Tag Archive | Friend a Day

Friend a Day – Katherine Glover

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As my Focus on Fringe continues, I look at the people I see for a fortnight once a year because they are awesome.

I know Katherine only through Fringe.  As is my sometimes awkward nature, I’ve been to a few of her shows and told her that I thought they were pretty good.  We’ve sat at the same table at Fringe central and engaged in conversations about whatever we were talking about.  Probably Fringe.

Right now, we are actually in the same dance show, which marks the first time the two of us have actually worked together.

As she will be quick to point out, we aren’t working “together” as we aren’t in the same dances.

All of this is to say that I call Katherine a friend but I don’t know her as well as  I should.

She has what appears to be limitless energy and enthusiasm for whatever she is doing.  That energy and enthusiasm seems to extend to whatever anyone else is doing as well.

While I imagine it has happened, I can’t remember ever seeing her simply walk into a room.  She kind of explodes into a room. She either genuinely likes being around other people or pretends to like other people in an attempt to mask social anxiety.

I think it’s the former but it could be the latter.  Either way, it’s charming.

As an aside, I have also just learned that we both went to the same high school.  Not at the same time.  She was there a long time after I left.  But still, neat coincidence, right?

Katherine has received a lot of recognition for her work and that recognition is well deserved.  She has a life focused on writing and performing and, to be honest, it makes me a little bit envious.

She’s really good at it, though.

Katherine is a great person to know and I’m excited to be in a show with her.  Even if we don’t get to dance together.

Friend a Day – Phillip Andrew Bennett Low

Photo by Anastacia Bolkwazde

Photo by Anastacia Bolkwazde

Fringe week continues until I’m no longer focused on Fringe week!

Back in 2007, Phillip was a blogger for the Fringe Festival and he wrote about a particularly bad preview we did for Vilification Tennis.  I wrote back.

And now we are friends.  The end.

Our exchange was actually fairly boring, which may come as something of a surprise given how some people react to Vilification Tennis.  Phillip was smart, articulate, and raised good points.  I was polite, non-combative, and listened.

He came to our show at the Fringe that year and gave us a positive review.  I went to his show that year and really enjoyed it.

See?  Being nice to people actually works.

Phillip is a lover of words and language.  His shows are frequently solo shows that explore his personal journey, his personal opinions, and his personal passions.  He has a complex sense of humor that ranges from geeky to angry to political.  Sometimes in the same sentence.

His writing is challenging and I mean that in the best possible way.  He challenges his audiences to think.  His work is dense and thoughtful.  It is not impenetrable but nor is it for those who are unwilling to pay attention.

That said, he can produce work that is startling in its simplicity.  His “Improv Comedy Duo” with Ben San Del was one of the funniest short works I’ve ever seen at the Fringe.  They took an idea and carried it to a brilliantly absurd extreme.

Because of his passion for words, he is one of the people I look forward to seeing at the Fringe.  Conversation is lively and interesting.  He can see the best in just about any show while still recognizing that the best is not always good enough.

He’s also always willing to take a chance.  As with many years, Phillip is involved with more than one show at the Fringe Festival.  One of them is a dance show.  I’m in it too.

I don’t know if Phillip is a better dancer than me (probably), but I do know he’ll give it everything he has.  Because that is the kind of person he is.

 

Friend a Day – Amy Rummenie

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Photo by Walking Shadow Theatre Company

With the Fringe Festival approaching, it seems appropriate to focus on a few Fringe friends for the next few days.

I met Amy when she was asked to step in and help direct my fringe show “Story Time: Time Bomb.”  I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me.  I just knew we needed a director.

It was a great learning experience for both of us.  I’d never done a “kids” show and she’d never directed a show that was mostly improv.  The result was a tight show that was, I thought, a lot of fun.

For all the work I do in theatre, I’m not a very good director.  Amy is a great director and her skills have not gone unnoticed in the Twin Cities theatre community.  I’m glad I got to work with her before everyone else found out.

