Mustache Rangers, Rampleseed, Sanke and Bunny), solo acts (Lounge-A-Saurus Rex, Drum Machine), and the three main improv theaters in the Twin Cities are represented, too (Brave New Workshop, ComedySportz, and Stevie Ray’s). You can check out the TCIF website for full information on all of the acts, too.

I’ve seen most of the local acts and many of the out-of-town acts thanks to my own national improv festival appearances. Many local improv fans have their own local favorites already, so if I were to make specific recommendations of out-of-town acts I enjoy, I’d say Bearded Men and Dirty Water know how to have tremendous fun while they’re onstage and it’s infectious for their audiences. Beatbox is something unique to see and takes improv to a new place with its hip-hop and DJ-style editing and scenework techniques. In terms of flat-out-funny, go see Jokyr and Jesster. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Joe and Jesse for several years, taking classes together in Chicago and performing together as an ensemble at the Miami Improv Festival, these guys are great teachers, amazing performers, and the kind of guys you want to hang out with at the party after the show.

I plan to be in and out all weekend, mixing up my festival attendance with other outside obligations. I hope to see you there!

-nm

Your Friday Recommendation #37

I’m involved in three shows this weekend and you’re invited.

Saturday, June 6 – “The Weekly: Yesterday’s News Today” plays at the Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minneapolis at 7:00pm. Come see sketch comedy about local current events.

Sunday, June 7 – “Commentary” appears in Improv A Go-Go at the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis at 8:00pm. Come see my new improv duo with Levi Weinhagen (Ministry of Cultural Warfare) as we provide an improvised director’s commentary on an audience-selected DVD.

Monday, June 8 – “The Uncle Ukulele Show” appears in the Monday Night Comedy Show at The Beat Coffeehouse in Minneapolis at 8:00pm. Come watch my solo musical improv show, plus I’ll be reading a page from the excellent novel, Robocop II.

Hope to see you there,

-nm

Your Friday Recommendation #36

Some of the teenagers in my youth group have been coming together for a year to perform in short videos that satirize The Office. Rather than an annoying boss who disrupts an office setting, our videos feature an annoying youth director who disrupts his youth group. Writing the script is always an exercise in excruciating self-examination, but I’m happy with the end results.

This week, our latest video, The Youth Room: The Good Samaritan, was created with the Minnesota United Methodist Church Annual Conference in mind, an event that sees hundreds of ordained clergy and church lay leaders gather to present and vote on church legislation and share ideas. This year, their theme is the parable of the Good Samaritan and they’re looking for new and unique ways to teach its lessons. I wrote this video and hope it finds its way into being presented at Annual Conference. The video is available at YouTube or you can watch the video below. I highly recommend watching it in “high quality” to catch detail.

This is the fourth episode of The Youth Room that the Youth Forum has made and our seventh short film overall in my time working with them. You can see episode three, episode two, and one, as well. I welcome and appreciate your honest ratings and comments, as well as your subscription to my YouTube channel.

-nm

Two New Ukuleles

I check Craigslist once a day for ukulele sales. I got lucky last week when I discovered a local musician not only had two ukuleles for sale, they were both unique and handcrafted. I present to you my new banjo ukulele and cigar box ukulele.

Let’s start with the banjo ukulele because it’s the first instrument that caught my eye. The banjo ukulele is what Matte, the musician who built it, calls a “canjolele” because the head is made from a cookie tin can. Can + Banjo + Ukulele = Canjolele. It has a stained poplar neck and is 15″ long or so with an electric pick up and sounds tremendous through my Roland Microcube amp.

This banjo ukulele is the same length as a concert ukulele but the head is so small it can't fit snugly in my instrument stand, instead resting on the carpet.

This banjo ukulele is the same length as a concert ukulele but the head is so small it can't fit snugly in my instrument stand, instead resting on the carpet.

The banjo body gives the uke a metallic, tinny sound. But this is no banjo skin, but rather a cookie tin. The effect is still the same, however.

The banjo body gives the uke a metallic, tinny sound. But this is no banjo skin, but rather a cookie tin. The effect is still the same, however.

Uke creator, Matte, entitled this instrument "Forsaken Orchard" after the pears on the banjo head. Don't worry, those paint cracks aren't real, but just part of the oil painting design on the tin.

Uke creator, Matte, entitled this instrument "Forsaken Orchard" after the pears on the banjo head. Don't worry, those paint cracks aren't real, but just part of the oil painting design on the tin.

