Thursday, October 30, 2014

The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment (#13: Coffee Virgin No More)

by Pam Victor

[The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment is my one-year challenge to make a living through creative pursuits. Read all the updates here.]

"If you don't drink coffee, what do you do when you're tired?" incredulously asked Sasha, my coffee enthusiast friend.

I stopped to ponder her question for a few moments before answering, "I guess I just feel tired."
Photo credit: Coffee Quests
(Nice coffee review blog)

"Huh."

Except for a year in high school when I lived in France, I've never drank coffee in my life. Though I do tend to poo-poo our culture's generalized coffee fetish, I don't have any great philosophical objection to coffee. I didn't drink it because it didn't make me feel good. I'm a delicate flower and coffee felt too intense for me. My beverage of choice throughout growing up was orange juice, which seemed to do the trick. (Thank you, hyperglycemia!) Then OJ stopped feeling good, so for the last couple decades I've woken up naturally, though not gracefully, throughout the morning and enjoyed a cup of tea with lunch. 

This summer, I had an opportunity to revisit espresso, and I enjoyed the nostalgic taste of youth and France. The pick-me-up and mental alertness was nice too. Hmmm ...

Recently, the biggest side effects of the "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment has been stress, exhaustion, and a generalized feeling of being stretched too thin. I narrowed the cause down to the fact that I was working most evenings. Before the Experiment, around 8pm every evening I collapsed onto the couch in front of the TV and next to my dear husband. I've long said these evenings were my favorite time of day, the recuperative reward at the finish line of a long day. But evenings are when the paid jobs are so those TV couch potato nights are gone now. And it's taking its toll.

This week is fairly typical. The evenings look like this:

Sunday - See my daughter playing Witch #2 in an immersive
My Witchy Kid
production the Scottish play at her high school.


Monday - Couch time with my man!

Tuesday - Rehearsal for show next weekend.

Wednesday - Rehearsal for show this weekend.

Thursday - Teach improv.

Friday - Halloween celebration with a gal pal. (Normally, I would be teaching another improv class.)

Saturday - Perform in a show!

Sunday - Stay home at last. (Husband might be at a practice with his band though.)

Over the past week, I've been sitting with this issue of needing to restructure my rest and restorative time, hoping that a solution would arise. I've been asking, "How can I shift my feeling of relaxation from evenings on the couch to other experiences?" This is what I've come up with so far: 

  • I've started to take more advantage of the three mornings each week when I get to sleep in, letting go of the guilt of snoozing until 10am and enjoying a couple slow mornings each week. (The guilt part is a challenge.)
  • Though I don't usually take weekend's off - a habit formed from working from home and in my "spare" time most of my adult life - I've started carving out some conscious relaxation time during the weekend. Sometimes that just looks like thirty minutes with a cup of tea and the New York Times on Sunday. Sometimes it looks like taking the rare nap. I'm trying to work up to crashing on the couch with an afternoon movie some day. (I know. I'm obnoxiously Type A.) 
  • I've started being more conscious about screen time at night. I've given up late night web surfing, instead rediscovering the joys of reading good fiction in bed before falling asleep (a habit that had fallen away when Facebook came into my life.) 
  • I'm trying to exercise and practice Alexander Technique more regularly. I fucking hate exercise, but I'm trying to be better about it. Again.
  • I've learned to appreciate the evenings at home with my husband. Gratitude for small gifts!
  • And coffee. I've started drinking coffee.
A couple days ago, for the first time in my whole damn life, I bought my first canister of coffee for myself. I was shopping at Trader Joe's and they were offering samples of their Five Country Espresso Blend. I took a little cup - the taste of France! - and on a whim, I put a canister in my cup. 

This morning, I enjoyed a cup of café au lait soya. My mouth tastes all coffee-ish and I can feel the acid reflux, but I'll be alert enough to teach my class tonight. Coffee cherry popped.

And I'm already eagerly anticipating catching up on The Good Wife and Scandal on Monday night...


*
* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is finishing up work on "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with co-authors TJ Jagodowski and David Pasq

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scrumptious Improv Quote: TJ Jagodowski (Something Honest to Say)


Read more scrumptiousness 
in all three interviews 


 * * *
Catch up on past improv geek-a-thons:
Geeking Out with...Dave Pasquesi of TJ and Dave
...Scott Adsit of 30 Rock
...Colleen Doyle of Dummy

and many more!

*

And "like" the "Geeking Out with..." FACEBOOK PAGE please.



