Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sheet forts and improv groups

Last year sometime, shortly after we moved here, we went to a performance of a local improv troupe and were less than impressed.  The audience seemed to like it, but with my Big City background and Doug's actual improv training, plus with our general judgmental natures, we found much to complain about.

Yet, it was the only game in town, so we went again a few weeks ago and were equally unimpressed.  We walked home feeling like snobs--we'd *wanted* to like them, we had hope they had perhaps improved over the year, and the audience was even larger and more enthusiastic than last year.  Obviously they are catering to their audience well, and if the goal is to make money, they look like they are having some success.  But we felt many of the games went on too long, they gave too much power to the audience (e.g. don't TELL the audience what the nouns and adjectives are going to be used for, that's less funny!), etc.

Then, miraculously, the tide turned.  In reading the Fayetteville Flyer, I learned about some "fringey" (word used by the artistic director herself) theatre company in town called Artists Laboratory Theatre who are hosting a month of shows in a sheet fort. Yes, you heard me, a sheet fort.  They have a small space rented out that they've draped sheets all over, and put up some lights to make a stage.  They're doing all kinds of fun stuff, from long form musical improv (more on that in a second) to viewing movies (Goonies! In a sheet fort!) to open mic storytelling nights, etc.  The company also does "secret theatre" where 10 audience members are taken to a random location for a special performance. It's just the kind of fun, fringey types of theatre that I've always enjoyed, and very local.

It was a performance-heavy week for us, as we saw shows three nights in a row.  First the movie Amour (the last best picture nominee--I've now seen all 9!), the next night the touring production of Hair, and then musical improv.  While I'm here, we had fun at Hair, although Doug was perturbed about the cast interacting with the audience.  I thought it was fun, and we both got up and danced on stage with the cast at the end.

The sheet fort show was really fun.  A beer company donated beer that they sold for super cheap, lights bouncing off the sheets, performers peeking their heads through gaps in the sheets to be was a lighthearted, fun performance.  They did two "long form" improvs, one beginning with a song and the other incorporating music throughout.  We had a great time.  Afterward I went up to talk to the Artistic Director of the Artists Laboratory Theatre (who we've seen in several shows in town) and chatted with her for awhile.  We're going to go back to their storytelling night next week, and Doug may attend a rehearsal of the improv group; he's been hoping/wishing to get back into that and this may be an opportunity.

In short, yay for the sheet fort!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow freakouts

Sorry for the long absence, ya'll.  I was doing so well at posting regularly in the fall and then....nothing for two months.

In those two months, we spent two weeks in Albuquerque over Christmas, and almost a week in New Orleans, Louisiana, at a conference.  Doug came along to the conference too and hung out with friends while I spent my days listening to research talks with my four stellar undergrad companions.

Mostly I've been putting my nose to the grindstone, trying to get a bunch of papers out over the first portion of this year, and due the conference it's taken awhile to adjust to the craziness of this semester.  Not to mention that even though I'm teaching two classes I've taught before, I'm always updating and trying to improve the student's learning, which means more prep work than I would like.  But still, things are trucking along nicely.

Until now we haven't had a ton of things to post about, because we haven't been doing a whole lot out of the norm (working, watching TV, trying to see all the Oscar movies, etc.), but it is winter in Walmart Country, and thus worth spending a bit of time talking about the weather.

The weather here is really quite lovely and mild during the winter (the summers are soppy drippy gross hot).  Highs in the 40s and 50s, lows in the 20s and 30s, very little snow or rain.  Similar to Albuquerque winter weather, actually, but without the dryness.

"Nice winter" actually translates to "complete freak out when snow might fall."  Granted, this region got hit with a couple of big storms a few years ago that resulted in the University shutting down for over a week and many power outages.  Also, it's below freezing at night and above freezing during the day, so when it snows/rains and then hardens into ice, navigating the hills on car or on foot can be pretty tricky.  And, of course, they don't have the salt and dirt and general "winter machinery" to move the snow around like the northern cities do.  Still, though, this town freaks out when a storm hits.

Earlier this week we had a snowstorm the likes of which Chicago would scoff at and Minneapolis would barely even notice.  Here, though?  Classes were cancelled in the afternoon into the next morning, University offices were shut down, and everywhere we went people said "Stay warm!"  The last part was particularly amusing to me, as it's been much colder here this winter.  I guess people just lump "snow and freezing rain" into "it must be cold out."  Throughout all of this, I was at work on time, enjoying the lack of activity in the hallways, and happy to wear my winter boots one day this year.  The snow was gone within a day, though there is a leafy, dirty snowman a couple of blocks away that is still standing.