Aw, Spit.

3 01 2011

It’s been a while since I have done anything that could be regarded as “legitimate” theater.  Matter of fact, when August of this year rolls around, it will be three years since I stepped onto a stage to perform previously scripted lines with inflection and objective and everything else that was imprinted onto my brain during my two-year duration in college.

I’ve kept myself busy, of course. Performing with one comedy group while leading another comedy group while working while finding time to get back to college since I’m apparently unqualified to even sell mattresses without holding a degree in anthropology. And guitar playing. Can’t forget that.

There have been times when I’ve felt the call of the “legitimate” stage. It’s a siren song, attempting to lure me back into the sweet embrace of notables like Chekhov, Shakespeare, Miller. And like the best sirens, these notables can’t wait to tear me to shreds.

What is it that has caused me to forgo the temptation, and keep on the path of improvisational comedy?

Like all good stories, this one involves a wad of saliva.

It was the end of what had been a 3-month tour.  I was in a production with three other people.  For the safety of the innocents, and the safety of myself, I’ll refrain from giving the names of the people and of the production. Aside from me, there were two males and a female.  Jake, the road manager, was on his second tour with the theater company.  Since he was the veteran out of the four of us, he had become the de facto leader.  Crystal, the female, was our ringer.  She was gorgeous, a great actress, and a terrific singing voice.  There was me, the plucky comic relief.

And then there was Matt.

Matt was the youngest of us all.  He was 19, but he had already lived a life of wonder and amazement.  He had, at different times in his life: Freestyled with some rapper that I can’t remember; Been pursued by law enforcement for 12 hours, leading up to a thrilling chase scene that culminated with a stand-off at the outlet of a sewer tunnel; Enlisted in the military and became a decorated paratrooper; And, the apex of all his accomplishments, modeled.

None of us took Matt that seriously.

Perhaps we should have.  If we did, then he may not have felt the need to lash out at inopportune times.  If only we had believed that he had descended gracefully into Iraq, he would not have felt the need to open the side door of the van while going 70 miles an hour on the interstate.  If only we had agreed that he was framed, he would not have felt the need to beat some kid up during one of our off-days, breaking his hand in the process (This was covered up by claiming he had caught his hand in a stair railing).  If only we had agreed that yes, he was the male incarnation of Heidi Klum, he would not have felt the need to make our lives much more difficult than they had to be.

Oh yes, I was looking forward to the end of this tour.

Morale was on the up-and-up.  It was the wrong kind of morale, though.  The kind of morale that manifests itself toward the end of any enterprise where people can’t wait to get out of it.  It was a sensation similar to that last month of senior year in high school, or the remaining five minutes of a sales meeting.  Our internal engines were revving, and all of us were eager to release the brake, pop the clutch, and zoom out into freedom.

I was tired.  Tired of the show, tired of the traveling, and tired of seeing these people every day.  Individually, they were lovely people.  However, put everyone into a passenger van for 9 hours, with set pieces banging into the head of anyone who was unfortunate to sit in the back, and emotions can get a little on edge.

It was with this mix of tiredness and morale that we made our way to what was our fourth-to-last show, an elementary school.  As it had been for the past three months, the show was booked toward the end of the day, a little treat for the kids and teachers.  I was on the stage, getting dressed behind the constructed set (Another fun aspect of this tour: getting dressed behind the set while loud children filed into the auditorium), when I heard Jake and Matt arguing.  Well, not arguing, per se, but vehemently debating.  What they were vehemently debating, I didn’t know.  It could’ve been anything: The show, the tour, behavior issues, whether Family Matters or Full House was the better family sitcom of the 1990s.  It really didn’t matter to me.  What mattered was after this show, there would be four more shows left, and then I would be home-free.  I was looking forward to unemployment.

