Friend a Day – Everyone Else
My Friend a Day commitment was to write 100 installments and today’s blog entry is number 100.
I have a lot more than 100 friends and figuring out who I’m going to write about last has proven to be a rather large challenge.
And so, my friends, I’m copping out. 100 was an arbitrary number. I could have just as easily written about 10 friends. Or 50. Or 99.
I’m not copping out, though. It was always my plan to make Friend #100 about all the friends I didn’t mention.
If I didn’t get to you, I’m sorry. The choice wasn’t personal. It had a lot more to do with who I felt like writing about on a particular day than any desire to write about specific people.
Writing about my friends made me realize how incredibly lucky we all are to have friends. As I forced myself to focus only on the positive aspects of people I know, I realized how much time we all spend focusing on the negative in ourselves and in others.
How fantastic is it that through such a disparate web of activities – college, Fringe, Renaissance Festival, CONvergence, etc – I have gotten to know so many amazing people?
And how unfair that I only chose to write about 100? There are literally hundreds more I could write about. Why didn’t I write about any of them?
Well, I’m writing about all of them now. Sort of.
All the people in my life matter to me because they are smart, funny, thoughtful, creative, playful, tenacious, talented, friendly, complicated, and mostly because they are present.
Human beings are social animals and while there are certainly times where I don’t need to be social, I’m quite glad that my life has provided me with so many opportunities to be around others.
Everyone has value to someone else. Everyone. The trick for me is to figure out what makes them valuable and to celebrate that thing. If you can, throw out all the rest.
Of a friend, I once said that all the best parts of them were the reason I put up with all parts that drove me nuts. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the same can be said of all the people I know. The best parts of all of them are the parts that are important to me.
So my final takeaway from the Friend a Day project is this: I may not be able to write about every friend I have. I can still choose to appreciate every friend I have.
And I do. Thanks for reading.
Friend a Day – David Traylor
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 – Anna Montgomery
I just have a few Friend a Day posts left so I’ve saved the last couple for friends I’ve known only a short time.
I met Anna because our sons are in a two kid scout troop. We met the first night and she thought I looked familiar. It turned out she was a big fan of Vilification Tennis and I’d actually pulled her up as an audience “volunteer” a few years prior. Small world.
So while we aren’t the greatest scouting parents ever (due to mutually crazy schedules), we’ve been getting together on a regular basis to hold play dates in scout uniforms. We’ve even gotten her involved in running Omegacon. Score!
I’ve slowly learned a lot about Anna over the last couple of years, one scout night at a time.
She knows her way around the kitchen, as I’ve discovered when we have some sort of cooking project for the kids. That would explain why she’s involved in consuite for Omegacon as well. I imagine her creativity in the kitchen is why her kids will eat just about everything and mine will…not.
She’s also fluent in Spanish. I’ve never learned any language except English so I’m always impressed when someone can speak more than one.
Not so long ago, I also learned she’s an artist. She draws mostly as a hobby but there is a lot of talent there.
Anna is a very open person. I learn a lot about what’s going on in her life every time I see her. She’s always got great stories to tell about her work and her family.
I see her mostly for scout nights and a few school functions. Our kids get along so there is a lot of unstructured time for the adults to hang out.
Nothing wrong with that because I really enjoy that unstructured adult time.
Life brings us new friends in all sorts of ways. It is always a good idea to step back and appreciate those people and I really appreciate Anna.
Friend a Day – Ronn Bauman
I’ve known Ronn since I was assistant Artistic Director at the Arizona Festival in 1996. I knew of him prior to that time but I don’t think we actually met.
We only see each other seven weekends a year and we are both too busy to spend any time together. Most interactions we have are a quick two sentence exchange in the morning or a conversation via Facebook.
Such is friendship with someone on the circuit.
Ronn is a member of the very Tortuga Twins. They are one of the most popular acts at the Festival and I have never actually seen them perform. Too many conflicts.
What I know from watching them at other times and from talking to him about their shows is this: their comic timing is absolutely stellar and the attention to their writing is admirable. I don’t think they feel they are owed anything by their audience. They know that every dollar in their hat is earned and they work hard to earn each and every one.
Ronn and I have bonded a bit over shared opinions on Religion, politics, vaccines, conspiracies, and homeopathy. Among other things.
He’s not afraid to invite debate about touchy subjects. Nor is he afraid to express his opinion on those subjects. In that way, he is a lot like me.
He exudes confidence that should never be mistaken for cockiness. Being confident is the sign of a professional who knows what he is doing. Cockiness is the sign of someone who wants to be a professional but doesn’t know what he is doing.