Amy always has a big smile on her face.  I must assume she is always smiling because she is always enjoying herself.  From that experience with her as a director, I think it is also because she is getting to do what she loves with her life.  It’s hard to be bitter about that.

I’ll note she isn’t smiling in the picture above.  But when you are posing with a Batleth, you should at least try to look serious.

She is co-artisitic director of Walking Shadow Theatre Company and if you haven’t heard of them, you should take the time to learn.  They are producing some of the best original (and adapted) work in the Twin Cities.

In getting ready to work with Amy on a show in the spring, I like how excited she is by every idea.  She makes a great collaborator and it makes me want to write something worthy of her excitement.

The Fringe has been a gateway for me to a lot of truly talented Twin Cities artists.  Amy is one of those people and I’m very happy this wacky theatre festival brought us together.

Friend a Day – Carr Hagerman

Photo by Burn & Brew

Photo by Burn & Brew

I’ve known of Carr far longer than I’ve actually known him.  When I started at the Renaissance Festival thirty years ago, the Ratcatcher was one of the most well-known street characters anywhere.

I didn’t know him as a person then.  I knew him as an icon.  He was what all of us were trying to be, if only just a little bit.

Many years later, Carr was the Artistic Director of the festival and he had created what can be fairly called a lifetime achievement award.  I was the third recipient of the award and he was the person who presented it to me.  It was a surreal moment.  I was recognized for my contributions to the festival by someone who was a legend long before I ever started making them.

A few years after that, I made a push to present that award to Carr.  It seemed wrong to me that he should be excluded from consideration due to the technicality that he created the award.

Carr is a passionate man.  He has so many passions, it is hard to see how he manages to keep track of them all.  He is a speaker, a photographer, a director, a political activist, an actor, and a great deal more.

The festival is a world of challenges and frequently a world of extreme negativity.  Everyone thinks they could do things better.  Most of them are right.

But a focus on the negative can be crippling.  Carr is so relentlessly positive about the experience that he reminds all of us why we are doing this in the first place.  We are doing it for the love of the experience.  At some level, that love of the experience outweighs all of the negative stuff.

His talent is to find a way to keep a huge cast focused on the good things.  He doesn’t pretend the bad things aren’t there.  He simply reminds us that they can’t be the most important thing.  Otherwise, why are we there?

Carr and I don’t always agree. Yet I have the utmost respect for him because he disagrees with me without ever devaluing my opinion.

I know who Carr is as a person now.  That’s better than being an icon.  Icons aren’t real.

Friend a Day – Ellie Younger

Photo by Peter Verrant

Photo by Peter Verrant

I met Ellie through her ex-husband and got to know her better when she became more involved with CONvergence.

She was also a frequent guest at our regular Sunday movie nights until her career took her to Boston a couple of years ago.

These days, she comes back into town for Omegacon and usually CONvergence (though she didn’t make it this year).

While it is a shame we don’t see her as often as we used to, it is the nature of the world in which we live.  While I understand the issues many have with Facebook, I appreciate the fact that it keeps me connected to people who no longer live a short drive away.

Ellie has always struck me as smart and open about herself.  She frequently stuck around long after movie night to talk about what was going on in her life and in ours.  These weren’t “poor me” conversations but rather discussions good friends have because they are comfortable sharing things with each other.

When we went on a vacation with Ellie a few years back, she brought along her new boyfriend.  There is a level of trust in such a decision since Johnny didn’t know any of us at all.  It’s one thing to feel comfortable with your friends.  It’s another to feel comfortable bringing someone new into an existing dynamic.

As a friend, a choice like that makes you feel valuable and trusted, which is cool.

I think Ellie does that all the time.  She makes her friends feel valuable and trusted.  When she comes back through town, she makes major efforts to get together with the people she doesn’t see that frequently any longer.  It’s an awesome feeling to know that you are part of someone’s agenda when they are only around for a couple of days.

The internet may make the world a lot smaller, but it is not a perfect substitute for seeing folks you like.  Ellie didn’t make it to CONvergence this year, which is a shame.  I suppose it is about time we tried to make it out to Boston.

