Lessons from our first sketch set

SketchLong time, no blog y’all!

I guess I have spent the last few months doing stuff and that has made me too busy to come here and write about it all. Even with the Kinkonaut’s on hiatus this summer, the group was pretty active playing around with musical improv, new formats for the show season and oh yeah, RENOVATING THE LAB!

We also made our first endeavor into sketch comedy and a group of us produced, wrote and performed a 30 minute sketch set and three themed sketches for the inaugural Alberta Sketchfest put on by the amazing Bull Skit Comedy in Red Deer. We decided to take on this task with a month before the show. That deadline put me into manager mode at first which eventually turned into pure and utter panic. Every insecurity I had about myself as a comedy writer, producer and performer bubbled up and I freaked out and wanted to give up. Luckily I had the support of my loyal, supportive and immensely talented tribe to keep me a little sane and drag me back from the edge. We trudged through brainstorming, writing, rewriting, reads and rehearsal and got shit done through all the stress.

Once we got to Red Deer, we were warmly embraced by the lovely and friendly Bull Skit Comedy and their wonderful fans. Jenna Goldade, co-founder and artistic director of Bull Skit, has created a dynamic sketch and improv scene in Red Deer. She is as humble and hardworking, as she is talented and driven… a truly inspiring woman. Everyone at the festival was eager, supportive, unique and freaking hilarious and it was a true honor to play alongside them and watch and learn.

Our set was ummmmm weird but in a way that totally warmed my heart and made us all giggle as a troupe. Luckily, it made other people giggle too. We got a lot of great feedback and warm support and the lovely Bull Skit crew awarded us the Best of Fest award. After all the stress and nerves that went into our first ever sketch sets, this was a immense honor. The clock shaped like Alberta will forever be stuck on 12:16, the time we got the lovely award.

This project taught me a lot about myself, jumping outside my comfort zone and trusting the people I work with and my own instincts. It also reaffirmed my opinion that a good attitude enhances talent and hard work, while bad one diminishes it. While I will always try to work on producing shows to make audiences laugh, I also promise to always try to be someone people WANT to work with because of my commitment, work ethic and most importantly good attitude. I am taking this all on to create things to make audiences, my fellow players and myself feel good and add a little light and laughter to this world.

I want thank the amazing Bull Skit for creating this opportunity for sketch groups across North America to play together and being such gracious hosts. I hope that I get more chances to work with your warm, welcoming and dynamically talented crew. Thank you to my fellow Kinkonauts Linnea Ward, Jennifer Danvers, Rob Janowski, Josh Bertwistle, Dominic Pinney and Kaitlin Kirk for your contributions from your weird brains, your support of my weird brain and the super cool journey we went on through all them ups and downs. I’m excited to do more cool stuff with y’all.

I am eager to work more on my writing while finishing up my Calgary Improv School Sketch Writing Course with the hilariously meticulous, Jeff Kubik, and taking on more projects in the future.

I am also SO pumped for show season to start and to see what other things this amazing Kinkonaut’s group is capable of! It is going to be a great season. Check out our shows starting this Friday and Saturday night in the brand new LAB! Try something new and fresh to lighten up your day!

Jump in

FullSizeRenderI am exhausted in the most content way. I spent the day doing something that is not a normal Andrea thing to do, bouncing at an Extreme Trampoline Park. For someone as prone to injury as myself, this was kind of a terrifying experience. But the motto of the last year has been to throw myself into all the experience that fly my way, so I jumped in (haha get it) and I am so glad I did because it was SO MUCH FUN!

The whole sweaty, bouncy day filled with laughter is kind of representative of the past year I have had. I have always been scared and worried about failing and getting hurt and that has lead me to hold back from doing like A LOT OF COOL SHIT in my life.  Last year, it kind of clicked with me that every time I had just let go and took on adventure, I had pretty rad experiences. I traveled Europe with a whole bunch of strangers that I grew so close with and had so many adventures with. I went to New York City, Washington DC and Boston by myself and had such cool experiences. I decided to go to improv shows and classes, I started being in shows, found a way to be brave enough to sing in front of people and so many other amazing experience. I did all that stuff because I threw caution to the wind and jumped in. And truth be told, for that majority of my life that has not been my personality at all.

But after years of being a scaredy-cat and missing out on so much, I am ready to experience what this life I have been given has to offer and not run away and hide anymore.  I want to try stuff because that is where the best side of myself lives. She lives in the adventures, creative production and performing. She lives in the moment and she is a badass bitch. This is who I am working to be like ALL THE TIME and I am lucky enough to be a part of a community that inspires and helps me bring her to life.

