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Friend a Day – David Traylor

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Photo by Peter Verrant

David is another very new friend.  I’ve known him for less than a year.  He tried out for Vilification Tennis at this year’s amateur show.  He didn’t make it into the cast because I only have room for one person this year but we did invite him to be a part of Fearless and that has proven to be a great choice.

I have so much respect for anyone who tries out for Vilification Tennis through the amateur show.  It’s about the scariest possible proposition I can think of to try out for a show in front of a live audience.  It’s a lot like American Idol without the slightest possibility of achieving any kind of celebrity.

David is well-known in geek circles as Captain America.  He’s got the look and the costume and he clearly exercises a lot more than I do.

As a part of Fearless, he’s been willing to jump into just about anything we need him to do.  When we wrote the halftime show for CONvergence this year, we decided to plug Captain America into the show because we had the perfect Captain America.

His small role underwent a whole lot of changes between first draft and final staging and he was a complete pro about all of it.  As a producer, it is great to have people who you can plug into a small but important role and know that they are going to rock it.

There are a lot of people who try out for Vilification Tennis and only a few make it into the cast.  The ones who don’t make it into the cast are typically pretty gracious and I don’t see much of them ever again.

The cool thing about Fearless is we have an opportunity to bring some of those new people with us into other performing opportunities.  I’m really glad that we made that decision because it has allowed me to get to know David a lot better over the last few months.

Friend a Day – Salsa Sterling

Photo by Manna Jaeger

Photo by Manna Jaeger

I’ve known Salsa since the day he asked me if he could try out for Vilification Tennis.  He got up on stage that day and did…OK.  But he’s gotten a lot better since then.  In fact, I think he has improved with each passing year.

Salsa is always trying to get better.  He is very analytical by nature and that means he spends a good amount of time looking at what he is doing and trying to figure out how to do it better.  It also means he is very good at analyzing what others are doing well and doing poorly.

As part of Fearless, he is putting together some new shows and I really enjoy watching him work to expand what he is doing creatively.  He’s been doing that for a while now with the Fandazzi Fire Circus as well.  He’s got that bug to create new things and I think that’s great.

He’s grown more confident on stage in the last few years as well.  It has really made a big difference in his stage presence and in the audience’s response to his material.

He’s also completely willing to give something new a try.  When I decided I wanted to do a radio play at a Vilification Tennis show, he volunteered to do sound effects.  That turned into a regular gig with Big Fun Radio Funtime.

Why did he agree to do it?  It wasn’t because he had any experience.  It was because he wanted to try something new.  He’s been learning as he goes but it sure does seems like he’s enjoying the process.

Since I met him, Salsa has gone from a young guy trying to figure out how to be good at things to someone who is viewed as a leader and a mentor.   He has gotten there through hard work and careful thought.

It has been a pleasure to watch that process happen.

Salsa is a co-host of the Apropos of Nothing Podcast.  You should check it out!

Friend a Day – Jim Cunningham

Photo by John Gaspard

Photo by John Gaspard

I’ve known Jim ever since I started working at the Renaissance Festival.  He is well known to many as the master of the Feast of Fantasy now but when I first met him, he was a member of an act call the Comedy Troupe.  Every member of that act was supremely talented.

What I enjoy about working with Jim is how generous he is to the performers who come to work on his stage.  He is always conscious of our time constraints and always thanks us for our performance.  I can’t even tell you how enjoyable it is to work with someone that professional.

A few years ago, there was a decision to start doing Vilification Tennis themed feasts and we went in having a clear expectation that we were to be doing extremely blue material.  Unfortunately, the audience didn’t have the same expectation.  The results were less than spectacular.  I think the word “disaster” would be more appropriate.

We sat with Jim after the show and there was no anger.  No finger pointing.  Instead there was talk about how we were going to fix the problem for the second feast.  There was no question that we were partners in finding a solution.

Whenever I hear Jim on the Radio or at a Twins game, I smile because I know him and he doesn’t just sound like a nice guy, he is a nice guy.

Jim is one of the hardest working people I know.  I don’t know how many projects he has going at a time but there is always one more.  He is in demand because he is one of the best.

He’s relentlessly positive.  He always sees the best in others.  He never focuses on the negative.  To focus on the best in yourself and those around you is a talent that may be better than all the others he possesses.

I’m truly fortunate to have crossed paths with Jim.  He’s one of the great ones.

Friend a Day – Courtney McCLean

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Photo by John Robinson

I met Courtney at the Fringe Festival about five or six years ago.  She is probably the most energetic person I know.  And that is saying a lot.

Courtney is always excited about what she is doing.  It makes me excited too.

She has good reason to be excited because she does such awesome stuff.  Her stories are imaginative and clever.  Her music with the Dirty Curls is catchy and funny.  As exhibited in “Bump” at last year’s Fringe Festival, she can also bust a move.

All this, and she can play the banjo!

Simply put, if Courtney’s name is on something, it is something I want to see.

If it seems like she is running from one thing to the next, I think that is because she is always in the middle of doing something.  She has what seems to be dozens of irons in the fire and, of course, they are all interesting.

