I got back home from Rancho Mirage on February 25 and had to work FOR AN ENTIRE DAY on February 26. That night, though, we left for a much-needed vacation - a long weekend trip to Ohio to visit Mu and Mere.
We left around 6:30, and it had just started to rain.
It was a dark and stormy night....
Sheets of rain, cats, dogs, wildebeests, marmosets, and feral ferrets rained from the sky. Thankfully, we were stopping in Michigan for the night - a drive that usually takes about 2 & 1/2 hours. It took us a little longer what with the rain and the construction and the resulting narrowed lanes through Indiana along the 94; but we made it just after 10 (ET). At times I could barely see through the windshield it was pouring so violently, and the lanes on the expressway were all but invisible at times. I was a bit of a wreck by the time we reached Michigan, but we made it safely and had a good snooze before heading east in the much finer weather that greeted us the next morning.
After stopping at Sammy's for a brekkie (I had my usual: shredded potatoes, scrambled eggs made orangey-red with tons of Tabasco, wheat toast and a mugful of good coffee), we made our way towards Akron. Mu and Mere work at a high school where we were to meet them so they could put us to work teaching a class and coaching some Fools. We got there around 1 and in retrospect, a stop for a bite would have been a really good idea. I had a migraine threatening on the horizon and all I could think of was how to stop it, so I was pretty distracted when we go to the school. Thankfully, Mere led me to the vending machines in the cafeteria where I was able to stave off the migraine with what turned out to be the perfect cure: a granola bar, a Pepsi, a Zomig and a couple of ibuprofen.
Now I was ready.
Mu coaches an improv group of high school students called The Royal Fools - a great group of game souls consisting of mostly juniors and seniors - all year long, and he invites us to coach them about once a year. If we lived closer, we'd probably barge in more often. These young adults are fantastic to work with. They are SO full of energy, and they balk at nothing. This year, Mu's friend and colleague Brandon asked if we could guest-teach his drama class and introduce them to improv, since we were going to be there anyway. This was a scary prospect! Teach a high school drama class? Of non-improvisors?? Okay, there was one Fool in the class, but still! Turns out I wished we had another half-hour with that class. Like the Fools, though they were just a little more shy, they were game to try anything we threw at them. At first I thought we'd just be telling them about improv, maybe doing a few scenes to show them the form, but we ended up splitting the group in two and engaging them in scenes of their own with us coaching. They came up with some neat stuff! And it was all organic. It was really humbling and eye opening to see what happens when you "learn" the form and all of its rules, which can get you all tied up in your head. Here these kids were coming up with engaging and interesting scenes, and they didn't even know the RULES!
Shannon, by the way, is a natural teacher. I'm pretty good at warming people up and coaching scenes, but he is fantastic at explaining and giving feedback and SHOWING groups why we're doing what we're doing when we're doing a specific exercise. He gives examples. I just want to watch them and be entertained by what they come up with, helping them out of corners or derailing them from an emerging plot. (o: I'll say "this is a heightening exercise, and this is what you do," for example. That would be my form of "teaching," whereas Shannon'll SHOW them heightening, and then he'll get in there and give them an activity and he'll see a thousand ways to heighten that activity and he'll make them heighten it until they truly can't anymore. It is truly an awesome gift, and it was wonderful to see.
He did this one exercise with each of the Fools that truly got them out of their heads. It's an exercise that I'm intimidated by and hesitant to do when Shannon's directing the Buttresses, and here these high school whippersnappers were pretty fearlessly marching up one by one to take their turn. One of the Fools made the mistake of wearing baggy pants to the class and he had to heighten hiking them up while spinning around and SLAMMING his hands down on Mu's desk before spinning around again, jumping higher and higher, and repeating the action bigger and bigger for about 5 minutes. But he never stopped, and Shannon was right there with him the entire time. I really wish I had that on film. Talk about committing! They were BOTH right there.
After class, Mu and Mere took us to The Mustard Seed Market for dinner (I had the salmon. YUM! I've had salmon twice since we got back and neither was as good.) Mustard Seed Market is like a Whole Foods, but like a Whole Foods about 10 years ago. And I mean that in a good way, but I can't really describe it. There was a friendly folk singer with long, free, naturally greying hair singing throughout our meal, there was hemp milk and organic coffee; gelatin-free toaster pastries and nary a mass-produced label to be found. I picked up a pound of fair trade coffee beans for the road, and it is the yum! When we got back to Mu and Mere's place, we played It Was A Dark And Stormy Night (Mere (and I) won 8 to 7!) while waiting for the air mattress to inflate, and then went to bed. The next day, Shannon and Mu set about finding ways to redirect water from hitting a problem area on the roof (this involved about 2 hours and 6 trips to Home Depot) while Mere read Frank Conroy and I read Watchmen, which I wanted to finish before we left so that I could leave it for Mere. Some time after noon, we went for lunch and a poke-about at a bike shop, then I settled in to read Watchmen again while Mere read and the boys snoozed. Saturday night we kidnapped Mere and went to see the Clevelend Orchestra peform my favorite piece of music (THANK YOU, SHANNON!) - Beethoven's 7th (I'm especially fond of the 2nd movement!) - at Severence Hall (WOW!). I think Mu is still trying to download a film to his computer to watch that evening.
I finished reading Watchmen on Sunday morning and left it for Mere before we locked up and headed back west. We made it to Michigan in the early afternoon for a lovely visit with Eevam and Marc, and then left Michigan - after a breakfast of shredded potatoes, scrambled eggs made orangey-red with tons of Tabasco, wheat toast and a mugful of good coffee at Sammy's, of course - for home.