Signs

17 08 2014

When I moved to Chicago, and found myself stuffed onto very peopled trains, wedged between tall buildings, and lamenting the lack of trees, I thought to myself, “I am not a city person.” But Chicago grew on me. I became a professional at riding the train, enjoyed exploring the insides of those giant buildings, and found out where the trees were. I became a Chicagoan.

It is my fourth day in Georgia. Cumming, GA. A town considered part of the “Atlanta Metropolitan area.” And I suppose it is. I was able to listen to Atlanta’s NPR station yesterday on the radio. I turned it on just as “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” was ending. I missed it. I missed one of my favorite NPR shows. Fitting, as it is taped in Chicago and I’ve seen it live multiple times. And now, In Georgia, I was unable to catch it.

Looks like the back end of a trailer, but it's Georgia.

Looks like the back end of a trailer, but it’s Georgia.

When we drive here, we follow the GPS wherever we need to go. I try to follow the signs, but there are less signs here than there are in the city. And the signs are simple and sparse—just little black and white state route signs with a number (numbers that don’t yet mean anything to me) inside the shape of Georgia. Last night, as we drove past cows and horses (because we live so far out), I started crying. I started crying because I miss my friends in Chicago. And I’m passing cows. COWS. And now that we’re here and I have to pass cows and horses and hay bales and peach stands to even get to the road that’s going to take me into the closest major city, I’m scared. I’m scared I’m not going to like it or that I’m too isolated or that I’m not going to get to perform/teach/direct/insert-artistic-desires-here as much I’d like to.

And it’s only the fourth day. Yes, I’m aware that it’s going to take a while to find my groove. I’ll meet lovely people. I’ll do lovely things. But what if…. What if there are too many cows in the way? And when will I learn to read the signs?

But then, on the drive back to our new home in our new state last night, something completely stunning and unexpected happened. We saw a shooting star. The thing about being way outside of the city, next to the cows and the horses and hay bales and the peach stands is that you can see the stars. So many stars. I forgot how many starts there are—bright and twinkling and splendid. Right in our driveway, you can see the stars. And tonight when we were driving home, we both saw it, my new husband and I, we saw a shooting star and it was beautiful.

So maybe it’s a sign. But because we’re not in the city, we don’t have all of those signs in our faces anymore. Now, when you take away all the signs, you see all that’s really there—cows and horses and trees and shooting stars.





What I’ll miss about living in Chicago

5 08 2014

I have lived in Louisville, KY; Cincinnati, OH; Seattle, WA; and Chicago, IL. I’ve been living in Chicago now for seven years. A couple of years ago, I fell in love. I fell in love with a physicist who was in the middle of a three-year research contract at Northwestern. I fell in love with an academic who didn’t know where in the world his next job would be. I fell so in love with him, that I knew I’d move with him, whenever he got his next job. You guys, you know it’s true love when you’re willing to move to the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia for somebody. The outer suburbs. Like, really far.

Chicago

Chicago, it was easy to fall in love with you.

Since we met in Chicago, we wanted to get married here. And that’s exactly what we’re doing 4 days from now. And in 7 days from now, we’re leaving Chicago, for northern Georgia.

(Side note, some advice… If you’re getting married, do not schedule an out-of-state move three days after. If you’re moving, don’t schedule your wedding three days before.)

Now obviously, I’m gonna miss the dear friends I’ve met here and the amazingly talented colleagues I’ve gotten to work with. I’ll miss teaching at Second City and Lifeline Theatre. But there are subtler things I will miss. And I’d like to share some of ‘em with you now:

the smell of chocolate when I’m running errands downtown

the occasional Polish conversation floating through the air at the coffee shop down my street

whizzing down Lake Shore Drive on a beautiful day

Stan’s donuts

wandering around the Chicago Cultural Center

catching the view of the city from the brown line train

eating Mexican food for breakfast, Ethiopian food for lunch, and Indian food for dinner

that sense of accomplishment and feeling of toughness that you get on the first warm day when winter is officially over—really feeling like you’ve “earned” summer when it finally gets here

fireworks over Lake Michigan

taking tourists out for expensive drinks and grand views at the Hancock Tower

paper copies of the Onion

going to the main library downtown and checking out one of the fiction books recommended by their librarians

thinking, “I’ve got a new piece I wanna perform,” then emailing/calling someone and having a performance slot that weekend

The Chicago Diner

exploring another neighborhood and feeling like I’m in another country

listening to fabulous late-night jazz sets at the Green Mill

exposed brick in friend’s apartments or restaurants or salons or, well, exposed brick anywhere

the camaraderie one experiences with fellow commuters under the heat lamps at the train stations in January

free concerts in the summer at Millenium Park

the sound of snow blowers coaxing you awake for the first snowfall of the winter

neighborhood street festivals

hopping off the train at Argyle and getting bubble tea

walking through parts of the city and all of a sudden the truth hitting me: “Whoa, I live in Chicago. That’s pretty cool.”