As a songwriter, I’m particularly impressed with Courtney’s music.  She writes a ton of songs are thematically similar and yet all very different.  I spent most of my time watching them play paying very close attention to the lyrics because they are awesome.

I’m really in awe of her storytelling ability.  It isn’t just the writing, which is exceptional, but also the personality she brings to the presentation.  It is a vibrant and expressive personality of someone who is completely in the moment.

I think that is why I enjoy her presence on the Vilification Tennis cast.  She is one of a few performers who walks on stage without a lot of prepared material.  That can be a very risky proposition but I think it helps her be more present on stage than she would be if she walked in with only pre-planned material.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Courtney as a collaborator and as an audience member.  She’s a truly talented person.

Friend a Day – Chrys Buckholtz

Photo by Kristin Thesing

Photo by Kristin Thesing

I’ve known Chrys since she became part of Vilification the old-fashioned way – by standing up on stage at the Renaissance Festival and trying to insult someone.  She started out well and has continued to improve since then.

She has a drive to write the best material possible.  She spends a lot of time working with her partner to refine the jokes she writes because she wants them to work the first time she throws them.  It may not be a 100% success rate but most of her new material hits the mark.

When she is on stage, she looks confident and prepared.  I’ve never seen her arrive at a show anything but ready to do her best.  I’ve never seen her at a loss for a joke.

Off the vilification tennis stage, she is a gifted costumer.  Her work has been on stage at the CONvergence masquerade and in the halls of the convention.  If you want a well made corset, I know who would be on the top of my list for a recommendation.

That attention to detail she brings to costuming is probably why she is so good in her job.  As a property manager she is clearly meticulous and attentive.  Those traits are a part of who she is and it makes her valuable.

Chrys and I share a lot of the same political views, which is not a reason I like her specifically but, like many of the people I know, she often helps lend perspective to a situation I’ve been thinking about.  She doesn’t arrive at an opinion without some thought and because of that, I find her opinions worth hearing.

Like most members of the vilification cast, Chrys has brought her personality to the mix and it has added something that wasn’t already there.  I think the diversity of who we are makes a huge difference in the success of our show.

I’m glad Chrys stepped onto our stage to give it a chance all those years back.  It means I’ve gotten to know a really cool person.

Friend a Day – Eric Thompson

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Photo by John Solberg

I’ve only known Eric for a little over a year.  He tried out for the Vilification Tennis and won the amateur show in 2013 and he’s been another one that surprised me.

Eric appears to be pretty laid back and I didn’t know if that would work on stage.  With the material he writes, it works tremendously well.

Since he joined the cast, he has proven to be an asset because he has good ideas for more than just Vilification Tennis.  He brought the idea for Double Blind Improv to me and it was clearly a great fit for Fearless Comedy.  Then he went through the trouble of setting up everything for the show.

It’s great when someone comes to you with a good idea.  It’s even better when they are willing to do almost all of the work to make it happen.

He’s got a dry, patient wit.  He will sit back and wait for an opportunity to be funny, which makes him dangerous because the audience loses track of him.  Then he says something wickedly clever and they fall in love with him.

Eric has a lot of irons in the fire.  In addition to working with Vilification Tennis and Fearless, he is also doing a regular podcast and, apparently also has a job.  I guess I like him in part because I’m a little bit reminded of myself.

Another trait that impresses me is his willingness to do just about anything.  He’s a cast member I can count on to just stand up and make something happen.  When we needed someone to handle challenges for Die Laughing, he was the person who stepped up and coordinated.

It was a lot of work.  But Eric is someone who will put in a lot of time when he believes in something.

I’m glad that Eric tried out for Vilification Tennis.  He’s a great guy and I probably wouldn’t have met him any other way.

Check out the High Five Guys Podcast!

Friend a Day – Nick Glover

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I’ve known Nick for a long time but really only got to know him after he joined the vilification tennis cast and became my podcasting co-host on Geeks Without God.

Nick is a huge comic fan and over the last few years, he has introduced me to a ton of new comics.  As a fan, he finds titles for me that go beyond the standard stuff that everyone has read.  I appreciate the depth of his knowledge and his willingness to find me interesting new reading experiences.

We agree on a lot of topics but what always amazes me about Nick is his ability to boil his argument down to one or two insightful and cogent sentences.  I’ll spend fifteen sentences to say what he says better in only one.

He has a relaxed attitude about working on stage that makes it easy to ask him to do just about anything.  You never feel like something makes him uncomfortable.  His response is always yes, and I can add this extra thing that will make it an even funnier idea.

When I have a complicated scenery item that I need, Nick is regularly the person who conceives of how to solve the problem.  He made the elevator prop for an adaptation of The Shining I did this month and, as usual, he made it look better than I had expected and he did it for no cost.  He loves solving those sorts of problems, I think, and he solves them well.

Nick has a very impish sense of humor.  Usually, he keeps a straight face but every now and again, you can catch him being pleased with a joke he made.  You catch him having fun with himself and it is charming.

I really look forward to recording new episodes of Geeks Without God and a big reason is the fact I get to hang out with my co-hosts before we record.  Nick is a great guy and I’m very happy to have had the chance to work with him so often.

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