It was a warm, dark morning when the UChicago cohort members and I, their chaperone, boarded the shuttle that would take us to Midway Airport for our return trip to California. Our flight back home was over a week ago, and with memories swimming in my head, I will recount the final experiences I had in Chicago during my Ivy League Connection stay.
|Yoga on Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach|
I first learned about Sun and Moon Beach Yoga last summer during my stay in Chicago, and I bought a Groupon pass so I could practice yoga on the beach an unlimited amount of times this year. My routine went something like this: after finishing my IO improv classes, I would walk to the 72 bus that took me to North Avenue Beach. I would flatten out my yoga mat and take a sunny nap in the sand for a half hour before my yoga class started. The advantages of practicing yoga on the beach include the beautiful view of the water and the restorative energy of the sun on your shoulders. Disadvantages include remaining sandy for minutes and sometimes hours after your class and trying to balance on a sinking mat during a particularly windy day. The yoga was wonderful and centering, and I would often finish the evening with a relaxing soak in the Hyatt pool.
|Old Town neighborhood with the most dogs I've ever seen.|
Something I loved about the surrounding area of Old Town and Lincoln Park (the neighborhoods near my improv classes) is the constant presence of dogs and their owners. I have never walked down a street with so many happy canines. It made me miss my parents' dogs intensely. Groomer shops and pet hospitals could be found all over, like the grooming shop above with poodle-themed hand rails. Adorable!
The food in Chicago has been fresh and tasty, just like last summer. The IO theater is across the street from the most amazing, Costco-sized Whole Foods you have ever seen. The store includes a bakery, coffee shop, deli, wok, pizzeria, florist, wine bar, extensive produce section, beauty counter, and aisles of artisanal cheeses and organic goods. Favorite restaurants I have visited include Eataly, Ramen-san, Chant, and Ja'Grill in Hyde Park.
|Prosciutto and arugula white pizza from Eataly|
|Fried chicken ramen and miso salmon from Ramen-San|
Some highlights of my program have included two optional workshops on the weekends - "Musical Improv" led by IO pianist and musician, Dave Asher, and "Stop Making it Work" led by Saturday Night Live sketch writer and former IO improviser, Katie Rich. Asher gave us some tips on how to make rhyming easier and more impressive in singing, but also wanted us to understand that rhyming isn't as important as actually connecting with and singing to the music that is being played. Asher is arguably the best improviser in a musical improv show because he has to follow the emotional moments and create music inspired by the themes at play, as well as follow the direction of the singers. Katie Rich was absolutely warm, bright, hilarious and inspiring in her advice about playing characters different from ourselves and getting out of our heads when improvising. She wants us improvisers to enjoy the art and to stop making improvising "work," because it should be fun. Katie even sent us individual feedback via email following the workshop. I will be taking a workshop with Susan Messing this upcoming week, also. The exposure I have had to important people in the Chicago improv scene is incredible. IO's connection to Saturday Night Live is mind-boggling and impressive, and can be traced back to Charna Halpern, co-founder of IO Chicago. Below is a link to an interview with Charna from WGN radio back in June where she discusses her important relationship with Saturday Night Live:
|Section 5 with our Week 2 teacher, Patrick Rowland|
|With Katie Rich, one of the few female Saturday Night Live sketch writers|
|Getting ready for Rufus du Sol and Alessia Cara at Lollapalooza|
|Me at Lolla|
|Our Week 4 teacher, Colleen Doyle, performs with her 2-person ensemble, Dummy.|
|Before my group's "Cagematch" performance in the Chris Farley Cabaret|
One of my Section 5 teammates signed up our section for a slot on "Cagematch," which is basically a competition for sections from the intensive to do montages and be judged by more experienced improvisers who are acting as characters. One of our judges was acting as Guy Fieri - his review of IO's food menu was killing me. Only 7 of the 16 people in our section participated in "Cagematch" and I was one of them. After performing before 3Peat, I felt that my fear was gone of being onstage, so I signed up for the competition with Brian, the sectionmate in charge. The suggestion from the audience was "wig," and we had comedic scenes with themes of chemotherapy, 'Locks of Love,' and wiggety wiggety rap. We ended up winning second place and I thought that was awesome. In my section, I came to IO as one of the least experienced long-form improvisers, and I have got to give shout-outs to my experienced, amazing teammates who really held our show together and made us all shine. Second place!
|Onstage with our group, Oprah Has My Wallet|