Thursday, July 21, 2011

Loom for More

Getting to see TJ & Dave at the iO was one of the definite highlights of my trip. A pair of improvisers on a stage, the lights go out, the lights come up and away they go. It's that simple and that brilliant. There's no planning, and no script, just this pair of friends onstage. How brave! For the first 10 minutes, they were two stoners living in an apartment and discussing the existential need to find out if they had any more Cheese-its in the kitchen. Then they became a young married couple, a pair of cops, party supply factory workers,and finally they alternated playing the role of a Korean shop owner. It was like watching two people weaving at a very funny loom.

Lesson Learned: You have to support your partner in any scene or sketch or real life scenario. It's a three-legged race and you're not going to be able to cross that finish line on your own. CONNECT. Magic happens when you do. Prior to the show, TJ & Dave were talking offstage. As the lights began to come down, they turned to each other embraced and shook hands. They looked into each others eyes and knew that the other person was completely present, and totally open, fully generous. Confession: For so long I've been a selfish actor, whether I knew it or not. I wanted the laugh; I wanted the praise. I held back. I was afraid to give anything up because would there be anything left for me. I wasn't totally there for my scene partners. What a selfish stingy schlump! I get it now. First comes the scene, then comes your partner, and last comes yourself. Give, give more. Be, be more. Therein ends the improv sermon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


from the streets of Chicago...near my favorite Panera's

You may have noticed that I started the blog by listing day 1 and day 2, but have you ever noticed how many days there are? They just keep coming. Yeesh.

So we're going to jump to “Week 2 of Second City:” new week, new teachers. Often, I think of improv as being a male dominated art form. Really, don't know why, especially considering how many hysterical women I know. So, I was delighted to have two kickass lady teachers (what a terrible descriptor) for this week of class. It became very clear, very quickly that the training wheels were coming off.

My improv teacher, Rachel Mason, is a goddess, the patron saint of improv wisdom. Nuff said. She would speak and I would have to hold my hands together to prevent constant outbreaks of exuberant clapping. I also took notes like a conscientious and slightly obsessed court reporter.

Lessons learned:

  1. Know who you are first before you go trying to become other people
  2. Show us who you are
  3. You are wholly accountable for your joy
  4. Make the choice to be open
  5. Don't just confront your fears- run after them
  6. My favorite, “If you are not having fun, then you're the a$*hole”
  7. KISS = Keep it simple stupid

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Great Steppenwolf Cheese Massacre

On our second day of Chicago-ness, Hayley and I opted for some fried chicken, skyscrapers, cheese, and a wee bit of theatre (spelled with a -re). I was staying in the Lakeview District of Chicago, which is pretty goshdarn adorable and even has its own mosaic tile welcome wall-mat. So lets start here.

Time to suit up.

Hayley's look = Steel-Eyed Ballerina

My look = Hardworking 1st Baseman

We journeyed to a restaurant called Crisp which I had discovered the week before by following nice smells in the area. Our meal was the culinary highlight of our trip. Take the best chicken strips you've ever had, then cover them with the most delicious soy sauce concoction you could ever imagine. Of course, we also had to get in on some rice and veggie action. We paired our entree with diet A&Ws. The flavors melded very well. Seriously, if you are ever in the Lakeview area, GO to Crisp. 

 So happy!
So full!

In the afternoon, we signed up for an Architectural Boat Tour. It was the best 2 hour nap ever. Just kidding. I don't know what it is about boats, but they make me feel like a sleepy baby in a hammock. I should mention that by this point I had been in Chicago for a week, but had yet to go into the downtown area. Did you know they have skyscrapers there? In fact, Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper. Wow. Those suckers are tall. 

The skyscrapers actually made me feel very small and insignificant and structurally unsound. Skycrapers: the supermodels of architecture. Speaking of large buildings, deep-dish pizza. We took a walk down Michigan Ave and found ourselves at Giardano's world famous pizza. 

Oh, sweet slice of pizza

scene of the crime

We then high-tailed it to Steppenwolf Theatre where we saw the quietly gorgeous Middletown by Will Eno. The play takes place in a small-town where a new comer Mary forms a friendship with a handyman named John. It talks about connection, loneliness, and our inability to see how breathtaking life really is. I would call it "Our Town" for an isolated generation and a damn fine piece of theatre. To quote the play, "Some of the dust on my shoes is from outer space. Most of the rest is dead human skin. Infinity, asteroids, and your great-great grandmother. All that struggle and science and stale candy in every little speck. You look at it and you think dirt. That's not even half the story."

All told, a simply loverly way to spend a day in Chicago.