Pam Victor writes the "Geeking Out with..." interview series. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of this series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Currently, Pam is co-writing "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. Pam performs in Massachusetts with The Ha-Ha’s, The Majesters, The Shea Comedy Players, and with the cool cats at ImprovBoston. Het all her nonsense at www.pamvictor.com. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Zen of Improv: Curiosity Killed the Crap Scene

By Pam Victor

Do this. Don’t do that. Do listen. Don’t reject other people’s idea. Do play the patterns. (Don't play the patterns.) Don’t try to be funny. (But do be funny. Just don’t try.) Don’t do transaction scenes. Don’t ask questions. Don’t do teaching scenes. (Except when it feels right to do transaction scenes, ask questions, do teaching scenes.)

And behind all of these dos and don’ts is the big granddaddy of them all: Don’t be afraid. Fear kills every great scene. Fear that I’m going to fail.Fear that I’ll humiliate myself. Fear that I’ll piss off my scene partners. Fear of being too "in my head." Fear of not being in control. Fear of trusting my scene partners. Fear of doing a shitty scene and everyone will hate me and I’ll get cut from the team and nobody will ever want to play with me and I’ll never get to improvise again … and … and … and …

I think we can all agree that fear is where good improv scenes go to die. But how do you stop being afraid? I don’t know about you but the command “Don’t be afraid” only bounces off me like a rubber ball. It’s fun to contemplate the "Don't be afraid" ball whooshing towards my gut, but, like other “don’t,” it doesn’t stick. Bonk!, boing, boing, boing, it bounces off and bumps along on its little rubber ball way. Hell, if I could just stop feeling something through sheer desire and will, you can bet your ass that right now I would instantly stop feeling afraid and ashamed and regretful and longing and grief and a whole jackpot of other horrible feelings. But, hey, maybe you’re a better person than I? Maybe “Don’t be afraid” makes you stop being afraid? If so, then Congratufuckinglations! There is no reason for you to read any further. Go forth and improvise in greatness! Love and peace be with you.

Still here? 

Yeah. Me too.


"I think, at a child's birth,
 if a mother could ask a fairy godmother
to endow it with the most useful gift,
 that gift should be curiosity."

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor was no Zen master, as far as I know, but Curiosity seems like it would be a good wide-thinking idea. So lately, I’ve been experimenting with simply feeling curious about what it would be like if fear – or any unwanted thought habit - wasn’t a part of my work. Instead of wishing glumly for things to be different, I’m trying to be CURIOUS about what it would be like if things were different. And that's all. All I'm trying to do is think about being curious. So rather than, “Don’t be afraid of doing a shit show tonight,” I’ve been trying to think, “I wonder what it would feel like not to be afraid of doing a shit show tonight?” What would it be like to improvise with a simple sense of wonder as my guiding force? What would it be like to be curious onstage? I wonder what is going to happen next? If curiosity killed the cat, then in this case the cat would be the thoughts and habits that impede becoming the best improviser I can be. Those thoughts and habits are a bad cat. It's the cat that lets you pet it, its purring relaxing you into a daydream, then suddenly bites the shit out of your hand. Bad, bad cat.

I wonder what it would be like not to feel afraid tonight? I wonder what it would be like to not worry that I don’t know where the scene is going and how it will end? I wonder what it would be like to let go of worrying about the theme of the Harold? I wonder what it would be like to completely let go and trust my scene partners to be geniuses, artists, and poets?

Maybe at my next show, I'll just pick one of those questions up there or make up some other moment of curiosity. Instead of being bossy with that stubborn toddler of Fear inside  – Do that. Don’t do that! -  I wonder what would it be like to simply be curious about a show without Fear? I wonder what it would be like to let go and trust that it will all be okay?


That’s some terrifying shit. But I have to admit, I’m a little hot-stove curious about it.





* * *

Still improv curious? 

Check out  some of these "Geeking Out with..." interviews.

*




Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show. Pam writes (and performs) the Geeking Out with... interview series. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle."  Pam is finishing up work on "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with co-authors TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. Currently, Pam teaches  "The Zen of Improv Comedy" in Western Massachusetts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment (#12: The Mother of To-Do Lists)

by Pam Victor

[The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment is my one-year challenge to make a living through creative pursuits. Read all the updates here.]

One of the hardest parts about the Experiment for me right now is trying to get it all done. For the last few months, I've been continuously putting lots of poles in the water, so that I end up spending a lot of time trying to manage a lot of different poles, as it were. The teaching. The comedy show producing. The writing. Catch a couple fish now and then. (Yay!) Put more poles in the water. Check the poles.

Ok, hang on a sec. You get the poles are emails and phone calls and general outreach to potential teaching/writing/performing gigs, right?

Good. I thought you got it it, but I wanted to check, just in case you thought I was spending a lot of time fishing. To be clear, I am spending zero time fishing. None. Not one minute. In fact, I don't like fishing because of the whole killing fish thing. (No offense, fisherpersons.) I do like eating fish, however, which I realize creates a complex and hypocritical relationship that I have with fishing, but - again - we're not talking about fishing here.

