What A Weekend: Wafflefest, Closing Dusk, Ending Classes, AIC Honors Banquet

So many amazing things have happened this weekend that I thought I should blog it all up to make sure I got it all down. Tonight is the last night of Improv 201 and 401 and after that I’ll be heading home to Georgia for Thanksgiving with my family and starting my “Improv Break.” I won’t be teaching or performing (much) until January 11 when classes start up again. It’s my time to recharge, reflect, work on business and personal goals, and re-connect with friends and other people. I heard that other people actually hang out in the evenings and weekends–so I’m going to investigate. And that’s part of why this past weekend was so amazing. It was a perfect wrap-up/closing to my improv year.

Friday, November 20th.

I got to watch my fabulous Dusk cast play their next to last show. I got to the theater early to set up a table so I could give them their New Moon tickets and Cast T-Shirts. The shirts came out even better than I expected. I tried to play on the Team Jacob/Team Edward theme, while keeping it open enough that you’d like them even if you weren’t a TwiHard. People have been wearing them all weekend, esp the guys. Here’s Michael Joplin modeling it here in the Improv 501 class photo.


The cast had a solid show (it had been sold out since Wednesday morning) with standout narration from Julie Gillis. I had to step out during the Vampire hockey scene to change clothes and get dressed for my shows at WaffleFest. After the show and some quick hugs, I headed down to The Hideout.

Girls Girls Girls was opening the show downstairs. We did “24 Hour Diner: The Musical.” The diner quickly became some level of hell, and we had some fun, saucy numbers thanks to Jason Laney’s fine accompaniment. Normally an angel in real life, Sarah Tufts rocked it as the Devil herself. It was one of the few GGG shows we’ve had that ended on a darker note, and I like that. We were running short on time and I brought out some knives and the show ended with a murderous rampage and ascendancy to heaven, and a closing number by the Devil entitled, “There’s a Moral.”

After the show, I went upstairs, did a quick change of clothes, snagged a banana from the waffle table (and a few M and M’s) and went on for the Get Up show. We had a little technical difficulties at first, but we got the suggestion of strip poker (What are people doing: “playing poker” What are they wearing? “not a lot.”) Since we didn’t have the music, we started without or usual narration and ended up in a really fun show. I think we hit that Judd Apatow Romantic Comedy genre pretty hard. It was a sweet, yet often vulgar story of romance and misunderstanding. I can’t tell you much about the show on such a public forum, but suffice it to say we definitely pushed ourselves to some places we don’t normally go. 😉

Saturday November 21

It was a late night and an early morning. I had breakfast with Jon and then we started working on my website, working on SEO stuff, Merlin Works website plans for the new year. He was helping me prep for a meeting with some friends/barter students to work on the corporate side of the business. Great momentum going in to 2010.

I went straight from that meeting to the final Improv 501 class of the session. I don’t know if it’s been that the 501’s are getting better as I get more experienced at it or that this group is a particularly talented combination of people, or that students are repeating the levels and getting deeper in to the content, or a combination of all of this and more, but this group of 501’s has been extremely successful and satisfying. Plus they are all super cuties (see photo above). After an amazing run thru for the last 35 minutes of class (we went 10 minutes over, but I was so invested in the characters, I had to see what was going to happen) we went to Red House for a post-class pizza party.

I had to jet home, slap on some makeup and show clothes and come to the theater for the final night of Dusk. (Potential 2010 New Year’s Resolution: Be more on time and less rushed a.k.a don’t try to pack so much in.) We started our warmups like we always do: with some Soul Train. It was only at the end of our improv dance party that I realized we were dancing to that song, “One more time/We’re gonna celebrate/One more time” And we were all like “awww.”

I was narrating the show for the second time and I was much more relaxed. The show was awesome. A wonderful way to wrap it up. Command performances by an under the weather Lindsey Reeves and Michael Thomas as our romantic leads. Bryan Cruz brought the Jacob action hard core. Sarah Tufts was a super creepy vampire toddler. Lauren and Madi were so in synch as librarian sisters. Patrick showed great range as a vampire father and DQ employee/stoner. Avi Syam brought it with embracing his own discoveries and heightening them in to brilliant games. (Opening by accidentally calling his sister “bro” and sticking with it). Such a great balance of story, gags, games, and romance. Abetted by my twisted mind narrating people in to taking their shirts off, blood licking, and three different makeout partners for Lindsey. Excellent.