Friend a Day – Peter Verrant

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Peter is one of the few friends I have from college.  I suppose that is because I got out of theater for several years so I lost touch with most of those people.

I’d like to think that I had some impact on Peter’s choice to get involved in theatre.  He took a stagecraft class when I was a TA in the scene shop and we hit it off.  I put a pneumatic nail through his hand.  He dropped a platform on my foot.  We both got to spend a snowy January morning trying to move a bunch of steel platforms from Downtown St. Paul to Hamline University in a truck with no traction.  We bonded.

His passion for photography is evident in the sheer amount of pictures you will find on his Facebook page.  He works for the photography department of two major conventions and the number of pictures he takes is amazing.  I would say almost every decent picture of my children was taken by him.

If we were the kind of people to ask someone to be a godfather, I think we would have asked Peter.  Instead, he’s the crazy uncle that they like more than their parents because he brings them weird stuff.

Any time we need help with a project around the house, he’s there.  He is the sort of person who will lend a hand to anyone if he has the time.  You know your real friends when you are looking for someone to help you demolish a ceiling.  Or watch your cats with two days advanced notice.

Peter is the kind of guy who calls you on the Thursday of a convention weekend as he is leaving his house and asks you what you forgot so he can swing by your house and pick it up.

All of it, I guess, is to say he’s one of those people we’ve always been about to count on when we need something.  It is no understatement to say he is one of my best friends.  He actually feels a lot more like a family member than a friend.

And he will remain so as long as he doesn’t drop another platform on my foot.

Friend a Day – Kammy Lyon

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I met Kammy through CONvergence.  She was the primary Skepchickcon contact and I was running programming so we talked a lot.

She was also one of our first two guests on Geeks Without God – long before we actually knew what we were doing!

Working with her on programming was a dream.  She was organized and would always answer questions quickly.  With her group representing 10 – 15 panels per year, it was great to have someone who would act as a one point contact for all of them.

Sometimes people don’t appreciate the quiet background types who keep all the balls in the air.  That was Kammy.  She didn’t sit on a lot of panels but she got a whole lot of great people on a lot of great panels.  And she helped organize a terrific room party.

She’s got an upbeat attitude that has taken a beating with some personal stuff over the last couple of years but she’s also a fighter.  Right now she’s going to college, which is a difficult task at any time.  It is a lot harder when you have a life filled with family and work already.

And good for her!  Good for anyone who makes that decision.  I’m really happy for her.

One of the things this Friend a Day project does is remind me how little time I spend with people I like.  Kammy got us over to her house for some yummy grilled burgers two years ago and we’ve been trying to set up a follow-up to that night for two years.

I think once I get done posting this, I should send an e-mail to her trying to figure out a date we can grill.  Actually, I should do that before I get done posting this.  BRB.

OK.  Done.

Kammy is a great person to know.  Hopefully I’ll be enjoying some grilled meat with her soon!

 

Friend a Day – Paul Cornell

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This is my final installment for CONvergence week.

Paul Cornell was a Guest of Honor at CONvergence 2010 and he, like most of our guests, left completely in love with the convention.  Also like many of our guests, he promised to return.

Unlike most of the people who have said they would return, Paul has turned the con into a yearly destination.  He has brought his wife and son along and it seems as if we have become a family tradition for them.

Since 2010, I see Paul for a few days every year during a weekend in which I have about 200 brief conversations with 200 different people who I really like.  Paul and I talk for ten minutes (if I’m lucky) but he pays me the genuine compliment of being happy to see me.

Paul loves to play games.  He introduced me to “Just a Minute,” which I have bastardized beyond all recognition.  And still he talks to me.

He is the perfect kind of guest for the convention because he doesn’t just produce work that is of interest to the geek community. He’s also a fan of the same things as everyone else at the convention.  While he can talk about his contributions to that fandom, he can also talk about how much he loves Urban Fantasy or Dr. Who or Cricket.