We're talking about this:



That is one of my recent, weekly to-do lists. 

Not long ago, I realized that managing all those poles ... oh, fuck the stupid metaphor ... I mean, doing a lot of different jobs at once makes me anxious. The whole faux-multi-tasking pace stresses me out tremendously. ("Faux" on account of the fact that there is apparently no such thing as multi-tasking. There's just doing a lot of different things quickly and consecutively and, in my case, not always gracefully.) That's where this ugly to-do list comes in handy. It is absolutely required to write it all down. And I've found that due dates are essential as well. As you can see, various colors of highlighter figure into the system as well. Lately, I've been making sub-to-do lists (small, orange pieces of paper with the day's shorter list of things to do), which has been very helpful because it gives me a sense of completion at the end of the day. Plus it's fun to crumple up a little, orange piece of paper and throw it in the recycling pile. Two points!

I'm trying really hard not to get caught up in the stress, just to let it pass like a wave. Though after the last few weeks of being out almost every night, I also realized that working evenings are adding to the stress, which is problematic since all my improv teaching gigs, shows, and rehearsals are in the evening. So I have to figure out a way to get over that. As of yet, I haven't been able to get in any R 'n R during the day, on account of my generalized "Bonbons and Oprah" guilt of watching TV in the middle of the day. I'll figure it out ...

Oh, I should mention that I'm officially one-third of the way to my financial goal! Maybe it is possible to make a living doing what I love? The next trick is to do it without the acid eating away at my stomach lining.

If you dare say I should take up fishing, I'll fucking slap you. With a fish.

God, I love when people get slapped across the face with fish ... that just never gets old.

*
* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is finishing up work on "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with co-authors TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. 

Scrumptious Improv Quotes: David Pasquesi (The Scene Can't Begin)

Read more in Geeking Out with...Dave Pasquesi.

 * * *
Catch up on past improv geek-a-thons:
Geeking Out with…TJ Jagodowski  of TJ and Dave
...Scott Adsit of 30 Rock
...Colleen Doyle of Dummy

and many more!

*

And "like" the "Geeking Out with..." FACEBOOK PAGE please.



Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of this series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is co-writing "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. If you want to stay abreast of all the geek out action, like the “Geeking Out with…” Facebook page!  (Yes, I said "breast.") And get all her nonsense at www.pamvictor.com. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment (#11: "You Have a Weird Job")

by Pam Victor

[The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment is my one-year challenge to make a living through creative pursuits. Read all the updates here.]

A couple nights ago, I fell into bed after the hour-long drive home from performing in an improv show where I had mimed the theme from Great Expectations, embodied a skunk shooting its stench from

its ass, and played a domineering, homosexual janitor in an improvised musical called Fast Times at West Spring High. Not quite as lively as the previous Tuesday when I had ridden a cast-mate piggyback across the stage, been dismembered by a candy called The Guillotine and wound up hanging upside down for five minutes, and had my left boob groped onstage by every member of the cast, but still, a good show. My husband was, of course, already in bed. (We don't always see each other standing these days.)

"How was the show?" he asked sleepily.

I mumbled back into my pillow, "An hour ago, I was singing Everyone is Great at Gay Night at The Smitty's." 

Falling into sleep, he said softly but not unkindly, "You have a weird job."

Job. This is my job.



Performing with The Majesters
Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA (Fall, 2014)
(R-L, Tony Silva, Tom Dahl, Scott Braidman, Mosie McNally and a lucky lady)
Before I started this experiment, nobody ever called improvisation my job, except me when I was trying desperately to make a point. But something is different now. Maybe it's because I'm getting paid regularly to perform. Maybe it's because I'm working my ass off. Maybe it's only my own attitude shift. But it's beginning to feel like I'm doing "legitimate" work. 

More often than not these days, I'm stressed and exhausted and running on fumes, but I am grateful to be working. This is my job. It's really fucking weird. And I love it.


*
* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is finishing up work on "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with co-authors TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Scrumptious Improv Quotes: Scott Adsit of "30 Rock"


Read more in...Geeking Out with...Scott Adsit 

 * * *
Catch up on past improv geek-a-thons:

Geeking Out with…TJ Jagodowski  of TJ and Dave
...Peter S. Kim about the Second City Bob Curry Fellowship
...Colleen Doyle of Dummy

and many more!

*

And "like" the "Geeking Out with..." FACEBOOK PAGE please.



Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of this series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is co-writing "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. If you want to stay abreast of all the geek out action, like the “Geeking Out with…” Facebook page!  (Yes, I said "breast.") And get all her nonsense at www.pamvictor.com. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Geeking Out with...TJ and Dave: The Real Live TALK SHOW! (District Improv Festival 2014)

After their show at the District Improv Festival (Washington D.C.), I sat down onstage with
TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi
to delve into the process that goes into improvising TJ and Dave.