There are always two sides of every coin. And I can’t comment on the glass being half empty, without also acknowledging that it is, of course, half full. There are some things about my upcoming move to Georgia that bring me joy.

I’ll be near mountains again. And not just any mountains. I’ll be near the beginning (or the end, depending on which direction you’re headed) of the Appalachian Trail. When the sun sets in the sky, there is a beautiful artwork of purple and blue zig-zag shapes—a gentle reminder that you and your problems are not so big. Not so big at all.

sweet tea, biscuits, and grits: all made the right way

not fearing winter: complete confidence that my eyeball liquid will not freeze while it is in my eyeballs

Trees. People describe Chicago as a green city, which is true, if you’re comparing it to New York. But oh, man. There are trees in Georgia! So many trees!

The probability of getting puked on over St. Patrick’s Day weekend will be so much lower.

seeing stars at night

clean air—no, really clean air. You forget what clean air is like when you live in a big city. The air in Georgia smells like oxygen with a hint of magnolias.

So many trees!

So many trees!

I think I’m ready to live in the suburbs. I don’t want to live in another city right now. I’ve lived in Chicago. And there aren’t a lot of cities that can top Chicago. Atlanta can’t out-city Chi-town. So, I’m gonna go in the other direction. I’m gonna enjoy all of things you can’t get when you’re in a big city. Plus, I’ll be experiencing all of it with someone I am super in love with.  There isn’t a whole lot that could get me to leave Chicago. But love? Yeah, I’ll leave Chicago for love. And besides, I can always say, “I lived in Chicago.” That’s pretty cool.





Advice for the Internet Age

14 07 2014

Be sure to not misspell your username when you are creating it.

Don’t make your password so difficult that you can’t remember it.

And most importantly, if you do not have an actual pet, do not choose the “What is the name of your pet?” security question.  Because you will most likely not remember which stuffed animal or action figure or other beloved non-pet’s name you used as your answer.  This is especially important for those of us who have the inclination to give our stuffed animals middle and surnames as well.  Because which combination did you use?

I’ve been locked out of multiple accounts today because I am way too sneaky and clever.  Damn you, passwords and security questions.  Damn you.

I am assured, however, that no one will be able to take on my online identity.  Even myself.





needing and wanting

1 07 2014

What I need to do right now

figure out how much alcohol we need to order for the wedding reception

research moving companies and compare the quotes I’ve gotten

research photo booth companies

pack more boxes

figure out the garbage/recycling companies in our new neighborhood

fill-out the change-of-address form

something involving rehearsal dinner

something involving shoes

something involving hair

lots of other things involving lots of other things

 

What I want to do right now

think about how much I’ll miss Chicago and eat cookies

 





Sincerely Yours — a master class for improvisers

4 06 2014

It’s been a while since I taught this master class here in Chicago.  So, it’s about time I brought it back!  This is one of my most popular master classes, and is frequently requested when I travel about the country to teach for various improv communities.  I like to keep the class sizes relatively small, so if you’d like to take this workshop, please reserve your spot soon.  They go fast!  Also, if you pay in advance with paypal, you save ten bucks!

Sincerely Yours Master Class
Sunday, June 29

11:30am-2:30pm
The Cornelia Arts Center
, Theatre Momentum Studio C
1800 West Cornelia Avenue
(just off the Addison brown line stop)
Chicago, IL

$40 per person, $30 in advance
To register/pay for this workshop please click here to pay securely with paypal and receive the advance discount–or email Amanda at andthemonkey at gmail dot com.

This workshop will help deepen your performance with the use of sincerity, emotional connection, and believability. Discover the real “first offers” of every scene, and make improv even more natural, playful, and invigorating than it was before. Gain richness in your humor and a more dynamic connection with your audience. How can your life be explored, translated, or applied in an improv performance? Come, find out!