Ronn writes about his daughter a lot and is clearly very invested in his role as a dad. Raising a child while travelling around the country is a challenge that he seems to have embraced in a way I respect and admire.
He’ll be rolling into town in a couple of weeks and we’ll have our all too brief exchanges once again. Such is the nature of the community we share.
It’s pretty awesome and at the same time, a little bit disappointing.
Friend a Day – Deborah Johnson
I’ve known Deborah for about ten years now. She is Chair of the Entertainment committee at the Siouxland Renaissance Festival so I get to deal with her every year when we work on The Dregs contract.
The first thing I will say about Deb is that she is very patient. I’m a bit of a flake when it comes to paperwork and she frequently has to gently remind me that mine is overdue. I know I’m not the only person who has that problem (she is working with artists after all) but I still appreciate that she is able to handle my flaky nature.
She clearly has a love for the Renaissance Festival culture. Even though she lives in Sioux Falls, she works a shop in Minnesota every fall. I think my commute from St. Paul is a pain but that is easy when compared to a commute from South Dakota.
You don’t do that sort of thing unless you love it. There isn’t enough money to do it for any other reason. It just has to be your passion.
Deb makes working for the Siouxland Festival a dream. She is communicative and she always makes a performer feel important and welcome. When it comes to worrying about a show, I never worry about Siouxland. It is a comfortable and welcoming show. Deb is a big reason for that.
Because of the nature of the Renaissance World, I see her infrequently and when I do, we are both busy with other things. She’s always very willing to listen to thoughts or suggestions for her show and I feel like she always has the best interests of her performers in mind.
I also have to appreciate anyone who is a fan of my band and whose two favorite songs are my leads.
On the festival circuit, you get to know all types. They are all great people and I’m happy that Deb is one of the great people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet.
Friend a Day – Josh Carson
Fringe week stumbles on!
I’ve known Josh for about five years now. He’s one of those personalities that is linked with the Fringe for me. I can’t imagine Fringe Festival without Josh Carson.
You always know when Josh is in a room. It isn’t just because he has a loud voice. It’s because he is so animated. He doesn’t ever seem to stand still for very long.
Because his writing is a lot like that, I have to assume that Josh’s outward personality is a reflection of his mind. It just doesn’t stand still.
When I write a show, I’m frequently concerned that it is too short. I’m never convinced I had enough to say.
Josh’s problem is the opposite. He has so many jokes, he runs out of time to tell them all. When I watch one of his shows, I’m almost afraid to laugh for fear of missing the next punchline.
Problem is, I can’t help but laugh because his jokes are too good.
I’m not going to lie. I resent that a lot.
His shows are popular because he writes scripts that appeal to just about everyone. I could (and should) bring my kids to his shows. They wouldn’t get every joke but they would get a lot of them.
At fringe central, Josh’s table is one of most crowded and the loudest. He’s got a personality that draws people to him. And the people he attracts are a lot like him.
It is the nature of the Fringe that it brings together so many creative minds over a ten day orgy of artistry. I’m naturally drawn to the comedians because I feel I understand them.
Or at least I want to understand them.
Josh is a perfect example of why I love the Fringe so much. He and I might never have met had it not been for our mutual involvement in this big weird theater thing. I’m a better person for knowing him because watching what he does and who he is makes me strive to be better in what I do.
Of course he has a show at the Fringe this year and of course I’m going to see it. You should too.
Friend a Day – Jen Scott
Fringe week continues!
I don’t actually remember when or how I met Jen. I’m including her in Fringe week primarily because she performed in my show Story Time: Time Bomb a few years go.
She doesn’t always perform at the Fringe. I can only assume this is because she turns down the opportunity to perform. If it is because nobody asks her, I need to make sure I ask her every year.
Jen has a personality I would describe as jolly. I realize that personality trait is typically associated with men who wear red suits and live at the north pole but if you know Jen, I hope you know what I mean. Whenever I see her, she is smiling and filled with energy.
As an improviser, she is quick-witted and oh so clever. The improvisational nature of Story Time: Time Bomb was why I immediately wanted to get her involved. I knew she would completely nail what we needed for the show.
And she did.
I don’t see Jen that often but I enjoy it when I do because she makes you feel interesting. When you talk to her, she makes eye contact and smiles and nods and laughs. I imagine that is one of the reasons she is so good at improvisation. She is in the moment and paying attention all the time.
When she’s in a show, she’s one of those actresses that I notice. It isn’t just because I know her. It is because she creates memorable moments and I want to make sure I don’t miss them.
Unfortunately, she is not in a show at this year’s Fringe festival. If she was, that show would be on my must see list without question.
Jen’s an awesome person and I’m glad I know her.
