autumn linkage

here’s my opportunity for shameless promotion of my other projects:

  • recently started contributing to the opinion column My Turn at The Asian Reporter
    i ruminate on things like Margaret Cho’s The Cho Show, hip hop, Olympics coverage, etc etc.
  • we have some new APA Compass episodes archived and available for download.
  • i’m on the board of the rad, feminist non-profit Bitch Magazine and we’ve had some great fundraising efforts over the last month in reaction to a financial crisis. now we could use some help in the form of feedback – do our survey!

that’s all for now. i’ll be back here starting november 1, beginning a crazy stint with NaBloPoMo

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So many things to do and see

Here’s a list of interesting things to check out in Portland over the coming weeks:

playing with Ruth Zaporah


I enjoyed a wonderful week-long workshop with Ruth Zaporah, founder of Action Theater. It felt so good to play!

I’ve done improvisation for many years since I lived in Chicago in the mid-90s. There I learned Chicago-style improv comedy. Basically, improvised scenes that hung together in the form of short improvised plays. Very narrative driven. The Chicago scene is so saturated and deep that folks were really doing some interesting experimentation with that form of improv. A group that I founded, an all-woman troupe named RED, began playing with using bigger physicality on stage, bringing a more visual element to the staging of the traditional improv comedy form.

Flash forward a few years in San Francisco. Did a bit of improv there, mostly building on what I’d done in Chicago. I even taught (with the illustrious Becky Haycox) and starting directing an incredibly gifted, intelligent group of improvisors THE FROOKIES. During that time, one of my students and a movement teacher exposed me to this strange and wonderful thing called Action Theater. It was physical, fun, funny, engaging, beautiful and much less verbose than the improvisation I was used to. From there I explored a little of that, a little contact improv and opened up to this new world of movement improvisation. I also picked up a copy of Ruth’s brilliant book Improvisation of Presence

Flash forward to Portland 2008. A woman I met on Alberta Street, who teaches an improvisation class, named Mary Rose emailed out the word that she was bringing Ruth Zaporah out for a workshop. I was thrilled! I talked it over with hubby and we scrounged up the cash to enroll me. I was nervous because I haven’t improvised in ages. I thought, what if I suck? What if I do something stupid? What if I forgot how to improvise? Damn you gremlin, get out of my head!

Turns out it was still in me after all. Ruth was an amazing teacher. The time was limited, but she managed to give us some great stuff to chomp on. The two big concepts I came away with was engaging the eyes and really connecting with the visceral sensory experience. I was pretty tired all week, from work and being a bit under the weather. But I think that actually helped me stay out of my chattering, gremlin head.

Here are some snippets of what I got from Ruth:

– “Each action is a manifestation of a truth we have inside.”
– “I position myself so that everything happens beautifully without me.” – This is what how she describes the improv “fairies.”
– “The soup of awareness.”
– “Have patience to stay with something for a long time.”
– “Saturate.”

And just as exciting is the fact that I’ve met some amazing folks through the workshop. And this sunday, along with some of my pals, I’m headed to Mary and Domeka’s Jumping Off Place for some fun explorations!

explore your Curious side…

Matt and I just went to one of the Grand Opening performances at the sweet new performance space Curious Theater.

The Location. It’s in a fantastic location (how did they get that space?) on NE MLK, between Alberta and Killingsworth in the VanPort Square Plaza along with the new locations for Horn of Africa and Old Town Pizza. It’s also across the street from the The Blazers Boys and Girls Club with whom Curious Theater company has struck up a cool youth theater program. I appreciate that the company has already made connections with the existing community. I hope they can continue to build partnerships that are inclusive and accessible. Material that’s come from that partnership will be showcased in a show tomorrow called Sometimes Toilet Water.

The Theater. The theater that they’ve built out so far is great. A decent sized stage (though a bit small for the eight-person improv troupe that performed there tonight), cabaret style seating, and concessions that includes beer and wine, sandwiches and snacks. It reminds me of theaters in the Chicago theater and comedy scene that are conducive to having a full night out with your peeps and liquid enhancers to making the shows fun and funny.