During this last Kinkonaut’s season I have learned so much from the coaches, the classes and the people I am lucky enough to play with. Every time I watched a show I took notes that have been gems from so many talented players I got to see every show week. I got to learn from gifted and wise guest instructors. And I got the opportunity to perform and that has helped me grow so much. I have been accepted by a community of people that are so diverse and talented and every time I am in their presence I feel so lucky to be there. I am so blessed to call these people my friends. This show season has given me so much; I found my voice, I am so much more confident and I am opening up to people after being a loner for far too long – I have found my tribe. I feel incredibly humbled and grateful to be a part of such a fun, supportive, innovative and dynamic community and I am so excited for our summer adventures and all the creative rainbows and fireworks that lie in the show season ahead. Thank you for a fantastic season Kinkonaut’s!

Now… I … Sleep

15 minutes

IMG_3287Guys I am sporting a major case of the feel-goods right now. I am floating around in a state of bliss because of 15 minutes. 15 minutes of improvised stories and songs and joy pouring out of pores of people who have become very dear to me. 15 minutes of truly living contently in a moment. These 15 minutes were a relief to my system that has been worn down by too many personal and professionals stresses these days.  15 minutes took me away from it all.

Tonight my improv heroes Notorious were playing at Café Koi and they were kind enough to let the Kinkonaut’s STU group open. We heard about the opportunity last minute and due to scheduling clusterfucks we were unable to practice until today, the day of the show. I was bit nervous that we had no idea what we were doing, other than it being musical and improvised. But thanks to the leadership of one of our own (my good friend, Michael Harvey), the bravery of the small group of eager improvisers (Alex, Linnea, Mike and myself) and the last minute help of the gracious Kinkonaut Super God, Jason Lewis, we were able to come up with a mini-STUsical the Musical. This is something Linnea and I had talked about wanting to try since like day one of STU in September and to be opening for Notorious was icing on that dream cake. We spent 2+ hours practicing a format and making up songs over and over again and it was super fun and came together much more smoothly than I had thought it would.

Café Koi is an interesting performance space. The stage is tiny and the crowd is a mixture of improv fans and people just looking to enjoy the delicious Asian fusion food. It tends to get loud in there and you have to be very loud and make your presence known on stage to manage the crowd. Tonight the place was packed, as it usually is for most Notorious Shows, and my nerves were there but they were not beating the bubbling exciting of doing something I had wanted to do for a while now.

And then we got our 15 minutes… and we were all in that moment and present and we got the great location suggestion of the Calgary Tower and then, as far as I am concerned… magic happened. Words will never really ever fully clarify the feeling you get when you are doing that one thing that you love to do above anything else.  However, I can tell you that it has been 3 hours since that 15 minutes and I am still grinning like an idiot.

Life can be hard and filled with bullshit but if you find YOUR thing, all it will take is 15 minutes of doing that thing to bring you back to the reason you get up every morning and go on. 15 minutes reminded me why I am just so lucky to be here… lucky to be me.

53 weeks

53 weeksThe picture attached to this post was taken 53 weeks ago. It was from my sketch writing class with Kevin McDonald and the first time I had performed in front of more than 10 people in over a decade. 53 weeks ago performing in front of a crowd meant something completely different than it does today. At that time, I was terrified and spent a few minutes in the bathroom trying to muster up an excuse to get out of performing. The show was not that notable or fantastic, our sketches were okay but something in me must have changed on this day. Because today I jump in eagerly to any chance to perform, whether for 10 people or 100. In fact when I found there were not enough opportunities to try out new things I wanted to experiment with, I took the sage advice of my friend and improv guru Mat Mailandt, and together with my good friend and fellow comedy geek Christine created Giggle Duck.

Giggle Duck was created to give us a place to play around with short form and long form formats we don’t always get a chance to play in. We wanted to give this opportunity to people from all skill levels in the community to come play in a low stress and joyful environment. Christine has an amazing eye for set design and we now have three themed shows under our belt with the amazing support of senior members of the Kinkonauts and Obviously Improv. The community has been really receptive to our vision and we have had some really fun shows and workshops that embodies our vision for the group. When Mat asked us to open for the Fresh Notes Festival of Musical Comedy, I did what I started to do 53 weeks ago and jumped right in. We found a venue, we cast a show and we held two really well-received workshops before our show this past Thursday.