Matt appeared behind the set as I was getting on the final pieces of my costume.  Matt was still dressed in his street clothes, his desire to prove himself superior to Jake taking precedent over getting ready to entertain people.  In the beginning, I attempted to be empathetic.  After all, I too noticed that Jake had taken a fascist-like approach to his position as road manager.  As the weeks wore on, however, my empathy morphed into indifference as I came to realize that there really was no way things were going to change.  Now, in this final week, I was in survival mode.  I stayed mostly silent, getting the job done and making sure the audience was going away with the faux-knowledge that gee golly, things were swell amongst the cast.

Now, this being a public forum, I’m going to replace a few choice words within the following dialogue.  The word that is replaced will be marked with an asterisk, so feel free to insert your favorite epithet.

Matt was grabbing his costume, hastily dressing while simultaneously talking to me.  “Can you believe that clown*?”

I shrugged.  With ten minutes to showtime, I was in no place to be a sense of reason.  “Dude, just let it go.  We got four days left, and then we’re done.”

Matt shook his head, pulling on his shirt. “Man, I can’t freakin’* believe you’re taking that clown’s* side.  You’re all freaking* against me.”

I spoke up a little.  Although Jake was the road manager, I was the oldest of the four of us.  “Look, I know you and him have some kind of beef, but show some professionalism, man.  I mean, there are kids coming in right now, and you keep talking like that, we’re all going to be in trouble with the theater.”

Matt looked over at me.  It was clear he now thought I was a traitor to his cause.  “Shoot* you’re all freaking* against me.”

I shook my head.  By this time, Crystal had joined us.  “Look, man, nobody’s against you.  We got a job to do, and we’re going to do it.  Then we’re going home.  Just let it go.”

“Forget* that.” Matt said.  That’s when he spotted Jake’s costume.  It was a costume for a king character, complete with crown.  Matt looked at us, then at the crown.  “He’s gonna see what happens when you mess* with me,” Matt said.  He picked up the crown, and spat a wad of saliva straight into the netting on the inside, right where Jake’s head would be.  He looked over at us, smirked, and moved over to the other side of the stage.

Crystal and I looked at each other.  It was a mix of emotions that could be found going between us.  We were stunned, certainly, but there was also the feeling that we had been here before.  It’s an odd feeling when a person who does something as base as spitting into another person’s clothing can be viewed as just a part of their natural state.  That’s not a person I like to know.

Jake came to get his costume.  He got dressed and was about to put on his crown when he looked inside and noticed the that there was something wet amongst the netting.  He turned to me.  “What happened to my crown?”

I was a defeated man.  I just shrugged.  “Matt spit in it.”

Jake’s eyes went wide.  I shrugged again.  “There’s a pair of scissors in the sewing bag.  Cut it out, and let’s get this over with.”

Jake cut the netting out.  We did the show, packed everything up, and returned home.

The next day, Matt had been fired from the tour.  Jake took the time to talk to Crystal and I, see if there were any other personal conflicts that needed to be sorted out.  There weren’t, fortunately.

We got a new person for the remaining four shows, and at the end of the week I celebrated my newly-found unemployment by going to an improv comedy show.

So why have I not done “legitimate” theater for a little over two years?

I don’t have to worry about someone spitting into my hat in improv.

 

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Improv. Why?

9 05 2010

That question is one I’ve found myself asking a lot the past couple of days.

Before we go any further, just so you know: I’m not retiring from improv.  I’m not even close to thinking about quitting this art that I’ve loved for the past 11 years of my life.  So if you’re hoping that this is going to be a big Lou Gehrig moment, I suggest you stop reading and do something else, like building a birdhouse.  Seriously, I don’t see enough of those small architectural wonders.

Back to the question at hand; Why in the world, for the past decade, have I spent my time studying, watching, performing, and loving this art form?

This question formed after reading Molly Buckley’s blog entry on her improv experience (Found here, on her brilliant website).  She posits that to her, the stage is her church, improv her religion.  Some may call it an extreme statement, but after seeing her perform for the past couple of years, I’d say it’s right on the money.  Molly rocks it out every time she performs.  So does everyone who’s a part of Made of BEES.

