Las Vegas Wrap Up

Its over. I played Vegas.

Lets start at the beginning.

There was a total of 9 improvisers, 8 bags of props, 4 different flights, 2 shows and one town—Las Vegas.

I started to worry at the airport. I went to the Dallas Comedy Festival just a few weeks ago and still resonating in my mind was what can be so awful about being around only comedians for a whole weekend. Although it can be incredibly exciting and of course, funny, at times, over an extended period of time it can be exhausting. Comedy is meant for 1-2 hours at best. With everyone trying to play the game, and joke, and be neurotic all the time, you cant have a simple conversation, give a sincere compliment, or put your guard down at all. It gets old quick. So when Im waiting at the gate with four of my fellow improvisers and Im already tired of being teased about all kinds of little things, and everyone in the gate area is rolling their eyes at us being loud and raucous at the airport, which are nowadays pretty somber places, I thought I might be in for trouble.

Upon landing in Vegas the first thing that struck me was how close the airport is to the city. You could actually read billboards from the runway. I dont think Ive experienced that before. The airport was humongous and we made our way all across it, got a cab and headed to the Las Vegas Hilton, where we were staying and performing at the Official Star Trek Convention.

And here comes the first story. We havent even checked in to our hotel and were two stories in already. The cabbie loads all of us and all of our stuff in the cab. Its so packed he starts joking about how we cant escape. Were pulling out of the airport when he starts telling a story about when he had Salt and Pepper in his taxi. We thought he was talking about the rap duo, but he cleared that up with a shocking racist remark and let us know it meant a white guy, a black guy, and a Mexican. He went on to tell us about their attempted robbery of his taxi and how he beat one of the guys to a pulp while the others ran away. Then he talked about the time he got shot when another man was trying to rob his taxi. And how by chance he picked up that same man again in his taxi, but this time he beat his head in with the door, shot at him as he ran away, beat him up, called the cops, told them it was self defense, and then days later visited the dude in his hospital bed and proceeded to threaten his life and the lives of his family and friends. I was extremely uncomfortable during this whole ride. This guy was obviously nuts and doing everything he could to intimidate us. Plus we had a taxi full of comedians and I was praying they werent going to make some wise crack and set this dude off. I tried the technique I use with upset children and crazy people—distraction. I tried to start asking him about things on the road. Is that our hotel up there? Wheres a good place to eat near here. It worked a little bit. I could not have gotten out of that cab any sooner.

We check in to the hotel, meet up with everybody, get settled, checked in to the conference, and head out to the strip to find some dinner. Later that evening we had a tech rehearsal in the main ballroom where we were to perform. There was much discussion about acoustics.

The next morning we had an 8:30 AM call in costume for our 11:00AM show to kick off the conference. It was the first time I ate a meal in my trek costume. When Kacey and I came downstairs and walked around we had a certain strut in our step, feeling confident that we were the hottest chicks at the Trek Convention. We did get our share of attention. I was especially excited about my new hair piece I bought for the convention. It made my pony tail about 18 inches long and was totally Original Series. It made the costume complete.

Our first show was for 300 or so people in the massive main ballroom with chairs set up for about 1700. The show was solid over all. The audience was different than we expected and different from our usual crowd. We thought they would eat up all the trek details and references, but they more enjoyed the improv aspect, laughing at our mistakes and such. In the episode Kacey and I played sexy mutant space twins who were at first evil, but then converted to the captains side and eventually helped him defeat the evil captain Martini, who was hording the dilithium crystal supply in an effort at a power grab. We hit all our big marks—love scene, brace for impact, fight scene, transporter scene, bridge scene, planet scene, onscreen communications, etc.

That afternoon we spent some time at the convention and went to the Star Trek Experience, a permanent exhibit at the Hilton. It starts with a space exploration timeline starting with the space race and ending about 4 centuries later. They had actors in costume roaming throughout the exhibit and interacting with visitors. My favorite was the Ferengi. I got in to a pose with him and started tossing my hair around to get ready for the picture. He said, “Is your hair ready?” I said, “You tell me . . . Let me do your hair.” (Which is a joke because that species doesnt have hair on its head) and then he said, “Id love to—after hours. Room 97.” That was really funny and awesome. Ive never been hit on by another species.

The first ride we rode was the Klingon Attack. It was SOOOOO Awesome. I wish I could describe it all and do it justice, but it wont do. They did a great job of putting you right in the story. The opening was fabulous. After walking you in to a room and giving you the safety instructions and such, suddenly the lights go out and wind is whipping all around you and its really scary and then when the lights come back on, you are in a transporter room on a starship. It really felt like you were on the ship, getting to walk through the hallways, ride the Jeffries tube, and stand on the bridge. Or at least like you were in a star trek movie. Then you get in a shuttle craft and are on a 3-D ride like at Universal Studios or something. One of my gifts as an improviser/curses as a person is that I am incredibly gullible. So these kinds of rides are perfect for me. Im really there and inside all of it. My jaw is dropped. My heart is racing. Im jumping and screaming and everything. Its so fun.

The second ride was about a Borg invasion, which was scary and had a 4-D movie where you almost get turned in to a Borg and metal things are coming at you and such. It was scary, but not as fun as the other ride.

Afterwards we had a couple of drinks at Quarks bar and restaurant.

Then we spent some time at the pool, just chillin. Then we went back out to the strip to eat some dinner and see some sights. We went to see the show at Treasure Island—extremely cheesy and generally bad except for a few redeeming special effects and pyrotechnics. We saw some Chinese dragons and drumming. Then we caught a (sane) cab home.

The next morning we had our show in the big theatre. We had to do a sound check with the new microphone equipment. It is really fun to play with a head set mike. It just makes you feel more confidant and you want to hear the sound of your own voice a lot and bark out commands for the ship. That morning involved a lot of waiting around and I ended up not being able to eat anything but coffee and donuts until about 5pm that evening—not my normal schedule.

It was the big show for the big crowd in the big room, but it wasnt that amazing. We had a crowd of 700-1000, but they were spread out over a room for 3000, so it was a tough crowd to play to. The show was solid. The suggestion of the moral dilemma was pre-marital sex. I got to play woman from a human colony that was extremely conservative sexually. They were basically against touching because desire led to strife and war and we wanted peace. I had never touched my husband of 800+ years. But secretly I had very strong sexual desires. I ended up destroying a starship that was bringing medicine to help us repress our sexual desires. I just wanted a hug. It was fun for me to play a character that often works for me, the horny old lady. Audiences love her. Sometimes shes divorcing, or going thru a midlife crisis, or what have you. But for whatever reason, she has a sexual awakening at about 70 years of age.

After the show the whole crew walked around the convention in our uniforms and attracted a lot of attention and photos. It was the first time I got a glimpse of being on the red carpet or something where theres a bunch of different photographers snapping shots and you just have to hold your pose for a long ass time and look in a generally forwards direction.

There werent a lot of original series costumes or fans as much as the newer series, which surprised me. The conference wasnt as immersive as I was hoping. I thought Id be in a sea of costumed people but the hotel had all kinds there, not just trekkers.

Something that was interesting was the tables of d-list celebrities who had appeared in an episode or movie here and there and were signing headshots for $10-$20 a pop. It was kinda sad because they were almost on display. You would walk up to their table, try to place them, look at their pictures, remember who they are (or not), say hi and move on. Weird. But its a living I guess.

That afternoon we checked in to the new hotel, got out of costume, and headed out to the strip for one last night of complete debauchery.

We were in Vegas, after all.

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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