The show ended up being the epitome of what we had pictured a Giggle Duck show to be. Joyful and fun for people to play in and (hopefully) watch. It gave people like me who constantly go to shows and see cool shit done, a chance to try it all out. A place where you don’t have to be hesitant because of a nasty note that may be waiting for you after the show or a judgy scene partner. Giggle Duck promotes a judgement-free, fun show experience. And no matter what some antiquated critics may say, seeing people have a good time makes the audience have a good time too. It was nice to see every piece of worry and work put into the show, pay off. I was really proud of our show and our players.

53 weeks changed my life and rejuvenated my very soul. 53 weeks has lead me to my tribe of weirdos in this wonderful improv community and has brought me joy, momentum and friendships that 54 weeks ago weren’t in my life. 53 weeks ago I took a risk and 53 weeks later, I am so grateful for where I am and hopeful for the 53 weeks ahead of me and what I can accomplish, if I continue to just jump in.

Stay tuned…

In full bloom

BloomingI am growing a familiarity with the Sunday after a Kinkonauts Show Week. My cheeks feel like they have had quite the marathon workout, I am a wee bit hungover from a great party that I stayed way too late at and I feel the warm and fuzzy feelings of the joyous week of performing, enthusiastically ushering and learning from and watching my improv friends and heroes.

Show Week has been easy to fall in love with from day one. You walk into the very unassuming tiny lobby and black box theatre that is the Birds & Stone Theatre and you are greeted by the most hospitable bunch of comedy geeks you may ever meet. The energy is brimming with joy. That is how I felt as an audience member, and now even more so being a part of the community.

I have grown quite an eager fondness for ushering and it is cool to be a part of someone’s first show week, especially when I consider my first experience there. I want them to feel excited to be there and most importantly welcomed. That welcoming atmosphere is just the icing on the cake of this unqiue, indie improv experience and it is pretty effing cool to be a part of something that is in full bloom.

This show week, I watched shows differently. Meaning, I observed more like a student rather than a fan (let’s be real… I am still a huge geeky improv fan haha). I took notes in the dark.  And I took a really great workshop with the Kinkonaut’s special guest from New York City Shannon Manning and I am currently in another class with one my faves Mat Mailandt,  that is helping harness my crazy energy and be real on stage. The thing is in these lessons I am not just learning about finding scenes and characters and I am learning to find my confidence. I am learning to have a little faith in myself and that makes me feel like maybe… just maybe… that this late bloomer may finally be in bloom too.


March madness is in full effect to this new version of myself that says yes to EVERYTHING! Haha.. Here are a few things that I am playing in that I would totes love you to check out.

Girls Gone Wilde Festival-Women in Improv Night

Fresh Notes: Giggle Duck presents Love Out Loud

Obviously Improv Presents – The Improv Games: Catching Funds

I found my people

Kinkonauts FebSo far, 2015 has been a bag of mixed nuts. Work has been really stressful. I got a promotion to be a manager, which is great, but I am also working my old position to which has yet to be filled. I am used to killing it at work and working days ahead at a time and now instead I am working a day behind, can’t keep up with my emails and feel like I am neglecting my employees. Monday to Friday, I can be found stress crying in a ladies bathroom stall at work far too many times than I would like to admit.

Then there was a flash of false hope when I thought I could move to Toronto. The offer came suddenly and I was very gullible to believe it. Kids remember, if something seems too good to be true – it probably is. Toronto and Second City have been a dream of mine for over half my life and I know that one day I will get there but when I do, it will be on my own timeline and because I put the work in to get there. Truth be told, I have a lot of work to do before I get there, and as much as I kick and scream about being in Calgary, Calgary is the place to get this work done.

Here is the delicious chocolate covered nuts in that mixed bag of nuts I was referring to earlier, improv. At the age of 32, I am finding my voice and a place where I actually might fit in. I am a short, round, ethnic, socially awkward nerd who has never fit in. In dating, sometimes even at work and definitely in social situation this has been an issue. And then I found the Kinkonauts, this welcoming group of misfit comedy nerds who took me in and accepted my freak flag and encouraged me to let it fly in the wind. Now that I have this little family who accepts, supports and trusts me, I feel fearless and excited to try out EVERYTHING. I want  to produce more shows, do more podcast, try sketch, I have been writing songs and I have never been hungrier for the stage. This week was show week and man did it validate all the love I have for the Kinkonauts.