She performs over at Huge a lot. Keep an eye out for her there. You’ll be happy you did.
Friend a Day – Ben San Del
Fringe week continues!
I’ve known Ben for a few years now. I think I was introduced to him when I first mounted a show at the fringe in 2007.
Ben, like a lot of my comedian friends, is always thinking about the philosophy of comedy. It isn’t enough to write a funny joke. It is more important to understand the nature of what makes jokes funny. We had him on Geeks Without God earlier this year and he talked about how one approaches telling certain types of jokes to certain types of audiences.
While Ben has written some very good plays, he primarily identifies himself as a stand-up comedian. He did a stand-up show at the fringe three years ago with a lot of material about being an atheist. The way he was so open about that part of himself got me thinking about how writers and performers integrate their beliefs into their work.
Ben is in Jumpin’ Jack Kerouac with me and I think he views it through a similar lens. We both feel completely out of our element as dancers but we enjoy the challenge. We are both also very happy that we are only going to be doing this once.
In rehearsing the show, I’ve gotten to hear some of Ben’s writing about being social. The thoughts that go through his head are similar to mine. He lives in his head all the time.
Whenever I talk to him, I get the feeling there are two layers of conversation. One is the actual conversation we are having and one is the internal dialogue he is having with himself about the conversation.
I guess we all do that but with Ben, I can actually watch it happen.
All of this analysis results in one very important by-product. It makes Ben a very funny and insightful writer.
Ben also once told me that he thought I was in my mid 30’s and not my mid 40’s.
For having said that, I think he is one of the best people ever!
In addition to Jumpin’ Jack Kerouac, you should check out Ben’s other Fringe show: Fiddlestick Conundrum!
Friend a Day – Robin Gillette
Fringe week continues!
I wrote about current Fringe Executive Director Jeff Larson yesterday. It’s only fair I write about his worthy predecessor today!
Since she is no longer director, there is no danger it will appear as if I’m sucking up!
Last year, Robin did something that a lot of us can’t even imagine doing. She stepped down from a job she really loved because she realized it was time to move on. That takes a tremendous amount of courage.
Organizations like the Fringe can benefit from a little upheaval. Knowing that is one thing. Making the difficult decision to initiate that upheaval is entirely different.
My first Fringe Festival show was in 2007 and Robin impressed me right away because she treated every artist with respect. It didn’t matter if this was your first time on stage or if you’d been performing for decades.
Certainly, that is part of the job. It wasn’t an act, though. She genuinely wanted to see every artist succeed and she wanted to make sure we all knew that.
Conversations with Robin over the years have typically taken place at Fringe central and almost always begin with her asking my how my show is going. Again, that was the job.
But I always felt it was more than an obligatory question. I always felt like she really wanted to hear how my show was going. Her question may have been part of the job. Her genuine interest in the answer was not.
Robin has moved on to other things but her love of the Fringe is still evident in the fact she still comes to the lottery, the previews, and the shows. I haven’t been to a Fringe event this year where I didn’t see her.
She’s still very much a part of the community she helped foster and everyone seems happy to see she hasn’t gone away.
In itself, that seems like the best legacy of all.
Friend a Day – Jeff Larson
Fringe week continues!
I’m reticent to write a blog post about Jeff because as executive director of the Fringe, he needs to be neutral when it comes to the artists producing work. I totally get that.
But I really like the guy so I’m going to write about him anyway.
One of the things I like about Jeff (and the rest of the Fringe staff) is the hard they work to ensure bias is taken out of the system. Many of them produce shows themselves. All of them have friends who produce shows. Yet the Minnesota Fringe is about as unbiased as they come.
When he was on Geeks Without God a few weeks ago, we carefully avoided talking about my shows so it wouldn’t seem like he was endorsing my work.
Jeff just took over the position of Executive Director this year and he always talks about how stressed he gets when he has to get up on stage and introduce things.
The dirty secret? He’s really very good at it. He’s charming and funny. He makes up stuff on the fly. He gets all the important information out in small, easy to digest bites.
I can tell that the social aspect of the job can be a little trying for him at times. He came from tech theater and most techies have some social anxiety. I think that’s why they all have jobs where they talk to each other on headsets in the dark.
But if there is a little social anxiety, he manages it well. He knows that his job is to interact with the audience, artists, and press.
His job is to make things easier for dozens of producers every year and I can’t even imagine how difficult that is given most of us are flaky divas who are incapable of following clearly written instructions.
Jeff has also given me a ride in his Porsche and it was pretty sweet.
So thanks, Jeff, for taking on a tough job and doing it with grace and style.
Also, I expect no special treatment for writing this post.
Although another ride in the car would be OK…