The banjolele also features an electric pick-up. Notes come out quite staccator through the amp, but in my limited knowledge of banjos I can't recall hearing one which resonates all that much in the first place.

The banjolele also features an electric pick-up. Notes come out quite staccator through the amp, but in my limited knowledge of banjos I can't recall hearing one which resonates all that much in the first place.

I went to Matte’s to buy the banjolele but ended up falling in love with a cigar box ukulele. The cigar box uke he listed had already sold so he made me this one just in time for my visit on Friday. It has a sealed poplar neck, an electric pick-up, and is around 15″ long. I’m actually even more excited about the cigar box uke than the banjolele, but I think that’s because I’m more familiar with its sound and am still figuring out fingering technique on the banjolele.

I've taken to calling the cigar box ukulele "The Ashton" after the cigar imprint on the box. It's the lenght as a concert ukulele and fits in the instrument stand quite nicely.

I've taken to calling the cigar box ukulele "The Ashton" after the cigar imprint on the box. It's the lenght as a concert ukulele and fits in the instrument stand quite nicely.

The body features two sound holes, each covered with an ornate decoration.

The body features two sound holes, each covered with an ornate decoration.

The Ashton cigar box still opens, a hinge keeping it closed on the bottom, so one can store their capo, tuner, etc.

The Ashton cigar box still opens, a hinge keeping it closed on the bottom, so one can store their capo, tuner, etc.

The Ashton also features an electric pick-up and sounds tremendous through my amp.

The Ashton also features an electric pick-up and sounds tremendous through my amp.

I have my mother’s old soprano uke from her high school days, the concert size uke she gave me for Christmas in 2005, my shiny black Lanikai electric concert uke, an Oscar Schmidtt baritone uke, and the gem of my collection, a Lanikai electric tenor ukulele. With these two new, handcrafted beauties becoming ukuleles #6 and #7, I truly have UAS – Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome.

I've set my two new ukuleles next to my tenor uke for size comparisons. Both the Ashton cigar box uke and the banjolele / canjolele are the length of a concert ukulele.

I've set my two new ukuleles next to my tenor uke for size comparisons. Both the Ashton cigar box uke and the banjolele / canjolele are the length of a concert ukulele.

-nm

Chicago Improv Festival – My Trip, Day 1 (Part II)

I’m writing this post about Thursday on Friday, hence references to “last night” and such, even though this is “Day 1, Part II.” Just go with it. 🙂

Google Maps was absolutely right, my trip took just over seven hours, including a bit more that’s all my fault. I got a late start between packing and getting the apartment ready for the weekend so I was rewarded with Twin Cities rush hour to kick off the trip. I listen to audiobooks on my road trips and this trip had me listening to “Birth of the Bomb” from NPR’s The Story and I’m halfway through From a Buick 8 by Stephen King. I listened to this book on audio a few years ago and I’m remembering why I enjoy it so much. King touches on writing this just a bit in On Writing, by the way.

I missed the 9:00pm White Jazz show (bummer, I wanted to see that one) and I pulled in to town just in time for the 10:30pm Messing with a Friend show. Susan Messing was the first teacher I had at my first CIF outing back in 2001 and she was amazing. Got me to be physical in my improv, relax and have fun. She paired herself up with her longtime collaborator, Mick Napier, who I’ve also taken some tremendous CIF workshops from back in the day. I want to say I’ve seen them perform together before, but I can’t remember. What really matters is last night’s show.

Two improvisers having fun. That’s what it boils down to. Susan and Mick showed their audience what a show can be like when the only concern to the performers is to have fun together. The show had a lot of audience interaction, with Susan and Mick coming out into the audience several times. A woman felt Susan’s “pregnant” belly during one scene, and Susan took Minneapolis improviser Aric McKeown’s gum from his mouth (Aric was in the audience and got a nice shout-out from CIF Producer Mark Sutton for The Moustache Rangers who appear at the Annoyance at midnight on Saturday). A slew of scenes depicted the most dysfunctional marriages in the world and at one point the audience were labeled the worst middle school class in the world as teacher Susan berated us for a good ten minutes. I hope her voice holds out for the rest of the festival. Line of the night: “If I had a nickel for every time I was told, ‘Take the lobster bib…'”

The party at the Annoyance was okay, but I was too tired to get involved. Spoke with Joe Bill for a while and, always the diplomat, he introduced me to a few improvisers. I caught a few minutes of the new TJ Jagodowski & Dave Pasquesi improvised documentary, Trust Us, This Is All Made Up in the theater – fun stuff, but again I think I was too tired to appreciate it. Readers in the Twin Cities should go see it at the St. Anthony Main this weekend, however. The TJ & Dave Show is some of the best improv I’ve ever seen (they take no suggestion; the title of the documentary is traditionally the last thing they say before diving into an improv set) and if you can’t see them in-person in Chicago, the documentary may be the next best thing (I rank the film high above their Sonic commercials). When my host for the weekend, Paul, showed up, I was more than ready to leave the party and make my way to a fold-out couch.