I pretend to be a stepping wolf.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hot Dogs and Culture

My beloved sister Hayley came to keep me company on the 4th of July weekend in Chicago. We saw the sights, ate really great food, and survived the humidity (which is pretty hard for 2 California gals).

Hayley wore a look that I will call, "What you lookin' at Aztec?"

Let's take it to the streets. Yes, that drunk man in the background and I are wearing coordinating colors. Yes, we planned it that way.

Yes, there is a grease spot on my face because I ate butter and then touched the lens of my camera. It's called the "butter filter" and it's very becoming. Take that hipsta-matic.

First off, a quick jaunt to the Art Institute of Chicago to see "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte" by Georges-Pierre Seurat, or as Hayley and I call it "The Rockin Dot Painting." Color and light <insert music by Stephen Sondheim>

Hayley is art

Chicago is art.

Candy is art.

Men who sneak into the backgrounds of your photos are art.

Everything is art.

Hot dogs from Portillo's are seriously art.

These Faces

How do you know that you're at Second City? Well, for me I knew I was living the dream when I got to see these awesome faces everyday. These peeps kept me honest and in stitches.

You also know you're at Second City when you pass these cheerful gargoyles on the way to class...

 I am desperate to set these guys up with these ladies...
Ah, l'amour, l'amour, toujours l'amour

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Waiter, There's a German Woman in My Comedy Writing Class

There was a German woman in my comedy writing class and I swear for 2 weeks I thought we were part of some social experiment. At first, I thought she was a obscure American performance artist attempting to create a groundbreaking portrayal of a German Zelda Fitzgerald. Then I thought she was some kind of Second City plant; that we were in fact part of a sketch about a German woman in a comedy class. Then I realized, she's just a German woman in a comedy writing class and it really doesn't get any better than that. 

And now for "Germans Who Say Nice Things" with Steve Carrell and Dana Carvey.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Blueberry Sky Saturday

Took these shots during my trip to Boston (the land of clam chowder). Here's hoping you're having a deliciously color-coordinated Saturday!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wicked Genius


We watched this sketch in class the other day and well, I think it's pretty much genius. Tiny Fey and Rachel Dratch show how wicked awesome the Second City stage truly is. Watch and glow in the comedic wonder.

Lonely Banana

I pass this giant banana sticker everyday on my way to class. I just want to say, "I know how you feel banana. I know how you feel. You hang in there, brave banana."



As I keep taking classes at Second City, I am gobsmacked by how the lesson I learn can be utilized in everyday life. It's true: life is improv and improv is life. 



  1. Whatever you say is perfect and awesome (tell that to my mom)

  1. You don't have to talk about your location → ex: Don't say something like, “Wow, Bob I'm so glad we're on our honeymoon 20 miles north of Deluth. Too bad about that bear attack that's happening right now.”

  1. Pauses can make a scene more alive. In fact, say less and often the scene will go farther.

  1. Build a scene one line at a time WITH your partner

  1. Get physical...let's get appropriately physical

  1. Yes, it is easier to say “no.” However, when you say “ok” to something you'll go places you never expected. We love conflict, but when you say “no” it's harder to get actually get somewhere and someplace.

  1. Saying “YES” leads to TRANSFORMATION

  1. Know your objective even if no one else does. Know what you need to get; play it; put it into all your actions.

    Pure Imagination

    In improv class, I'm rediscovering how much fun it is to imagine. In fact, I find myself humming “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the good version) all the freakin time. Here's a link to the video. Seriously, if you haven't watched it recently take a gander. It makes me believe that my secret dream of someday having a rootbeer float swimming pool isn't just some fanciful pipe dream. Bread bowls are a miracle people!

    I remember watching this when I was a kid. I couldn't have been older than 6 and that part where he takes a bite out of his daffodil cup- blew my kindergarten mind! I remember thinking, “That man just ate that cup. That man just ate that cup! There are no rules! I can do anything.” I then ran out into the back yard and tried to make a grass shirt (I had heard of grass skirts and believed that people should be able to have grass on their torsos dagnabbit). It didn't work because our grass wasn't long enough to weave, but that didn't stop me from thinking up “doggie cereal” (a box of milk bones in my dog's watering bowl). Vomiting dogs aside, my point is that I think imagination is a greatest energy source on the face of the earth; we just need to learn to harness it and make grass shirts.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Regrets of a Netflix Ho

    First assignment: we have homework due for Writing I. We are each to show our particular point of view by writing a monologue based on one of our own minor peccadilloes or comedic flaws. I choose to expose my secret life as a pop culture junkie.


