Feeling Lucky

Driving home this evening, I realized that this week I get to do three things I love – Tonight was the last meeting of the playwriting class I’ve been taking. Tomorrow night is the next of the voice acting class. Wednesday is a comedy show.

I had a reading of part of my play for Fringe in the playwriting class. While the overall response was positive, most of my final sequence jokes didn’t get the response I was expecting, so I will have to revisit those. There was also some feedback around the character’s backstory that I need to clarify. I’m both excited and scared. It’s reading better each time, but I also realize that I will be doing it, live, onstage, in a month. Still, you never grow unless you challenge yourself.

I started the voice acting class late because of previous Tuesday night commitments, including the Las Vegas trip and the class didn’t meet last week, so tomorrow will only be class #2 for me while my classmates are on #4. I don’t need to worry about it now, but I will be going into the last class, a meeting with a casting director, less prepared than my classmates. Still, I’m enjoying doing it.

For the comedy show on Wednesday, I only get three minutes, and for some reason I’m having difficulty deciding which three minutes to do. I hate to be the guy that always does the same material, but with only three minutes, I want to stick with pieces that I know will hit. Still, it’s good to have a plethora of choices.

So it’s a busy week. I feel lucky to have it.

Vegging in Vegas (not)

I’m writing this post from a timeshare in Las Vegas. This time I’m here mostly to be entertained – we have tickets to shows on both Friday and Saturday nights, so I won’t be doing the Saturday Sapphire show like the last time I was here. I will be doing an open mic on Thursday, so if you’re in town, drop me a line – steve@steveheyl.com.

Since I’m on this “unpaid sabbatical”, I came up to Vegas a few days before John. This will give me some time to work on my show (well the promotion materials for my show) at the San Diego Fringe. I’ve had some of the script read in my playwriting class and I’m getting positive feedback, but of course I’m still tweaking it.

I’m also in the Pride Comedy Festival later this month. This is a short set, but it should be fun. Buy tickets here. for a 10% discount.

So I’m not quite vegging after all.

Time to Work?

Three months off work, I’ll have time to catch up on everything on my list. At least that’s what I said. In the just-over-three-weeks into this ‘unpaid sabbatical’, I finished the first voice-over class (and actually did a passable Cockney accent for a few lines), started taking a playwriting class (and had a reading of the opening pages of my show), drove to San Diego to perform some comedy, saw a few plays, went to the science museum (“Science of Pixar” show), spent a weekend in Death Valley and a day the Renaissance Faire, worked on continuing education for my project management certification, and wrote a bit on my show.

Whew

Every time I’m off work, I wonder how I found time for work. (Yes, that’s sort of a joke).

Next week, I’m spending a few days in Las Vegas (John is joining me for the weekend); I tell myself it’s a writing retreat. I’m leaving my “list” behind, so I will find time to work.

Re-[insert word here]

Re-Unemployed. As of today, I’m not working again. I’ve been talking for the better part of a month to the manager where I’ve been working. They don’t have any more work for me until a new project spins up later in the year. Since there’s a chance that they’ll want me back, initially I’m calling this ‘time off’ and “unpaid sabbatical”. I’m actually looking forward to it because I definitely need to –

Re-Work my solo dramatic play and I have a deadline (i.e. the San Diego Fringe Festival, as noted last time). I decided to take a playwriting class while I’m doing this work, figuring the ongoing feedback will be invaluable. It will also help to keep me on track. Yes it means for a few weeks I have both this and another class – the one for –

Re-cording. – I assumed I would like it (or else I wouldn’t have taken it), but the voiceover class is more fun than I expected. I’m certainly not the “best” person in the class, but I think I hold my own. Last week showed I have some issues with timing, but my characterizations seem to be a hit. And it is so nice to have a script in front of me, especially since I need to –

Re-trench on the comedy stage front. I was very comfortable and felt good about both the 30 minute show last week and the 10 minute show last night, but when I listened to the recordings, I’m not getting the laughs I expect. That goes for both new material my recent class and the tried-and-true. What caused guffaws in class or smatterings of applause in other shows have just registered moderate reaction in both of these shows. I’m finding it frustrating that even though I think I’m getting better, the –

Re-sponse doesn’t seem to match. I think part of this “unpaid sabbatical” will be spent reviewing material and seeing what I can do to pump it up. Looking at the bright side, I only repeated 2 minutes of material in the 40 minutes of show time I did in the last two weeks. And I still have 3 or 4 additional bits in –

Re-serve. That’s not a bad place to start from.

Juggling Off Stage

Juggling is the art of keeping three or more objects in the air at the same time, right?

So I’m sort of juggling starting next week. I have another week left in my comedy class and two shows scheduled where I’m going to be doing some of the new material from it. I start the voice acting class next week. Today I found out that I will be doing my dramatic show at the San Diego Fringe Festival in the summer, so I’ll be starting on some rewrites soon. And, I sent a proposal to Burning Man Arts for a conceptual/visual piece for this year’s event.

Breaking that down a bit…

The comedy class on Wednesdays is going well. I’m working on four new bits, each about a minute and a half long, so potentially I’ll come out of this with six to eight minutes of pretty solid material, just in time for the 30 minute show I am doing in La Mesa and the 10 minute show in Burbank later this month.

Taking a voice acting class is my way of expanding my range of accents and characters to use in my standup. This is an intro class, and I expect I’ll take a few “specialties” (e.g. voiceover for commercials, audio books) as my interests in these areas emerge.