At curtain call at the end of the show, we got a little bit of a standing ovation and Julie brought out a signed framed poster of Dusk for my directors gift. A lovely surprise.

After the show we struck the set and headed to Gateway to catch the 11:30 screening of New Moon. Here we are, the only people there early waiting to get in to the theater.


The movie was HILARIOUS (to us, sorry everyone else in the theater) But seriously I could not stop laughing. Being there with all my Duskies, candy being passed down the row, everything on screen being completely ridiculous. It was fantastic. Then we had the after party at Audrey’s house, complete with toasts and of course, another dance party.

Sunday November 22nd

I couldn’t sleep past 9:30, even though I’d gone to bed at near 5am. I watched some SNL, had breakfast with Jon, and started talking about who I shouldn’t forget to thank at the night’s AIC Honors Banquet. Most of the improv people in town had voted and I’d been selected one of three people/organizations to accept the honor this year. I was nervous and excited. Jon leaked that he had some idea about how they were going to send me up, but he wouldn’t say how. He knows I love surprises.

After breakfast we went home, I cleaned house for about an hour (you can imagine what kind of wreck my house was by the end of this weekend) and we watched an episode of the ever amazing Friday Night Lights. I fell asleep with my head on his chest (one of my favorite things in the world) as the episode wound down. I took a nap, then got up in time to get ready for the party.

Everything was bustling at Cafe Caffeine when we got there. I visited with people until it was time to start the show. And I was the one they presented to first. Eek.

The whole thing was very touching and hilarious. John Ratliff opened with a speech (I hope I can find video of this soon) naming me Austin’s Improv Yentyl, matching up so many people with one promiscuous lover: improv. Ratliff is so eloquent and I could listen to him talk about me all night. I was so grateful for his kind words about me as an improviser, business woman, and teacher. He took his first improv class with me and now he is an improv teacher himself. He said I was a great first and that he appreciated my teaching style much more now in retrospect, now that he is dealing with classes of his own.

Then there was a sketch written by Tom Booker and Bryan Cruz about all my teachers and classes at the Merlin Works Institute for Improvisation. I was happy that they didn’t focus all their funny just on me as different people impersonated different teachers at my school. And I couldn’t have been more pleased to be portrayed by my bestie, Lauren Zinn. She was carried on stage as if she floated there. She healed a blind man, and then taught a new improviser “Yes And.” She even worked in my Merlin Works Slogan. Hilarious.

Then my sweeties in GGG sang me a song with Michael Brockman on keys. I think the tagline was “That’s what gives Merlin her Magic” I even got compared to Yoda.

And it wasn’t until the end of the night I got to see the slide show my old friend Andy Crouch had put together for me. A fabulous montage set to MIA’s Paper Planes. He even put in photos of my family and wedding. I was happy to share all that with everybody.

I got up to give my acceptance speech and it’s so hard to hold it together and say the things you want to say while letting the moment land and being present. I tried to thank all the theaters, presenters, all my teachers, and troupe mates. Special shout outs to Shannon and Sara Farr. I should have said more specifically about GGG, but that got lost in the moment. And then I got all gushy and talked about how I get to help my improv students and cast members fall in love with improv and they help me fall back in love with it again and again. And then I got mega gushy and tried to give proper thanks to my husband, Jon and all the amazing support he has given me over the years. (He’s the one that took these videos at the banquet.) It was really neat that after the awards a couple of people went up to Jon and thanked him for supporting me and sharing me with the improv community.

Then The Hideout with Michael McGill and Coldtowne were honored with awesome videos, songs, and sketches. Really nice stuff. Big thanks to Asaf, Valerie, and the AIC for putting the whole thing together, and Les McGehee for hosting the event.

After that it was group photos hugs and kisses cards and flowers. So warm and fuzzy.

Look at all these wonderful folks in our community. Jon Bolden took this AIC group photo. Thanks to everyone for a fabulous weekend.

Shana

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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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