Philadelphia Improv Festival

I went to Philadelphia with my improv troupe, Get Up, with Shannon and Sara,

and my husband, Jon.

Here we are at a restaurant in the Cincinnati Airport and we are already so excited.


The first night, we went walking around the Avenue of the Arts and stumbled upon this Light Up the Night Festival. There was live music, food samples, circus acts, and cool lights everywhere. The place was hopping on a Wednesday night. Plus, there were 5 or 6 really nice theatres on that street.

A juggler on stilts

The drummers from Stomp doing a free show.

An Oompa Band that played a song that Shannon knew the words to in Czech

Can you tell that the designs on the columns and building are just light projections?


We headed to the visitors center to make our tourist plans. All throughout Philadelphia, you would run in to historical re-enactors.

Here we are, having a historic laugh.

We were in Philly, so we had to get a cheesesteak. Our next stop was Sonny’s.

I have to admit, cheesesteak is not my favorite food. I just don’t think it’s worth the calories. I’d rather have a good hamburger or pie a la mode. But somehow I seemed to do just fine when confronted w/ a cheese steak, onion rings, and hot peppers.

Here are the remains.

After tech rehearsal at the theatre, we went to the oldest residential street in the USA, Elfreth’s Alley.

We love old houses!

Philadelphia is the home to a lot of America’s firsts. And a lot of it was thanks to Benjamin Franklin. He helped start the first Firehouse. Here I am, getting into role.

I can’t hold it much longer!!!
Then we went to Besty Ross’s House.

Then we went to the American Friends Meeting House, a place where the Quakers would have their national conferences. The peacful and egalitarian principles of Quakers had a great effect on the founding principles of Pennsylvania and our nation. There was a really nice docent who told us all about it.


We went to the US Mint, but isn’t it always the way–they were closed by the time we got there. We didn’t let it bother us.

Cash Money!!

Then we went to one of the oldest post offices in the country and saw this ad for the Pony Express in the Postal Museum.
The ad reads: “Wanted: Young, skinny wiry fellows over the age of 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages: $25 per week.”
Why would anyone apply for this job?

Okay, think of that Bruce Springsteen song from the movie “Philadelphia” and then look at this picture.
On the streets of Philadelphia . . . nah nah nah nah . . .
Feels right, doesn’t it?

Thursday night was show night. Jon took a few pictures of the show.


Curtain Call

It was a solid show, with a fun medieval story. We got to showcase Sara’s great music and some special effects, like grappling over the castle walls and battles with wizards and swords. I wish we had more time, but oh well. We stuck around after the show and got to see some other Northeastern troupes. And man, did we sleep well that night after such a big day.


During the day we hit some major tourist sites.

Independance Hall,
where the Declaration of Independance and Constitution were debated and signed.
Hugging it out at Independence Hall

I really was proud of how simple and austere these rooms were. It reminded you that the country was founded on ideals about the rights of the common man.

Then we saw The Liberty Bell, a symbol of the ongoing and imperfect struggle of freedom. I love this picture of Shannon in front of the bell.

America, Okay!

We had lunch at the Reading Terminal Market, which I think used to be a train station but is now a huge farmers market filled with produce, baked goods, and ethnic foods. It was awesome.

I’m the kind of gal who likes to read the whole menu before deciding what to eat, so I had to do two laps around the place before I settled on a Pennsylvania Dutch Restaurant and got this yummy mess:

After that meal, we headed back to the hotel for a serious nap. But on the walk home we stumbled upon some plazas with some really cool public art.



Monopoly (on cuteness!)

I call this one “Love”

After a nap, we headed to the amazing Philadelphia Art Museum. Their holdings were prestigious and extensive. I’m not the most art-literate person, and even I recognized a few pieces. Jon and I enjoyed the audio tour. Some of these are a little blurry because you aren’t allowed to use flash in the museum, but you get the picture.

Jon with Picasso’s “Sunflowers”
Me and Monet

We tried to recapture the “Rocky” moment at the top of the museum steps, but it didn’t quite work.


Not quite.


That night we went to some improv shows. My favorite of the night was Asaf doing his one man silent improv show, ChImp, and Zach Ward and Jeremy Griffin in Cajones from North Carolina. After the shows we went to Charlie’s and partied with Cathcart and Olson from Chicago.

Me, Shannon, Asaf, Melissa and Jay and an empty pitcher of a local beer.


On Saturday we took a train to New York City to see some friends and catch a show. Unfortunately, we chose the first day of the Stagehands Strike, and all the Broadway shows were shut down. So we went to see an Off Broadway production, Gone Missing, created from interviews with people around New York and beyond about experiences they had with losing something. The show was mainly first person monologues interspersed with thematic songs.

In the lobby of the Barrow Street Theatre

In NYC with my homegirl, Lauren.


We were flying out on Sunday evening, but we had time for a little more vacation. Jon and I went to brunch at the tasty local chain, Marathon Grill.

This is Jon in his state of bliss: a good brunch and the Sunday New York Times.


Then Sara and I went to the University City to the beautiful Penn Campus.

I am small

I remember the beauty from the campus from when I was in high school, touring colleges with my father. The autumn leaves and Gothic architecture were so cozy.

Overall, we had a great time seeing the city and seeing some improv.

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About Shana Merlin

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Since 1996, she’s been leading classes that stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud for hours at a time.

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