After the Tucson Fringe premier of my one man show “The Big Break” I realized that there is a lot of room to tighten the script as well as smoothing out the flow. Of course, with other things going on, those rewrites moved to the “someday” pile. Now that San Diego Fringe has accepted it (and I’ll soon have money on the line), I have a deadline. Writers need deadlines. So it will definitely be a better show in San Diego.

How did a Burning Man project fit into this mess? Most of the years I’ve been to Burning Man or Burning Man-like events, I’ve created some sort of art. Twice I did a little performance art – walking around in a labeled “Drama Free Zone” (complete with music). Twice I did stand up comedy (once naked). I’ve done conceptual art costumes (e.g. “The Snuggie of Turin”). A few years ago I had the idea of doing a “pilgrimage” piece, with markers along a path through the city. This year’s theme “Radical Ritual” seemed like the perfect opportunity to implement it. Because I’m planning to put these markers on existing infrastructure, I’m not sure the art placement group will allow it, put I proposed it. As one of our Up With People students used to say “You already have ‘no’; you have to ask for ‘yes'”.

Put all that together, and there’s probably not going to be a lot of actual on-stage-in-front-of-an-audience time in April. So I’ll be juggling, but not always on stage.

A little class

A lot has been happening since the show in January, unfortunately most of it has not been related to doing comedy. But I’m fixing that in the way I know how – education.

I’m taking a 5 week comedy class. Yes I missed a class this week because of a business trip but 1) I sent the teacher a video of my assignment and 2) I tried some of last week’s material in an open mic. A good comedy class (and this is shaping up to be one) is a collaborative art project – each person brings a partially formed piece and the others help them refine it. I am expecting to have several new bits when I finish this one.

About the time that class ends, I’ve signed up for a voice acting class. Sometimes I have an idea for one or more jokes that really require a vocal act-out and/or accent, so it would help to have some voice acting experience.

Besides, a classroom is sort of a stage, right?

A Dramatic Departure

Sometimes an idea strikes you and you have to see where it takes you. So it was with the show I wrote and performed at the Tucson Fringe Festival last weekend. I can’t say it was a great performance – I got a few scenes out of order – but I did it in front of a paying audience, which was exciting. I can’t say it was a great piece of theater, but after the show people were discussing it, so it did what I intended. All in all, it was a good experience. This was a departure for me in that it was a drama. I don’t think I’m done with it, but for now I can move on to other projects, possibly including some new stand up material. It was a stretch for me, but if you don’t stretch, you never grow.

Blue Mondays

We spent the week between Christmas and New Years visiting friends in the Bay Area. Knowing that I had a comedy contest on January 2, I decided at nearly the last minute (well about 24 hours ahead, which is ‘the last minute’ in my anal-retentive left brain) to do a Monday night open mic in San Francisco as a practice set.

And that is how my San Francisco comedy debut was in a laundromat.

One person besides John showed up specifically to see me, and since it turned out I was on almost at the end of the show, I took the two of them out for drinks afterwards. I got the light a little earlier than expected, so I cut a few sections from the set before I did it at the contest.

Doing a comedy contest in LA on Monday, the second day of the new year sounded like a great idea – what better way start a year than in front of big audience doing a great set? It just sets the tone for success in the months to come! Unfortunately, that’s not the way it turned out. I felt good about my performance, and was aware of the audience laughing at most of the ‘right’ places, but did not make the cut to compete in the semi-final round. At least I had a few people there cheering for me.

So that was how my year ended and started.

Performance Mode

Just because I’ve been writing doesn’t mean I’m not looking for opportunities to perform. (If you’re a booker, yes that means I’m looking for stage time)

The weekend before last we were in San Diego and I got a chance to do a set at Comedy Heights in University Heights, one of my favorite venues. I had a few simple variations, but it was mostly some of my ‘standards’.

That was probably good practice, because I signed up for the Funniest Comic in LA contest (preliminary round) early next month. I assume I’ll be up against some ‘pros’, so I’m going to stick to material that I know I can do confidently. Win or lose, that will be a great way to start the new year.

After returning from San Diego, I held a table read of my show for Tucson. This time the feedback included only minor updates, so now I’m shifting from writing mode to performance mode. I have one more read scheduled for this week, with emphasis on direction and acting rather than writing. Since the writer/director friend who will be helping me with that is pretty far from Long Beach, I rented a rehearsal space near him for the evening; this all suddenly feels very “legitimate”.

And….I got to play social media director for a day. The Tucson Fringe is giving each show a day to take over their Twitter account. I wanted to do more than just say “hey come to my show”, so at particular times during the day I posted inspirational or humorous quotes. I had a hashtag, #ChooseTheFringe”, for posts why “the fringe” is better than “the center”. And of course I threw in a few show promotions.

The contest is only two weeks away and the Fringe show less than two weeks after that. It’s time to be in serious performance mode.

Oh yeah, I have a website

which hasn’t been updated in a while.

Of course I could tell you that I was in Florida for a week, and Sacramento for a work week, and that I ran a half marathon (all true), but none of those are good reasons to miss posting for nearly two months.

Working on my show for the Tucson Fringe? Now that’s a reason to miss posting, and in fact, I have been spending quite a bit of time on the show. The tech-ready script is due this week, and I am close to making that deadline. I’ve had one table read for feedback with friends and have another coming on Monday.

In the mean time, I did get back on stage tonight – with Comedy Heights in Universal Heights. I tried a few new bits, which may still need refinement, but overall I was pretty satisfied.

OK, that’s the update. now back to the show.