    Dear Netflix Watch Instantly:

    I am writing to thank you for ruining my life. In the Spring of 2010, you offered me a free trial and you knew what you were doing. After a taste of your “stuff” (aka 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) I was hooked. Since that day I have accomplished nothing and I will never regain the countless hours I have spent glued to my computer monitor watching your legalized digital crack. But, why should you care? You've got my nine dollars and ninety-nine cents a month. That's a pretty cheap price for somebody's soul and that is what it is, my soul. I might have made something of my life, but now we will never know. We will never know what I would have been capable of if not for you. I could have been a doctor, probably not, but I might have. I could have cured cancer. You destroyed any chance the world will ever have of finding a cure for cancer. Right now, I could have been married, or even pregnant. You cost me my imaginary baby and I can't forgive you for that, hard as I try. You are a killer of dreams, unrealistic fantasies and you give people cancer. In a world without you, I suspect that I would be happier, wealthier, and taller. Yes taller, you pusher! I know that I would be tanner, if not for all those hours spent inside my room glazed over with your stash (I watched Poltergeist 3 times, it was really good); I could have been tanner; I could have been somebody.

    I have given you my youth and my self-respect; but, you want more. For now you have delivered the final blow, the final indignity. Oh, you know what I'm talking about. The five complete seasons of Rod Serling's Original Twilight Zone circa 1959-1963 you just released? A series which you yourself describe as being, “groundbreaking and relating humor tinged tales that touch on supernatural subjects such as alien invasions, xenophobia, time travel and dream logic” with 137 episodes of creepy hitchhikers, pig people, three eyed martian men. In the name of God, how is a girl supposed to resist something like that? I don't expect you to answer that. There are certain questions that none of us can answer.

    Please understand. I am not blaming you; I am merely asking you to take full responsibility for my actions. I am a proud woman, but I lose myself when I'm with you. Now, it's too late. I will never do anything again and you have to live with that fact. You've built your castle on my carcass of dried up dreams and my $9 and 99 cent future.


    Maren Lovgren

    P.S. Enclosed please find my check for the month of July



    So, we're going to jump back into the handy dandy time machine to two weeks ago on my first day of classes at Second City's summer immersion program. Picture it, a Monday in early July. The men and women live much more simply then. They still drive cars.

    I awake with the dawn. Being a crazy person, I spend way too long deciding what to wear. Final decision: my lucky yellow sweater, striped shirt, and jeggings. Jeggings, they are better than sliced bread and twice as comfortable.

    Note the progression of photos. The one problem with traveling alone (aside from the mind-numbing loneliness and time for introspection) is that you have no one to take photos of your loneliness except for your best friend, mirror. Oh, mirror you're the best and that bright white flash, simply a product of our love.

    First picture: Feigned confidence

    Second picture: Practicing my “Will you be my friend?” smile → Hey, it worked in kindergarten

    Third picture: Freaked out desperation

    I hop a bus to the training center and run up the escalator to my first class. This week is Improv 1 (mornings), and Writing I (afternoons). Going up the escalator, I spot all these pictures of Second City alums along the wall: Gilda Radner, John Candy, Catherine O'Hara. I am filled with the 30 Rock Tina Fey line, “I want to go to there.” Then, I realize I am there, here. Cue: Delightful hysteria and well-covered panic.

    We're divided into classes and I find myself with about 9 other Nervous Nellies. We introduce ourselves and I can already tell that I like these peeps. Our teacher is the delightful Micah with a spring in his step and a clever yet profound saying in his mouth (that last part sounded weird). But, anyhoo we jump right into games etc. I don't have much time to take notes; but, here is what I grasp.

    1. Everything everyone (including me) says is awesome!
    2. Never say no, always say yes...and...
    3. Every mistake is a gift
    4. If every mistake is a gift, then my life is Christmas

    We break for lunch and a group of us heads over to Boston Market where I proceed to eat a chicken. About half of us pile back into Second City for our afternoon writing class with Andy Miara, another wise man and I must mention another comedy genius. Here is what I grasp from this afternoon's class.

    1. Comedy writing is not about just writing jokes, it's about writing relationships
    2. Get up and go for it/write it/act it...who the hell cares (aside from my mother)
    3. At Second City, shows are written through improvisation → which means they generate many scenes and then test them with an audience
    4. A comedy writer needs to develop an ear for an audience → how and why do jokes land? How and why do scenes succeed?
    5. The RELATIONSHIP is the key to coherently building an emotional and yes humorous story
    6. Once you find your hook (what's working) push and heighten → I imagine this to be like funny child birth
    7. You don't have to have all the answers when you start writing something → let the scene work with you
    8. We want to see TRANSFORMATION: characters and situations that are dynamic and always changing emotionally

    By the end of the day, my mind is filled to capacity. I end up walking back to the hotel (2 miles) just so I can decompress. I grab a Panera's salad, baguette, and huge ass chocolate chip cookie and pass out on my bed. Today was amazing, but I definitely feel like I'm in the deep end of the comedy pool and I forgot my floaties.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011


    Hello friends.  Prepare to jump into your trusty ol' time machine! Because of my freakish procrastination, the next several posts are going to take you back into the not-so-distant-past to the first few days of my Chicago, NYC, Boston extravaganza. But, first Chicago, where it all began!