Speaking of Cricket, he is slowly teaching Minnesotans about the intricacies of the game.  It takes time when you only have one hour a year. I imagine we’ll have a convention Cricket league in another few years.

What I love about our convention is how people like Paul become a part of the community.  So many former Guests of Honor have become once-a-year friends because the convention encourages that kind of relationship.

When those people aren’t there, they are missed.  The con feels just a little less enjoyable.

This year, the absence of convention friends like Brian Keene, Bridget Landry, and John Kovalic was made a little easier by the presence of people like Paul, Cargill, and Joseph Scrimshaw.

Thanks for making us a part of your family, Paul.  We are truly flattered.  I hope we see you next year!

Paul has a great blog and he just posted a glowing write up of the convention.

 

Friend a Day – Tish Cassidy

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Photo by Sunny Wylde

I got a little bit behind on my Friend a Day posts as CONvergence got into full swing.

Today’s friend is a person I hadn’t expected to write about because I didn’t know her that well.  Her passing over CONvergence weekend reminded me that so many people touch our lives and we ought to take a few moments to show gratitude for those moments.

I first met Tish Cassidy through the Renaissance Festival.  She was one of many fellow performers I didn’t know that well.  She always had a smile on her face, which is an endearing trait in almost anyone.

She dated a roommate for a little while and spent a lot of time in our house.  She was very charming and chatty.  When the relationship ended, we didn’t see much of her for a while.

Later, she began to work with CONvergence and was one of the people tapped to take over the con when a new organizational model was adopted.  That model was a disaster but Tish was a fighter.  She and I had more than one conversation in which I saw her desire to find a way to make the whole thing work.

She loved the convention and while she was frustrated with the direction it was going, she was trying to do everything in her power to fix things.  The ship was flagging a little bit but Tish (and the people she worked with) was working as hard as she could to keep it afloat.

It is perhaps appropriate, then, that her last memories would be of the convention she loved.  From my last few encounters with her, I could see she was ill.  It turns out she was seriously ill.  She collapsed at the convention on Saturday night and expired Sunday morning.

Her sudden loss cast a pall over the weekend, which was unavoidable.  I at least took comfort in the fact that she died doing something she loved surrounded by people she loved and who loved her.

I didn’t know her that well so my sense of loss is not as great as some of my friends.  But I knew her.  Her life touched mine.  We lose friends all the time and for all sorts of reasons.  It’s worth appreciating them while they are around.

Friend a Day – Brian Keene

Photo by Debbie Kuhn

Photo by Debbie Kuhn

CONvergence week continues!

I don’t know what it is about Brian but he and I hit it off right away.  We aren’t all that similar but there’s something about him that made him instantly likable.

A few years back, we had a competition to see who could stay up later at the dead dog party.  We were both sitting at dinner and were exhausted and I was thinking it would be an early night for me.  Then Brian bet me that he could stay up later than me.

Later, he offered me a drink and I told him I didn’t drink.  “Why didn’t you tell me that before we made that bet,” he asked.

“Because you didn’t ask,” I said.

I stayed up far later than I wanted to but the important thing is I won the bet.  It was for $1.

Brian is a writer the way some people are truck drivers.  He is always writing.  He is always looking for that next job that will keep him employed at what he does best.

And he’s always fighting to make things better for himself and his fellow writers.  When he perceives something unfair in his industry, he will bang the gong to make it right.  He’s a prizefighter in an industry that needs more people like him.

He’s very open about who he is to the world.  His life, like the lives of so many writers, is not the perfect world we might expect.  He is honest about those challenges that he faces and it makes him relatable to the people who read his work.

I think that the thing I like about Brian the most is his quick wit and willingness to play.  If you throw him on any kind of panel or show, he’ll look natural and at ease.  He knows how to relax and enjoy the ride.

I only get to see him when he’s at the convention and he hasn’t been in a few years.  I think I need to make it my personal mission to figure out how we can get him back next year for sure.  The convention just isn’t as much fun without him.

To learn more about Brian, go to his website and read his blog.  I know I do!