But why?  Why do I feel the compulsion to get up on the stage, perform for the masses, and bring smiles to faces?  Why am I not content to sit back, relax, and let the thousands of other performers through this great world do the entertaining for me?

Life would be so much simpler if I just threw in the towel, proclaimed “I’m done.”, and never worried about setting foot on the stage again.  There would be time to do normal things, like watch TV and go to bars and debate the merits of my favorite NFL team’s draft picks.  I could even try to breach the dating scene.  It’d be jarring at first to keep my focus on the beautiful girl in front of me than the dozens of potential characters that always frequent the restaurants, bars and bowling alleys.  But eventually that temptation would fade, and I’d be a simpler person.  A normal person.  A saner person.

So the question remains.  Why?  Why have I devoted 11 years of my life to studying, seeing, and performing improv?  After some soul-searching, I think I’ve found some answers:

  • Improv accepts.
  • It encourages.
  • It emboldens.
  • It always says “Yes”.
  • Improv never calls in the middle of the week, telling me that things just aren’t working out.
  • It never sends me an email, saying that I’m not qualified enough to be a part of it.
  • Improv shows me where I shine brightest.
  • It shows me my weaknesses, and then strengthens them.
  • Improv doesn’t discriminate.  It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how much money you make.  All it cares about is you perform to the best of your ability.
  • It teaches me how to trust.
  • It proves it’s all right to be vulnerable.
  • Improv brings people together.
  • Improv helps me become the person I want to be.

There are more answers.  I just haven’t found them yet.

To Molly, improv is her church.  To me, it’s a mentor.  It develops me.  It pulls me out of my shell, telling me it’s all right to be who I am.  I can succeed, or I can fail.  Whatever happens, improv will be there for me the next day, and the day after that.  It doesn’t discard me.  It needs me as much as I need it.

There’s no telling how long this mutual need will last.  Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and find myself lacking the desire to get on stage.  Maybe the time will come when I have a career and a wife and a mortgage and I’ll have to put it aside.  Maybe I’ll finally take the advice of some of my more practical friends, and “grow up”.

But until then, I’m here.  In the present.  And presently, I’m about improv, and all the hope and joy and love that comes with it.

Yes and.

-ZA





Footlooser

24 03 2010

Hello all!

Check out this new video from Zach and Aaron. Enjoy!





MOB does Richmond!

11 11 2009

Hello die hard Made of Bees fans! Here are some videos from the Richmond Improv festival. Like what you see? Come see us live!!!!

Enjoy!





Welcome to Atlanta. Bienvenido a Atlanta.

21 09 2009

The BEES (well, 3/4 of them) got in Aaron’s Blazer, no not the jacket, and drove a gazillion hours, or 7, to Atlanta, Georgia for the 6th Annual Black Box Improv Festival.

Here is a short 3-4 minute video recapping adventures.

Enjoy.

-MB.





Disturbing Things I Have Seen At the Gym: VOL 2

31 07 2009

Last week we went on a grand adventure, where middle aged woman with tramp stamps roamed the earth. This week, ladies and gentlemen, we dive head first into the world of the elderly male athlete!

AHHHHHHHHHHHH

Yes I know, it is a scary tale, but together we can survive it!

Any good gym provides its patrons with adequate changing facilities.  A few lockers, toilets, showers, and occasionally a sweet sauna room, but there are certain individuals who constantly abuse these amenities. A demographic who assume that the men’s locker room should have a “make yourself at home” policy.  You all know who I’m talking about! That’s right, the old men. The guys who are always butt ass naked. There is no logical or scientific explanation as to why these elderly males deem it necessary to always be stark nude. Any time you enter a men’s locker room at your local gym, you are guaranteed to see a pale, wrinkled apparition.

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I have been going to the gym long enough that I have gotten use to these images. I am no longer bothered by what looks like an old naked big foot sitting on the bench next to me. It has now become part of the gym experience. But what I saw the other day, would make Hiroshima look like a botanical garden.

I had entered the locker room expecting to see the normal amount of old man ass. Of course when I first walk in, there are two gentlemen carrying on a conversation while naked. This didn’t really surprise me so I continued looking for an empty locker. I placed my things in the locker and began to change. Another older gentlemen exits the shower and takes off his towel as he reaches the locker containing his belongings. Again, this isn’t anything new, so I continued about my business, lacing up my sneakers. As I was finishing the change, I noticed the plump, elder had retrieved his socks from his Nike gym bag. I thought this a bit odd considering the man was just standing in the middle of the locker room without any cloths on. In my mind, the underoos are the first clothing item any man should reach for. It is only polite to cover your twig and berries as soon as humanly possibly. But for some reason old men love being naked. I’m telling you, its a science oddity!

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As I get up to exit the men’s locker room, the elderly fellow goes over to put on his socks. Bent over full moon, I get a sneak preview at this man’s backdoor entrance, along with tickle whistle, and shriveled prunes. For that split second I felt like I was about to give this man his yearly prostate exam.

I still wake up from nightmares.

-AG





Disturbing Things I Have Seen at the Gym VOL: 1

23 07 2009

I feel as if Zach Arnold is stealing all the blog glory! So I felt compelled to add my own little flavor. Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to a blog-ment (it was my clever way of combining blog and segment) I like to call: Disturbing Things I Have Seen at the Gym!!

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Being a pretty active fellow I spend a good amount of time in the gym. I tend to zone out, get the workout in, and get out. But every now and then something peculiar, out of the ordinary, and just down right not meant for human eyes, will catch my attention. Last week I was at American Family fitness doing a couple reps of dumbbell deadlifts (1,000 to be exact), when God himself thought it necessary to come down from the heavens to punish my eyes, AND overall mental state.

No more than 2 feet from my designated work out area, that I had clearly marked with droplets of sweat, an intruder had arrived. Now I am not a gym snob by any means. You know, those guys who feel it necessary to use all the equipment at once, and choose to condescendingly smirk at you when it’s finally your turn. I just simply want a little bit of room, so that I’m not constantly having to dodge people in the middle of my set.

This was no ordinary intruder, no, it was a middle aged African-American woman sporting a “flock of seagulls mixed with Fresh Prince of Bel-are” hair do, and Baby Phat attire. And lets just say that she did not fit these close the way a grown, mature woman should. The hot pink tank top she was wearing only went down to about mid-bellybutton. Just enough to cover the start of her happy trail. Thank you for only halfway scaring me for life. The tight black workout pants she was wearing, hugged her legs making them both look like giant man eating caterpillars.

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I was already at workout mix song number 5, so I was able to zone this hideous sight out. As I was doing my reps I notice she is doing lying flys. Which, if you are not aware,  is basically laying on your back and opening your arms and closing them like a butterfly (with weights of course). This strategic move, allowed the ever so lovely “Baby Phat” to share with me, and the rest of the gentlemen in the gym, that she was not very good and shaving her armpits. And you say: “But Aaron, this is disgusting enough, please stop the post!”, and I say, nay my friends, it gets worse.

Once she is done, she begins to return to an upright position on the bench. Of course because her hot pink Baby Phat shirt is three sizes too small it begins to ride up her, surprise, hairy lower back. As the shirt is slowly escaping the almost certain doom of her butt crack, I begin to see the revealing of what looks like a tramp stamp. Am I surprised? Of course not, this far into the story, it should be obvious this woman would have a tramp stamp (lower back tattoo). As her shirt was wondering up I began to wonder what the tattoo could be. A butterfly perhaps, maybe some sort of flower. I was naive to assume it would be anything remotely beautiful. The shirt finally and fully revealed the entire tattoo, and in cursive it read:

VERY SEXY!

-AG