    Here I am right before hopping into the car for a quick jaunt to SFO airport. Note the awesome camoflage bag my dad picked out for my early b-day present. Yes, your eyes do not deceive it has a rockin' pink stripe. At first, I thought it would be too big, but it ended up being the perfect schlep-around messenger/minivan (seriously I could carry a toddler in this thing). My dad actually found it at the Sports Basement, and hid it underneath a pile of ski gear just so no one else would grab it before I could ok it. I love my pops; he is both sneaky and thoughtful!

    At SFO, I got to fly out of the newest terminal, Terminal 2 via Virgin Air. The terminal is super green (aka ecologically aware). I was just bummed because I misjudged my takeoff time by over 40 minutes! Ooops! So, I got to literally run through the terminal while attempting to purchase a cinnamon-apple scone (a girl has got to eat) and it was not until I was walking the plank to the plane that I realized that I was about to fly with my fly unzipped. I now feel much closer to Terminal 2.

    I hate to fly, but the flight was pretty easy. I watch a-lotto television. Where else can you watch 4 hours of Real Housewives of New York City with impunity? I'm trapped in a metal bird, a captive audience. I was supposed to land and go straight to Second City to see a show, but I had forgotten about one thing: the Gay Pride Parade. It took me almost 2 hours to reach my hotel room and I didn't even get to see the parade :(  I was staying in the Lakeview area at a hotel called the Willows. Here is a picture of my hallway, which I swear looks like a scene out of the Shining. I get chills just looking at it (REDRUM!)

    Once I got in my room, I was seriously so exhausted that I didn't even know what to do with myself. So, I ate this giant ass cookie that I nicknamed Pangea (the supercontinent). It really helped and it really looked like Pangea.
     Before bed, I brushed my teeth and combed my hair and placed this ironing board under my door as a means of preventing would be intruders. You know, just the typical things.
    Goodnight moon. Goodnight pangea. Hello Chicago!

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Let's Take This Show on the Road

    Have I mentioned that I'm a terrible traveler? I mean terr-i-ble. When I told KD, my best friend from college, that I was going to Chicago for two weeks by myself, she literally said to me, "How's that going to work? You're a terrible traveler." 

    See, I didn't walk till I was 2. I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was 10. I didn't get my license till I was 23. On my way back from studying abroad in London I almost ended up in Trinidad. True story. I make silly-stupid mistakes when I travel. I forget my native tongue. I drop things, heavy things. I lose scarves (hello Heathrow airport circa 2004). I leave my fly unzipped and then walk down the aisles of planes smiling. I really don't know how to get a move on.

    So, when it came time for me to pack for this trip, I had to mean business. 

    3 weeks + 3 cities = 1 carry on bag and freakishly large "purse/personal item"

    The big picture (minus 3 button up shirts that were in the wash)...holla!

    A tapestry of over-packing...and pineapple floristry...

    My bling with an elephant theme.

    I decided to bring some comfort flicks for the trip. I have netflix, but sometimes a gal needs some portable coping mechanisms. What did I pick?

    1. Funny Face: A gawky young lady travels abroad

    2. Almost Famous: A gawky young man travels abroad with rock stars

    3. The Trouble with Angels: Two gawky young women get in trouble in a nunnery

    4. Sabrina: A gawky young lady travels abroad and becomes Audrey Frickin' Hepburn

    5. The Sound of Music: A gawky young nun travels abroad,finds love, avoids Nazi, meets some orphans -> Good times all around

    6. The Music Man: A dapper traveling salesman travels and takes a small town by storm

    7. Now, Voyager: Betty Davis has a nervous break down, travels abroad, and comes back Betty Frickin' Davis

    8. African Queen: An awkward minister's sister and an awkward drunk travel down an African River...and fall in lurve

    9. Tangled: An awkward long haired lady breaks out of her tower and has a good time doing it

    9. Elaine Stritch: The most amazingly talented bad ass ever performs...travels across a stage...remains a badass while doing so

    MMMMM do we se a trend? What are your favorite motivational flicks?