A note on parking in Chicago: I love the challenge. Last time I drove to CIF (2005), I had a lot of luck with parking for venues and parties but not-so-much with the friend’s place where I was crashing. One night, I drove around for over an hour looking for a parking space in the neighborhood. That maybe wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the particular hour spent trying to park falling between 2:00am-3:00am. This year, I think it will be a mixed bag, too, though luck has been good so far. I found a spot only one block from the Annoyance for the show. Heading up to Evanston, Paul and I parked a few blocks from his and Susie’s apartment building (a beautiful old brick building that tastes of boarding house even before you’re told it is a former abbey). Will my luck hold out? Stay tuned…

-nm

Chicago Improv Festival – My Trip, Day 1 (Part I)

I’m heading out on the road in a few minutes. I packed myself a lunch, have my gear all packed in Mazie (my Mazda5), laundry mostly done and the kitchen clean in our apartment, and my itinerary, ticket receipts, and driving directions printed out. Google Maps tells me I’ll be there in just over seven hours or so, and we’ll see how well that estimate works in the real world. In the meantime, here’s my tentative evening schedule for shows at the Chicago Improv Festival. I hope to make as many of the shows as possible, and I hope you only use this schedule for the purposes of good (i.e. come to my show) instead of evil (i.e. please don’t stalk me, it’s rude).

Thursday:
9:00pm – White Jazz @ Annoyance
10:30pm – Messing with a Friend (Susan Messing & Mick Napier) @ Annoyance

Friday:
7:00pm – Impro Japan and The Wilhelm @ The Playground
9:00pm – Attilla and Sybil @ The Playground
10:30pm – Oui Be Negroes and Boom Chicago @ The Lakeshore Theatre

Saturday:
7:30pm – Johnny Lunchpail, Catnip, and 313 @ The Lakeshore Theatre
10:30pm – My show – The Uncle Ukulele Show (with Space Robbers and Rooster) @ Chemically Imbalanced Comedy Theatre

I’m pretty sure I’m going to drive all day and arrive just in time for the shows tonight and then go to bed, so expect an update tomorrow.

-nm

I’m performing in the Chicago Improv Festival.

In case I have blog readers in the Chicago area (Do I have blog readers in the Chicago area? Leave a comment and let me know!), you can catch my solo musical improv showcase, The Uncle Ukulele Show this weekend at the 12th Annual Chicago Improv Festival (CIF).

Catch me on Saturday, April 18 at 10:30pm at the Chemically Imbalanced Comedy Theatre (here’s a map pour vous) for a paltry $15. Space Robbers (Chicago, IL) and Rooster (Bellingham, WA) are also on the bill. You can purchase tickets here. Purchase ten, if you like.

I attended CIF as a student in 2001-2003 and performed there with Rick in 2004. I took a break for a few years due to work obligations and I’m excited to go back (and to perform, no less, which definitely has me more than a little excited). I’ve been fortunate enough to have performed at eight improv festivals, not counting doubles, and while I’ve been to other festivals that are the first to come to mind when I think great producing (Milwaukee, Denver), a local improv scene (Toronto, Gainesville, Santa Cruz), or an amazing time overall (Miami, San Francisco), Chicago is the festival I think of first when I think of sitting back and watching tremendous shows that sometimes feature famous talent. Better get my rear in gear, though, because I drive out early Thursday morning and I still need to pick which shows I’m attending and order tickets.

My old friend, Paul, and his lovely wife, Suzie, have offered up their spare bedroom in Evanston. That means I’ll be driving into the city for a few days and that’s okay; I’ll take traffic over ridiculous hotel expense any day. Paul and I did improv together in Minneapolis before we both moved to Denver and Cheyenne, respectively, and performed as the duo, The 80’s Ninjas, and it will be nice to see him and Suzie again. I also hope to see a few friends from my favorite improv discussion boards, YESand.com, and perhaps meet a celebrity or three. I’m signed up for a workshop/lecture on directing sketch and improv by Mick Napier and am thinking about taking another workshop.

More details to come. Pending internet access, I hope to blog about my experience at CIF. Stay tuned, dear reader.

-nm