A “Farewell” To Improv


It was almost exactly eleven years ago that I started going to rehearsal for Face2Face Improv, and Friday, one troupe and over a decade later, I performed in Comic Science Improv‘s “Farewell Tour” show in Madison. (The tour has one more date Friday in Oxford, Miss.) I’m not entirely sure what that means; I have no future plans to do local improv, but it’s also kind of hard to imagine never doing it again. So we’ll see.
 
It was so much fun performing with everyone Friday night, including some who’d not played for quite a while. These folks have become like family, and for me it’s been as much about having fun with them as about the performance. That said, the performance ain’t half bad; I’ve enjoyed hosting shows because it means I get a front row seat to watch some incredibly talented folks be funny.
 
And improv is more than just the troupe, it’s very much a conversation with the audience. We’ve been lucky to have such great fans over the years, and we were so grateful for the big crowd that showed up Friday night to see us off.
 
Thanks so everyone who came, and we’ll see you around…
 
(And, of course, you can still see me doing Downtown Trolley Tours, Huntsville Ghost Walk, the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll, and things like that. Don’t be a stranger.)

I’ve Been Put In My Place


I’ve been put in my place. By a really good friend, no less.

More to the point, I was featured this week on the “Jason Sims Puts You In Your Place” podcast.

I know Jason, of course, through Comic Science Improv, but he has an entire creative life outside of that, which has brought him some cool national attention, including recognition from groups like iTunes and The Onion.

Jason’s “Puts You In Your Place” podcast is a great series that provides interesting perspective on the creative process, and how that’s linked to the places that shape a person.

But the reason the podcast works so well is the same reason Jason’s such a good friend — he’s just darned good to talk to. No matter who he talks with on his podcasts, they become interesting, because Jason’s interested in them.

So, feel free to listen to Jason and I talk about Mississippi and rockets and Huntsville and stuff.

But stick around afterwards (or, heck, skip me and go straight to this) and listen to some of his others. Jason has a real talent, and you’ll really enjoy hearing what people have to say to him.

Currently In Progress


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It’s been a little while since I’ve participated in the Rocket City Bloggers Year-Long Blogging challenge, but I thought the current prompt would be a good little overview in general. (And possibly a good exercise for me personally.)

“This week we want to know a little bit about you. What goals are you currently pursuing?”

Well, professionally, I’m trying to support a rocket getting built. For those that don’t know, I work in the strategic communications office for NASA’s Space Launch System, supporting program executives who are working to get us ready for launch in 2017 (and to enable missions beyond). It’s possibly the most fun I’ve had at a job, and as goals to pursue go, extending humanity’s presence through the solar system ain’t a half-bad thing to be paid to do.

As director of Comic Science Improv, I’m pursuing the goal of entertaining more people. We started the process of forming the troupe almost a year ago, and we’ve come a long way since then. We’ve had some great shows with awesome audiences, developed several new games,  and added some amazing new players. Now we’re just trying to get the word out on what we’re doing so we can share it with more folks. If you haven’t been to a show (or haven’t been lately), come see us on July 5 at Acting Up! Academy on Whitesburg Drive in Huntsville. If you have, tell people about us! And still come anyway!

As a Huntsville storyteller, I’m pursuing the goal of becoming more active in that role. My work as a tour guide at the Huntsville Historic Depot sort of got me started down that path, and I was incredibly privileged to get to take part in the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll last year, portraying Alabama’s second governor Thomas Bibb. Last week, I led the Historic Huntsville Trolley Tour for the first time, and I’ll be doing it again on a few Saturdays through the rest of the summer, starting next week. I’m also working hard to get ready to start leading Huntsville Ghost Walk tours. For an avocation that basically evolved accidentally, it’s an incredibly good fit, and I’m loving it. I’ve always been proud of my hometown, and I’m greatly enjoying learning more of its history and getting to share it.