The Improvised Musical. The show that we saw was called Sam Adams! Sam Adams! Mayor Ex Machina. It was a fully improvised musical show complete with live musicians. The tag line is “We know Sam Adams will save our city, but can he save our musical???” and that’s exactly what the character of “Sam Adams” attempted to do, and with moderate success. In general, I would say that I was pretty impressed with the show. Improvising is challenging as it is, and adding musical numbers is a special test for the hearty improvisor. The company was quite successful in delivering a fun, entertaining show, with a decent story, respectable musical numbers and some pretty great performances.

To start, an audience member provided the inspiration of “rodeo.” The beginning of the show was a little rough for me (which I find is often the case for long-form improv theater) as the group searched for the characters, the story and an opening song. Two of the characters eventually emerged to be the protagonists: a cross-dressing ex-rodeo clown, rodeo princess wanna be and a toy-horse-playing 5 year old with a borderline uncomfortable relationship with her “Manny” (Male Nanny) and disturbed toy-horse-playing parents. The performers were committed and supportive of each other. There were some really nice moments throughout, as well as a few forgivable rough patches. As with the opener, the closing number was a little, let’s say, long, but that’s how this whole’ improv thing works. Part of the fun and interactiveness of an improv show is how we as an audience are constantly rooting for the improvisors. We appreciate the risks that they’re taking, the process that they’re working through, right there in front of our eyes. We know that it’s a brave thing they’re doing and we’re there for them.

All in all, I highly recommend this show! Especially if you’re a fan of musicals and especially if you’ve never seen a fully improvised play. Sam Adams! Sam Adams! runs Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30pm through November 8. All shows are $12 general, $10 students/seniors and you can save $2 with one of the postcards.

Portland Theatre Brigade

I am super excited about the Portland Theatre Brigade. I just joined them as Managing Director (very part-time for the fledgling organization), one of two new staffers. Jennifer Lanier has also joined the staff as East Brigade Director and Touring Manager. Adrienne Flagg, who also serves as Creative Director at the IFCC, is the PTB Artistic Director. Along with the Board of Directors, we’ve begun this year with a blast, having just finished casting this year’s company of 40 young actors/creators.

I was a young theatre geek back in the day. I studied early on at Beck Center for the Arts, a community theater in Lakewood, OH. From there I was empowered to do high school plays and a college tv show, on and on. Theatre unlocked in me this incredible passion and confidence. I truly believe it was a guiding force that continues to allow me to do the things I do, all of which I hope is always giving back to community.

The wonderful thing about PTB, is that the youth are empowered to take on a lot of the control and responsibility. We have student stage managers and they young actors choose the stories and write the plays that they want to perform. The training is based on the work of Viola Spolin, the fairy godmother of improvisation and games in theatre. The beauty of being Spolin-based, is that the young actors are encouraged to be generous, curious, open-minded and ensemble-centered. We’re working with the kids to encourage them to be good humans in how they interact in rehearsal and onstage, which follows that they also become great performers.

We have a couple of students that need some additional help with tuition. If you’re reading this and feel like you’d like to contribute, just let me know at toni [at] theatrebrigade.org. Here’s a letter we sent last week:

This weekend we’d like to offer you a very easy way to make a very big difference.

Theatre Brigade is enrolling now a fabulous group of new students for the upcoming season. We are very excited about the talent and diversity of these young people and we know they will be putting on a great show for the Portland community next spring.

But this year we also have an large number of very deserving children who’s families need some extra help paying tuition. Some of these parents are in exceedingly difficult circumstances, but they are dedicated to their children and desparately want them to have this opporunity.

Our scholarship fund is simply not adequate to meet the need – yet we can not bear to have to turn any of these children away. You can help.

Your donation of any amount, if made this weekend, will go directly to scholarship funding for this year’s students, allowing you to create an immediate impact in this community.

As little as $5 will help us help these children experience the benefits of Portland Brigade Membership.

$15 pays for one week of Brigade
$66 pays for one month
$285 provides one standard partial scholarship
$600 allows a poverty-affected child to participate for the full year

These children can not wait for the economy to improve. But you don’t have to have a lot to spare to be able to make a big difference in their lives. Please help today in whatever way you can.