Monday, August 8, 2016

Chez La Chaperone - Partie II

Le Retour:
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  
La Plage:
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.
Le Quartier:
Something I love 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 handrails.  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
Le Theatre:
My improv classes have continued to be mind-challenging and fun.  Our section mates really care about one another and are supportive in scene-work, being sure to use "Yes and" for our teammates' ideas.  One of my favorite teachers so far has been Patrick Rowland, performer of IO's famous 3Peat show. Patrick is kind, talented, and gifted in object work (pantomiming objects that aren't there to create a descriptive atmosphere).  I have seen 3Peat perform twice, and they made me collapse in laughter both times.  Rumor has it that one of their members recently auditioned for Lorne Michaels and the Saturday Night Live writers at IO's showcase a week back, and he totally killed the audition. (What I wouldn't have given to be a fly on the wall at that audition!)  An all-black improv group with sold-out shows each week, 3Peat's sense of humor and physical characters remind me of the Wayans family's In Living Color sketch comedy show from the early 90s.  On our last day of class, Patrick reminded us that improv as an art still has a long way to go in including more people of color and women, groups who are often largely unrepresented or misrepresented in comedy.

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
Oh, did I mention that I went to Lollapalooza for a day during its 25th anniversary festival?  It rained for three hours and I was grateful to have an umbrella that I could sit under while sitting atop of my waterproof jacket.  Others at the festival weren't so lucky, walking around in squishy, wet sandals and ponchos that covered only the upper half of their bodies.  Once the rain subsided, the festival continued in full swing, and I was grateful to finally stretch my legs and see several artists that I had come to see - Future (with quick appearance by Chance The Rapper), Duke Dumont, M83, Major Lazer, Radiohead, Miike Snow, Ghost, and others.  My night ended with "Karma Police" by Radiohead, and I don't think I could have chosen a better song in my head with which to walk back to Metra before my return to Hyde Park. 
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
Week 4 brought a lot of first-time moments for me.  I had my first improvised performance onstage at 3Peat's Diversity Jam on Monday night.  A few acquaintances from another section peer-pressured me to put my ID card in a bucket and told me I might be called up to improvise with some veteran improvisers for a few minutes.  Of course, I was terrified and begged them to go fish my ID out of the bucket, but then calmed down a bit, succumbing to the reality that I most likely would be called up. Sure enough, I was the second student's name called out of, like, twenty students, so I went onstage smiling and pretended to be confident.  It ended up being so fun, and our veteran improviser was so kind and supportive. We were able to do some warm-up activities in the back room just next to *gasp* 3Peat's group who were hanging out before going onstage. I saw Allison Ringhand and Patrick Rowland, two of my fave 3Peat people. We did a montage format and our suggestion was "goat," so I came out as a goat-herder a few scenes in.  My scene partner was a character pitching reality television show ideas, and so our scene became about a reality television show about goats who are voted off each week. Silly, but fun. I was honored to be in the opener for 3Peat. 

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
As the Ivy League Connection experience comes to an end, I want to say how grateful I am for the opportunity to spend time in Chicago and delve into my theater passion while the students were at UChicago.  Thank you to the students, Don Gosney, sponsors, and everyone who makes the ILC possible. Since I will be leaving West Contra Costa Unified School District to teach at California High School and Iron Horse Middle School in San Ramon Valley Unified School District, it is a bittersweet end to the three years I have spent with the ILC. I flew home to a wonderful anniversary party for my grandparents - 70 years! Aren't they cute?
My grandparents pose at their 70th anniversary party.

Alana (la chaperone)

Saturday, August 6, 2016


 Comprehensive photo memoire of my journey as an ILCer, from the (near) beginning to the end. =,^ )