As an author, I’m mostly passively pursuing the goal of publishing my next book next year. At the moment, “Bold They Rise,” a history of the early shuttle program, is with the editors, so from here out it’s mostly a waiting game that will be interrupted occasionally by sporadic brief periods of frantic activity. I’m not looking forward to those, but I’m looking forward to getting those done. Beyond that, I have an idea for my next next book I want to write eventually, but I’ll most likely wait until this one is one the shelves before picking that one back up.

As a writer, I guess I’m pursuing the goal of blogging regularly, but obviously I’m not taking it terribly seriously. I’m also somewhat working on developing my online brand a little more, but that’s just so not my strong suit. A lot of my writerly focus is on my work for Mud & Magnolias magazine, which lets me relive my Mississippi journalist glory days in a way that’s way more fun and way less stressful than actually newspapering was.

As a Pampered Chef salesperson, realistically, I think I’m pursuing the goal of winding down my business, so if you have anything you want to order or are interested in hosting a party, let me know soon!

As just some guy, ya know, I’m pursuing the goal of trying to get some things in order in my life, including, in particular, my house. And I’m trying pathetically to lose weight again.

Beyond that, I’m mainly just pursuing the goal of trying to simplify my life, not overcommit, and get back some free time. To be honest, it’s not necessarily going that well.

Comic Science Improv Is Building Momentum!


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It’s been a little while since I’ve written anything about Comic Science Improv, despite the fact that I’ve been meaning to.

Originally, I was going to maybe post about how we were on TV, and embed that video, but since then, we’ve launched our website, and you can see all of our media coverage there, along with some great videos and bios of our players and more.

Much more exciting is our last show, during which we packed the house at Acting Up! Academy where we perform on the first Friday of each month. In my seven years of doing improv with Face2Face and Comic Science, I’ve never seen a show with the attendance that we had earlier this month.

It’s very rewarding seeing people who had never been to an improv show a few months ago coming back to see us and bringing and referring their friends. It was so much fun watching them watch us, seeing how eager people were to give suggestions and how much they were enjoying the scenes.

But far more rewarding was watching the players. We’ve been through some transitions since we started a little over half a year ago, with some old Face2Face faces moving on and some new folks joining us, and it’s amazing seeing how this group has evolved into an amazing team. Everyone is doing incredible work, and is working together incredibly. I am so very proud of their performances, and love watching how much fun they’re having with each other.

We’ve got three shows coming up in March:

On Friday, March 1, we’ll be back at Acting Up! for our regular monthly show. It’ll be the last show there at our introductory price of $5 before a small increase next month. Kids 8 and under are free. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, March 16, we’ll be at Angel’s Island Coffee for a show starting at 7 p.m. Because of the smaller size of the venue, tickets will only be available online, so buy yours before it sells out.

On Wednesday, March 27, we’re going to be doing something a little different, participating in a multi-act comedy show at Crossroads in downtown Huntsville. A couple of clean stand-up comedians will open the show, and we’ll close it out. The show will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket information and venue directions are on our website.

Come join us, and we hope to see you soon!

Comedy Meets Reality


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According to the agreement we signed, we’re only allowed to talk about the aspects of the event that are public domain.

My improv troupe, Comic Science Improv, auditioned recently for the America’s Got Talent television competition.

That’s in the public domain — possibly because we were shown briefly on Birmingham TV news, and definitely because the AGT folks tweeted about us by name.

They were holding auditions in Birmingham this month, and for reasons that aren’t public domain but are really cool, we decided to go down and try out.

I also won’t talk about the actual audition or how we did, but that’s OK, because that’s not the most interesting part anyway.

The highlight for me came before the actual audition, while we were biding our time in the holding room with other auditioners. With time to kill, to get ready for the audition, we started doing warm-ups. We started drawing attention, and after a bit people starting coming up and asking if they could join us. Our group kept getting bigger and louder and more energetic, and drew more attention, until some of the AGT staff came over and started watching us — finally coming over to get our Twitter information so they could tweet about us.

It was neat watching. I personally think we’re pretty darned talented, but, seeing people join our circle, it was inarguable evidence of just how FUN this group is. People were excited to come see us, to be part of what we were doing. They asked where we were from, and offered to be groupies. In a room full of talented people, Comic Science stood out.

