300WP: Hotels

 

Write about a memorable experience you  had staying at a hotel. 

I had just started working for a major corporation in my hometown and my new team was having a big meeting in Miami. I was so excited to see South Beach and check out the salsa scene.

We stayed at the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in: right on the beach with huge rooms and beds, an enormous bathroom, very fancy products on the vanity. There was also a very famous pop star staying at the hotel, so I knew this was a posh place. The country mouse in the city, as it were.

The first night we were there, my boss had a poolside reception for the group we had assembled. She handed me her corporate credit card and told me to open a tab. I went to the bar, which was super-swanky and beautiful. I was gazing around, waiting for the bartenders to help me.

I heard a guy next to me ask for six glasses of Sambuca and a draft beer. The bartender gave him an odd look: not many people in this part of the world order Sambuca. It’s an anise-flavored liqueur and something of an acquired taste. And the guy says, “Yeah, I don’t know, they’re British. They like Sambuca. I think it’s disgusting.”

The way he said it, so smug and like he was trying to impress this bartender, made me want to see what this jerk looked like. He was standing directly next to me, wearing a nice suit. Sort of a Midwestern heftiness to him, sandy hair.

He saw me and said, “Oh, are you like, English or something? You like Sambuca?”

I said, in a perfect London accent, “What did you say?”

He paled. “Oh, so…you’re British? I mean, I just never met anyone who liked this stuff.”

I said, in my cool accent, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I happen to like Sambuca.”

At this point, the bartender is smothering laughter and this guy is backpeddling as fast as he can.

I finally broke into a grin and said in my regular voice, “Nah, man, I’m just  messing with you. I’m from Kentucky.”

His face went totally blank. “So you’re…you’re not…”

“I’m not English. I was just messing with you.”

He smoothed his tie, turned, and left. Didn’t take the tray of glasses the bartender had prepared. Or his wallet.

I consider this my first real improv experience with the Yes, and… technique.

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Public Hilarity

Before I got pregnant with the Thompson Twins, I was a regular performer with Project Improv, a local improv comedy group. I was looking for something creative that didn’t take up too much time, like a play or musical. I googled “improv in Mytown” and they were the first to pop up. A few emails later, I started practicing with them once a week. Within a month or so, I was in the shows.

I performed a few times while pregnant, but then I was just too unwieldy and nauseated to enjoy it. I was in my first show post-bebes last summer. With Husband’s work/school schedule I haven’t made many practices and no shows since then. The last two weeks, however, I did manage to get to practice and it’s been awesome. I probably won’t be in the February shows, but it’s ok. I can wait until March when our schedules shift again.

Improv, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Confidence Much in the way I assume child beauty pageants help kids who don’t even have their own teeth yet to be more confident, improv has made me feel less anxious in social situations.

Currency I’m average looking, of average intelligence, and I don’t have much money. So I’ve learned to use humor and candor as my currency. I often say that the only reason I have friends, a husband, and a job is because I am funny.*

Yes, and… The core philosophy of improv is ‘yes, and.’ There are other rules in improv, but this one is the Prime Directive. It means you’re listening, you’re open to possibilities, and you are ready to contribute to the adventure. It is a really good way to live your life. Amazing things happen when you say yes, and build on it.**

It doesn’t matter. I am a very self-conscious person. And I’m learning that other people’s opinions and asshattery don’t matter to me very often.

 

*I’m not fishing for compliments. I just realize I am never going to physically look like…whatever. And I should just do the best with what I got.

**Until you are familiar with the use of ‘yes, and…’ I don’t suggest using it on dates or at work.

Improv and writing

beforecastle

About three years ago, I felt the need to do something with performance. I minored in theater in college – my biggest role was the Old Sheep in Charlotte’s Web, rocking a cane and some granny glasses with a baggy fleece jammies-suit. This was before I had the twins, but I didn’t want to do a play because it would take too much time. I’m ok at singing but I didn’t feel like that was the avenue I wanted to go. I started peforming in Louisville’s Moth story slams and that was fun, for sure. I decided to get into improv.

For those of you who don’t know, “improv” (short for improvisational theater) is the performance of unscripted scenes based on suggestions from the audience. I googled “Louisville improv” and came up with a couple of hits. After an email to the coordinators of one group, I started practicing with them the winter of 2011.

The team I play with is called Project Improv and it’s been around for about ten years, the cast rotating in and out as people join and leave. We do what’s called long form improv, which is different from the short form games you might have seen on TV shows like Who’s Line is it Anyway? I won’t get into the technicalities of long form, but if you feel like learning more, you can always ask the oracle at Google or the YouTubes.

It may seem that there are no rules in improv, when actually there are several rules. You just…say whatever, right? Well, sort of. Successful scenes happen when you follow the rules. The cardinal rule of improv is “Yes, and…” Sounds easy, right? It boils down to: when another player states a fact, you go with it. “Writing Spider, your blue hair looks so nice!” If I say, “I don’t have blue hair…” the scene dies and I’ve killed the energy. If I say, “Yes, and it goes with my orange dress that I’m wearing to an alien tea party!” a whole world of possibilities opens for the players and the scene. Now, you don’t literally say, “yes, and…” every time but it helps if you are a beginner to practice it this way.

I don’t remember when I started to see connections between improv and writing, but it might’ve started with friend and For Real Published Author Patrick Wensink. Pat taught a class on this subject, in fact, which I did not attend but I’m sure was amazing and brilliant because it’s really true. Improv can be used by writers and improv absolutely makes me a better writer.

When you start looking at scenes, at your life, at your world with a “Yes, and…” perspective, you let in energy. You open to possibilties. Say yes and you’ll figure it out after, according to Tina Fey. Jump and the net will appear. Leap and learn to fly on the way.

Improv has made me a better storyteller and more confident in lots of storytelling aspects – creating characters, building tension and conflict, and just playing around without boundaries.

You must be careful, though. Don’t try to “yes, and” people who won’t get it. A guy in Project Improv told me once that he had to be careful about “yes, and-ing” on dates because sometimes it doesn’t go very well. I can understand that. Luckily for me, Mr. Writing Spider is FABULOUS at the Yes, And and we have had each other in stitches at times because we are free to say (and sometimes sing) all kinds of hilarious things. But it has to be used sparingly in Real Life because some folks just can’t take a joke.