Sunday was the day STU (the lovely Kinkonauts group I am in) moved the stage from the Lab to the Birds & Stone Theatre for the shows. Things started off rather bumpy with our normally punctual coach being about an hour late and forgetting the keys when he got there. It was a snowy and cold night and we could have been pretty bratty about it but I am super proud of how we handled it as a group. We played games together in the stairwell of the Movie Poster store while we waited, we broke into the church and theatre to practice and when we got the keys to move the stage we hauled ass to get in some practice time afterwards. I was so proud to be a part of such a badass group! On Wednesday, we got perform as one group for a full half an hour set to open show week up for the first time ever. While the set was a bit chaotic and needed a dash of polish, our energy was off the charts and I think we all had a lot of fun playing together. I am really happy with how far we have come and super jazzed to be a part of such a dedicated and supportive group.

The majority of the shows this show week were sold out and the crowds were filled with people who have never seen the Kinkonauts before and I wondered if they would have the same experience I had a little over a year ago when I saw the Kinkonauts for the first time. Seeing the inspiring and fresh shows that I saw this week, I know that they must have connected to the experience the way I had. The Kinkonauts space is tiny black box space in basement of unitarian church and their stage is a super tiny. Just the kind of places you read about theatre companies like Upright Citizen Brigade getting started in New York and Chicago. It has an underground, indie feel that makes it badass and artsy but the community is filled with talented gems who are supportive of one another on and off stage. The energy when you are there is fun-filled and warm & welcoming whether your a Kinkonauts or an audience member.

This week the Kinkonauts did their first ever Improv Musical with assistance from special guests the super talented and supportive Louie Pearlman (Magnet Theatre) and the dynamic accompanist and funny man, Leif Ingebrigtsen (Rapid Fire Theatre). The first night they did the musical Shera Princess of Power and it was magical with a slow jam from a singing Unicorn. I was blown away by how cohesive it was (it was all made up on the spot!?)  and super pumped to take Louie’s musical improv workshop. The class was packed! Louie taught us so many formats and we got to improv sing together…. *sigh*… just one of the best days in 2015 so far! I even did a solo song, which is like the scariest thing in the world for me if I am not alone in my kitchen…but my excitement to be there in the class pushed me up on stage and it was SO much fun. Show week ended with a turkey gobbling and hilarious set from the Adventure, another amazing improv musical (the time under the sea) from The Kinkonauts and a very weird and wonderful Mixtape – followed by a super fun dance party with my little improv family.

I am super grateful to be a part of this amazing group who is always bringing something new the scene while encouraging their troupe members of all levels to do the same. I am SO excited to see what lies ahead for this little group that could!

Ode to Neverland

PETAPANThe first time I saw Aaron Ranger on stage he was PETTTAAAAA PAAAANNN in Notorious. If no one has ever seen Notorious and you live in Calgary, you are terrible and you should! The first time I saw Calgary’s best, worst and only hip hop comedy group was also the first night I saw the Kinkonauts and Mixtape too. Aaron played in all three groups that night and I remember the way he burst onto stage with enthusiasm with any scene he was doing. A true sense of commitment and passion for improv radiates when he performs and his energy lights up the stage. As I have gotten to know Aaron as a coach of our Kinkonauts group STU and as a friend, I have come to learn how utterly contagious his energy can be.

A couple of months ago I was going through a little rut with my improv. I was stuck in my head about all the rules I knew and how I could best use them on stage. So I went to Aaron. Another really cool thing about Aaron is his accessibility to his students. Everyone in STU is pretty aware that if they have a problem, Aaron will work it out with you. Aaron calmly responded to my concerns by saying, “You know the rules, so have some fun and fuck it up!”. And then it clicked, oh yeah I am doing improv FOR FUN! I am not trying to be an academy award winning actress, I am trying to have fun with the people on stage and make a story that entertains the audience. And that is pretty hard to do when you are so deep in thought about rules and connections. Improv is about instinct and if you are in your head, you are planning and not going off instinct.

In STU classes and Level D classes I am taking with the Calgary Improv School, Aaron reminds us of the rules, brings up the energy and lets play on stage without overdirecting us. Aaron knows his shit, he knows formats and the rules and while he tells us about them, he lets us PLAY with them freely. This method of teaching has brought out a fearlessness in my improv that I have not seen since high school. I am eager to try new things and have fun doing it and somehow I escaped out of my head. And I think that somehow is Aaron Ranger.

I’m grateful to him for putting me in this mindset of fearless freedom because I have got some crazy stuff planned for my new year!

If you are looking for a badass fearless version of yourself, perhaps try out an improv class with a great instructors like Notorious’ own PETTAAAAA PAAAANN!