I was proud of my troupe. Very. Proud of their work, their talent, of what they do. But even more than that, I was proud to be a part of this group. Watching the players, you just couldn’t help but see not only how much these people enjoy what they do, but also how much they enjoy each other. How close this group is, how they work together, how they play together. These are my friends, my improv family.

Regardless of whether we ever hear anything from the audition, the whole trip was worth it just to see Comic Science holding court in the holding room.

Dead Man Talking


20121214-065702.jpgAnd then there was the time I dressed up as a dead man and hung out in the cemetery.

Someday, there’s going to be a post about how the last year and a half or so have changed me, and this post relates to one of those ways. My writing and acting backgrounds have merged into a new skillset, and I had a neat opportunity to put it to good use a little while back.

I met the awesome Jacque Reeves, who has an incredible knack for breathing life into Huntsville history, through the Depot earlier in the year, and mentioned that if she ever needed help with any of the fun things she does, I’d love to come play. That chance came a few weeks ago when I was invited to participate in the annual Cemetery Stroll at Maple Hill Cemetery.

In the Stroll, local folks dress up as historical characters buried in Maple Hill, stand by their graves, and tell their stories to visitors. The event continues to expand each year to the point where it’s now almost impossible to hear all of the stories, which keeps it fresh for repeat visitors.

I was called in as a last-minute replacement to portray Thomas Bibb, the second governor of Alabama. My museum connections helped my lay hands on some rather dapper period attire, and I rather misguidedly shaved my full beard off in favor of muttonchoppy sideburns. (I was apparently the only guy to sacrifice facial hair for his character, and I’m not entirely sure it was worth it.)

The last-minuteness of it added an element of challenge; I was provided a couple of sheets of information about Bibb, which I supplemented with a bit of my own research, but then had only a few days to make it my own and be ready to perform it. I found myself wishing it had been this easy to learn history when I was in school; it’s far more interesting when you take a narrative approach instead of a raw data-dump angle.

Bibb was an interesting guy. His family played a huge role in the formation of Alabama as a state, and he became governor when his brother, the first governor, was thrown from a horse and killed. He served out the remainder of the term, and decided he’d had enough. Of course, for all his accomplishments, the fact that capture more people’s attention was that, after he died in New Orleans, he was shipped back home in a barrel full of whiskey; a testament to his stature.

It was a great honor to get asked to participate this year, and I look forward to giving another lifeless performance next year!

The Science Of Improv


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Back in the good old days when I was blogging regularly, I wrote from time to time about Face2Face Improv, the live comedy troupe of which I was a member.

Back in early July, Face2Face had its last show.

A few days after F2F’s 10th anniversary(!) show, artistic director Gene Banks announced that he was shutting down the troupe. Since it was an official business wholly owned by Gene, the Face2Face Improv troupe ceased to exist.

Several of us, however, weren’t quite ready to be done.

And thus, Comic Science Improv was born.

Comic Science performs shows in a similar vein to Face2Face — short, games-based improv scenes based on audience suggestions, much like the old Who’s Line Is It Anyway show on ABC. Performances are appropriate, and entertaining, for all audiences. The core of the troupe consists of Face2Face veterans, but new faces are already making their way into shows.

I’m serving as the first director of the new troupe, and I am so incredibly proud of the work that everyone has been doing. We’ve launched several new games, performed at a new venue, and everyone is really bringing new things in their performances. We’re working to get the word out — We have a Facebook page, a and a Pinterest account, and are working to get a web page online. We were also featured recently in The Huntsville Times and al.com, which was pretty cool.

So, point being, you should come see us perform. We’ll be at the following venues in the next month or so. More details can be found on the Facebook page:

— Acting Up Academy on Whitesburg Drive on Saturday, December 8, at 7 p.m.

— The Tinsel Trail at Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville on December 15.

— Santa’s Village in downtown Huntsville on December 23rd.

— Acting Up Academy on Whitesburg Drive on Saturday, January 5.

(Also, we may be auditioning for a television show soon, but if that happens, it’ll merit its own post.)

Come check us out! We hope to see you soon!