I wish I could share it with you, but as it is a 
"Real Live TALK SHOW" interview, 
you had to be there to see it.
Sorry.
(Though you can read most of the stuff in our book soon.)

The only tangible souvenir I have is this not-so-great photo of
us all, apparently napping during the interview.


Click here for more info. about the 
Geeking Out with TALK SHOW.


To keep on Geeking Out, check out all these yummy interviews
including pretty mind-expanding written interviews with TJ and Dave.

* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is finishing up work on "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave

Geeking Out with...Laura Hall, Rick Hall, Mike Descoteaux, Megan Gray, and Jenny Z: The Live TALK SHOW (Boston Comedy Arts Festival, 2014)

I had a fascinating conversation onstage 
about the art and business of comedy with 
Laura Hall (Whose Line Is It Anyway?), 
Rick Hall (Factory, Second City), 
Mike Descoteaux (Artistic Director, ImprovBoston),
Megan Gray (Artistic Director, Magnet Theater), and
stand-up comedian Jenny Z (TBS's Funniest Wins

And the best news is, 



[Photo credit: Scott Isvan/BCAF]

With Jenny Z
[Photo credit: Scott Isvan/BCAF]

With Laura Hall and Rick Hall
[Photo credit: Scott Isvan/BCAF]

Talking to Mike Descoteaux and Megan Gray
[Photo credit: Scott Isvan/BCAF]

Click here for more info. about the 
Geeking Out with TALK SHOW.


To keep on Geeking Out, check out all these yummy interviews.


* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is finishing up work on "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave

The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment (#10: Two Months In)

by Pam Victor

[The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment is my one-year challenge to make a living through creative pursuits. Read all the updates here.]

I'm two months into my experiment, and things seem to be financially on target so far. I actually exceeded my monthly goal for September a bit, more than making up for the little shortfall I had in August. I have far more work to do than hours in the day. Most of that work is paid at least a little. A goodly chunk of the work is an investment in future jobs - such as, promotion for gigs and classes, updating websites, and sending in proposals for potential jobs. Some of the work is more for fun than profit, like my Geeking Out with... interviews. (Did you read the Jason Shotts interview? That one was a surprising delight! I was scared he was going to be a gruff, intimidating guy, but he turned out to be a super smart, articulate, gentle man.) Also under the unpaid-but-worth-it category were the live interview shows that I performed at District Improv Festival (Washington D.C.) last week and the Boston Comedy Arts Festival the week before. Oh, and I'm helping my son apply to college for next year, but let's not talk about the financials of that endeavor please.

When visiting my little brother in D.C. last weekend, I told him about the various jobs and projects I'm doing and he quite simply said, "That's too much. That is just too much." 

I can see what he means. I can feel it in my weary bones. But I'm determined to ignore the exhaustion and how much I want to spend more evenings at home watching The Good Wife with my husband. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, right?



Since my experiment started on two months ago, here are jobs I've been paid for:
  • teaching three different weekly academic classes to elementary school-aged homeschoolers
  • teaching a weekly improv class for adults
  • taught an improv workshop
  • taught a week-long improv class for teens
  • organizing and facilitating a bunch of comedy workshops
  • I have not been a good wife.
    But finding a new series to
    watch with my husband might make
    a better wife!
  • performing nine improv shows! 
Plus, I'm working as a project manager on a book project (haven't yet been paid but I've worked billable hours), I'm set to start teaching a weekly improv class for teens next week (barely enough kids registered so it's a bit of a six-week, investment-in-the-future project), and I'm about to open registration for my next series of weekly improv classes for adults (that one will fill quickly). I also have one active proposal for an improv-based class being considered by a local business, and I have two more proposals that I need to write and send in to other places (fingers crossed).

Teaching is definitely the biggest source of income so far, but I am the most proud of the paid improv gigs. Paid improv, you guys! In the last two months, nine of the times I've performed, I walked away with money in my pocket. It's like I found a unicorn that poops magic fairy dust! It's loooooong been my dream, my visualization, to perform that often with the quality of improvisers I've been lucky enough to share the stage. Even if I don't keep up this dreamy rate, I am extraordinarily grateful (so grateful!!!) to be in that position now. I am here to tell you, fellow improvisers and theater managers, it is possible.

Today is Saturday. Even though I was coma-inducing exhausted after our show last night, I couldn't sleep past 6:30 this morning. Very frustrating. I'm kind of stressed out. I have too many thoughts about last night's show - our first one in a regular theater in a small town that has never seen improv - and how to expand and improve our work for our show there next month. So I'll work today. And maybe a little on Sunday. But I really am looking forward to sitting on the couch and watching The Good Wife with my husband for at least a couple hours this weekend ...

*
* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is finishing up work on "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with co-authors TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi.