The Velawesomeraptor Himself (clayrobeson) wrote,
The Velawesomeraptor Himself

I've got friends in odd places...

I'm a collector of sorts.  I seem to collect friends.  You've all heard me rant about how everyone has to like me (or about how I'm giving up on that philosophy).  But no matter what I do, I meet and hold onto some of the most amazing people in the world.  I may not speak to them every day, or even every month, but when we speak, it's as if the last conversation had never stopped.  It's as if there was no Girl From Ipanima playing while our friendship was on hold between conversations.

While there are many of you whom I need to write about, I have to start with someone, and that someone is someone who probably won't see this, which is why I'm starting here.

I'd been singing with an accapella group for about two weeks.  A couple really good friends of mine invited me to audition when they lost their bass, and so I did.  It was an intense time for them, as they'd lost two members and had a huge series of gigs in about a month and a half.  So the new folks had about 17 songs to learn.  I was having a whole lot of fun for the first week, but as they chose the harder pieces to start with, fun became frustration for all of us.  But the fun was so much fun that I'd resigned my position with the folk group that I'd been dancing with to focus on the singing.

The day after I resigned, the three ladies in the group (two of whom were my very good friends) showed up at my door.  We had the 'talk' and I was let go.  I really should have been expecting it, but in all honesty, our styles DIDN'T match.  The way I learned was different.  The way I read music (I don't) was different.  And so we went our separate ways.  In terms of performing, anyway.  I'm still good friends with them.

It didn't bother me for the first fifteen or so minutes after they left, but then I went through the usual anger/frustration/sadness regime, and when I was done, I realized I no longer had a creative outlet.

So when I heard the folks on the WFNX morning show talking about improv, my curiosity was piqued.  The producer of the morning show was a regular at Improv Boston in Cambridge.  He talked about the fact that they offered classes, and that really got my mind racing.  When I checked out their website, though, I was less than impressed.  There was a lack of professionality to it.  I did, however, find a link on their links page that led me to the Improv Asylum's webpage.  They had just enough of a professional look to keep me looking, and they had classes starting in less than two weeks.  So I ponied up the cash and signed up without ever having seen a show, or having even walked past the place.

My class time was Saturday, from 10 AM to 1 PM.  That first morning in September I left kind of early.  I'd only been to the North End once or twice before, and I wasn't really sure how to get where I was going, so I left plenty of time to get lost (which I did wonderfully).  Eventually I walked down the stairs into the basement theater beneath an abandoned restaurant, and sat in a little dark lobby with a bunch of other confused looking folk.  Harry, Tim, Ted, Russ, Steve, Lindsey, Travis, Rich, Brian, Brian, and several others filed into the theater, where we met our instructor, Amy.  And yes, I've finally reached the subject of this post.

I couldn't tell you what color Amy's hair was anymore.  It changed so many times in the first year that I knew her it was amazing.  We almost started taking bets on whether it would be different from week to week.  But Amy took us through ice breakers, and trust building exercises, and started us on a path that I'm still walking to this day.  Every Saturday morning for eight weeks was like being a kid at summer camp.  I found my calling.

As a student, we all got one free ticket each semester, so I took a friend who was in town for the weekend, and I went to see my first show.  We sat in Section Two, seats 7 and 8 in row D.  Amy was in that night, and I got to see just what an amazing performer she was.  The show that night was inspiring in a way that wouldn't happen to me again until my first auditions for the Asylum.  I found myself tearing up a bit at the end of the show, because there was this hand reaching out from the stage, wrapping it's fingers around my heart and pulling, telling me that somehow, some way, I had to be on that stage doing what those people were doing.  Whatever it took, that's what I'd do.

I left Amy a note that night, not knowing that the actors came out to socialize after the show.  It said, simply, "You are a god!"  And I meant it.  She took the entire universe into her hands and shaped it with her will.  THAT is the power of improvisation.  You can create universes with a single word, a single look, a single phrase.  Amy showed me that, and I was instantly addicted.  I took the lessons Amy taught to Dragon*Con, and entered the Whose Line improv competition.  Much to everyone's surprise, my own included, I took home the can of Spam that was first prize.

I was horribly depressed when the last class came and went.  I'd miss my favorite (okay, yeah, only) instructor.  But luckily for me, I got her back for level 3-- character work.  Exploring the hidden freaks inside of us and bringing them out for the world to enjoy.

By the time level 3 ended, I was seeing shows pretty regularly.  I knew then, that the cast came out to socialize after, so I'd hang out, and I got to know Amy a little better outside of class.  I also got to know Paul, and Brian and Eddie and some of the other folks in the cast, too.

And it was then that the Asylum decided to create their Touring Company.  I went to auditions, scared out of my shit, and watched the folks from levels four, five and six create AMAZING scenes on stage.  And once again, I found inspiration rather than intimidation.  I kicked ass.  One of my scenes actually became a sketch in the following grad show.  I'm still pretty damn proud of that.

I didn't get cast.

I did, however, get to the interview stage in the game, and I was told that when/if they decided to expand the TC, that I was on the short list of folks to call.

Back to classes, my Saturdays were this wellspring of creation.  From 10 AM to 1 PM I, too, was a god with the power to build universes.  I used that power to the best of my ability, and when our grad show came, Third Grade Trick was a powerhouse.

Amy was at our grad show.  Afterwards, she was all weepy.  We were her first level one class, and she was so proud of us.  It made me feel WONDERFUL that I'd made someone that proud who wasn't a parent and OBLIGATED to be proud.

The second round of Touring Company auditions happened just after our level 6 grad show.  The directors forgot about their short list, and everyone auditioned again.  Of the 11 people in my grad class five of us (including me) ended up in the TC (one more would later join the NET cast).  The rest went on to perform regularly at a bar right off the Common (the first Bar in Boston that I'd 'hung out at').

Being a part of the Asylum family let me get to know everyone I'd not had a chance to meet.  I didn't have to pay to see shows anymore.  I was an actor.

When my company opened up their Resident Resource Center for the underprivileged kids, I managed to slip them Amy's resume, and she ended up helping to shape what would become a pretty big program.  So not only were we working together at the theater, we were working for the same company outside the theater.

Amy was no longer a god in my eyes.  Together, on stage, we were gods.  Together, at the office, we were a team working to help people.  Together, at the bar, we liked beer.  Our relationship had changed at some point from Teacher/Student to one of mutual respect and Friendship.

I was really sad when Amy moved to New York.  But it was what she needed to do.  And it was a good move for her.  She grew tremendously.  And I got to visit with her when I went down there.  Now, she's in Chicago, running an improv group there.  We correspond at LEAST once or twice a month, sharing the travails of our lives.  After this whole blathering spiel, some might say I had a crush on her.  At one time, yes... but honestly, Amy is just Good People, and she's the kind of Good People that you can't let go of.

She's also a brilliant writer, which actually brings me to the whole point of this post.  If you're looking for a good read, check out:



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