Another day, another immersion into MY SUMMER CRUSH, and this one was the best one yet. I know I promised today would be written by a special guest-blogger, but I just now realized that absolutely would not work for a variety of reasons…a bit of an annoyingly recurring theme on the blog these days. Ah, me. For now you’ll just have to settle for my dumb old voice, telling you about all of the AWESOME STUFF you missed (or didn’t, if you were one of the wise and lucky few I shared this particular day with).
As I said, this was a day to get very excited about at The Crush, because it was KIRSTEN RASMUSSEN DAY! For those of you miserable enough to not be at least passingly familiar with miss Kirsten, she’s an improv guru out of Toronto, formerly Montreal (where she co-founded Montreal Improv, who will be in town later this series) who is also one of the funniest people on the planet. She’s done improv all over, and was most recently in our town for Crush Improv’s 5th anniversary special a while back. She did a workshop even before that, and I was gutted when I had to miss it, so there was no way I was gonna strike out when I heard she was holding a 4-hour character development shop as part of this event. I showed up eager and sporting my most fashionable hangover, hoping like Hell I wouldn’t fall too far behind the other attendees. It was a smaller turnout than I’d been expecting, but in retrospect I’m glad it wasn’t any larger…more Kirsten for us!
‘Us’, by the by, was myself, T-Lev, Brooke, Ryan, Ayma, Travis, good guy Leslie Cserepy, and the man himself Dave Benedict Brown (and, for a little while in there, Paolo). We were met by HM, My Summer Crush’s semi-benevolent overlord, and ushered into the Arts Court Theatre where our lesson courtesy of comedy dynamo Kirsten Rasmussen was about to begin. After introductions, she put us through a few warmups (which my out of shape carcass is still a little sore from….Theatre school is gonna KILL me, isn’t it..?) before getting to the heart of the workshop. She started in on some classic theatre techniques (which I soon recognized as stuff I’d been introduced to by Brie Barker at the OSSD two years back) centered around making strong character choices…fast or slow, heavy or light, directness, and where the fuck is your center, son? We did a few dozen laps of the theatre switching between various combinations before we started creating characters to go with them. I ended up with Chester Heatherington, Brick Petunia (professional sports podcaster) and…some old lady whose name I no longer remember, before we broke for a refresher. I should say at this point that Miss R. is an amazing instructor, and the way she slips in and out of completely rounded characters at the blink of an eye is inspirational in the extreme.
Break’s over! Everyone knocked down some caffeine and, if memory serves, we played a game of Hot Seat. This little exercize works by putting two of us on stage to create a character on the fly, then sitting down to be interviewed AS said character by Boss Kirsten. We were allowed to ask for a suggestion (like an animal, or a colour) for inspiration…I went emotion, and got Fear to work with. A few seconds later, this little lady was born (my original idea was to let her write this entire post…but you likely wouldn’t have been able to ‘hear’ her voice too well. I compromised and asked her to write a little something bout herself, based on what we learned in her brief time in the Hot Seat):
Hello. My name is Sally Pidgeon, and I’m 14 years old. I’m in the eighth grade…I have two brothers who are bigger and older than me. Alphonse isn’t so much bigger, though, and sometimes we play fort together. My oldest brother Gorbachev (don’t make fun of his name or you’ll get a punch!) Is in grade ten and he can be SO MEAN! He protects us from th’other kids, but he also takes my lunch monies sometimes and is scary.
My Mom named him that, I think because she knew it would make my Dad so mad (Daddy hates ‘commie-nists’ a whole lot, and says that Gorbachev is one of those kindsa names). My Mom is a lectrical engineer, which is what I wanna be when I grow up so I can make the mini-golf castle go at the right speeds and stuff so I can get the little golfball through for once. Even Alphonse laughs at me when I play the mini-golf. It makes me feel dumb.
Gorbachev says I’m a fraidy cat, and I totally am not, except sometimes maybe. I like to try all sorts of stuff, and I’m always asking people ’Can I try That?’ and stuff, like when I saw Missy Goldfranken with her hula hoop. And she gave it to me to try! But then I got scared and ran away. It was a funny color.
Thanks Sally. Hopefully, you’re getting what a fantastic time this workshop was…I learned buckets about just how much work goes into making it look easy, and the day wasn’t over yet. When the shop ended, I broke away for some poutine and bloggery before heading right on back for Kirsten’s one-woman show, TOUGH! I’d heard and read nothing but good things about this one, and was pretty damn giddy to see it at last. Starring Miss Kirsten as a whole mess of characters (seeing this show really drove home a LOT of what she taught us earlier that day), the show centers on the stories of Amanda Pain, a novice boxer, and Lucy Diamond, a nightclub singer looking to get out from underneath the shadow of her famous crooner Dad Dickie. The two stories are connected in a wonderful way that reveals itself over the course of this, just about the funniest show I’ve ever been lucky enough to see. Kirsten is utterly amazing in this show, like if Jayson McDonald and Carol Burnett ran really fast into each other and merged into one superbeing. Along with our two main characters, Kirsten brings to life plenty of other memorable folks…I was plenty tickled with the coach and bartender, myself. And Esther…oh, my. I have never laughed so hard at a character’s one second of stage time in my life, and don’t expect to ever again.
The show is peppered with original songs belted out my Miss Rasmussen, who can sing on top of everything else (I forgot to buy a CD, dagnabbit, but they DO exist). TOUGH! is something I’ll never forget, and I would do terrible things to people for the chance to see it again someday. And would you believe it, the day STILL wasn’t over! Because now, it was time for the first of three LATE SHOWS, a 10 pm Saturday improv jam that got every bit as chaotic and hysterical as you might expect. HOW chaotic? Would you believe even I took to the stage at one point for a game of Switch/Change? And didn’t totally suck? Okay, you don’t have to believe that last part, but it still happened. Of course, things got much better later on when AL, Dan, Brooke and Kirsten took over the stage for some long form shenanigans involving bad teeth and the sexual violation of the elderly that you really had to be there for. Don’t worry, there’ll be another chance this coming Saturday, after a solid day of Bad Dog Theatre that will be the NEXT best day I have.
A huge thank you to Crush Improv for putting this great programming together, and major props to Kirsten Rasmussen for making my month. For reals, if you meet this woman and don’t fall at least a little bit in love with her, then you’re an awful person and I hate you SO MUCH (I know, I get carried away sometimes. Bite me).
And I’m out…see you this coming week at MY SUMMER CRUSH for more workshops, shows, improv, and beer. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)