What People Are Saying

“Amanda’s workshop was just what I needed. It pushed me to go to new places, gave me new perspective, and was above all really, really fun. Her teaching style focuses on the improviser going somewhere, not just making the audience laugh. Which allowed us all to go amazing places that the audience would have never expected. She’s playful, respects the art-form and wants all her students to succeed. I hope everyone gets to spend time studying with Amanda Rountree.”  -Adam H., Chicago

Amanda will be teaching her master class, "Sincerely Yours" in Chicago this June.

Amanda will be teaching her master class, “Sincerely Yours” in Chicago this June.

“Amanda’s honesty and enthusiasm for her craft are infectious! She’s great at encouraging us to open up and recognize our own lives and experiences for the rich sources that they are!”  -Tony B., Seattle, WA

“The class I took from Amanda has been incredibly useful to me. The techniques Amanda taught in that class dramatically improved my ability to connect emotionally with my work and to bring genuine feeling to my improvised characters. It’s no exaggeration to say that Amanda’s teaching was instrumental in bringing my improv to the next level.”  –Sean Harding, Seattle, WA

“Amanda, thank you for the workshop! I love your practical and fun approach to improv. The idea of bringing more of myself to the stage has helped my improv tremendously. I felt like I relearned exercises that I’d known for years in a way that finally connected me to them and gave them new life. You rock!”  -Galen E., Bellingham, WA

“Amanda’s honest, lovable personality oozes right into her workshops.  I walked into a room with about 15 strangers, and I walked out of that room feeling like I’d just hung out with my buddies on a Saturday afternoon.  She knows the importance of taking the time to establish an environment of acceptance, openness and trust, and that makes all the difference in the learning experience!  SIGN UP, ALREADY!”  -Jeremy Chapman, Chicago

About the Instructor

Rountree B:W headshot '13

Amanda Rountree has been teaching improvisational theatre since 1998.

Amanda Rountree has been performing improvisational theatre professionally since 1992, teaching since 1998, and directing since 2002. She relocated to Chicago in 2007 from Seattle where she was a performer and instructor with Unexpected Productions and a performer and co-artistic director of Playback Theater Northwest. Amanda has entertained audiences in seven countries and countless North American cities utilizing a wide variety of styles, disciplines, and formats.  (She’s performed everything from improv games in Kentucky and improvised Shakespeare at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival to drama therapy in Japan and breakthrough formats in Germany).  Chicago audiences have seen her in Impress These Apes 2, Don’t Spit the Water, Soiree DADA:  Shmukt die Hallen, The (Edward) Hopper Project, and her one-woman shows, The Good, the Bad, and the Monkey and 185 Buddhas Walk into a Bar.  In addition to being a company member of WNEP Theatre, she has been a repeat performer with The Noah Ginex Puppet Company, The Beast Women Cabaret, This Much is True, Chicago Solo Theatre, and The Kates.  She is a resident teaching artist for Lifeline Theatre and the Second City Training Center.





Chicago and Me

4 06 2014

Seven years ago, I moved to Chicago from Seattle.  I landed in a whirlwind of auditions and new opportunities and took on all sorts of fun and wonderful projects.  One of these projects was a ridiculous show called “Impress These Apes,” which, if you’re in Chicago and haven’t heard of it, you should totally check out.  Each week we had a new challenge (e.g., write a short song about yourself and sing it with a musical instrument, make a puppet and perform an act, choreograph and perform a dance number, etc…).  For the final week, our challenge was to do anything we wanted to do.  The only limit was that it had to be under ten minutes, I believe.

I wrote and performed this piece:

Now, here I am in 2014, about to get married and move away from Chicago, to Georgia.  I was getting sentimental (typical me) and I wrote a new conversation with Chicago.  I’m delighted to say that I’ll be performing this new piece with Beast Women THIS SATURDAY at 10:30 pm at the Den Theater (1333 N. Milwaukee).  The Beast Women Cabaret is a show that runs three or four times a year.  They are a powerhouse of female talent from all performing art disciplines (sbeastwomenlogo_thumbtand-up, poetry, music, dance, and more).  I wouldn’t have become the solo performer I am today without all of the opportunities to try stuff out and stretch myself through their auditions and performances throughout the years.  I performed my first “conversation with Chicago” in their show seven years ago and am absolutely honored that they’re giving me the space–one more time–to put up something new and personal on their stage.

I’d love to see you there.

Beast Women
Amanda performs a new, original solo piece at this cabaret
The Den Theater
1333 N. Milwaukee
Chicago
$20 (cash only)
Saturday, June 7, 10:30 pm

 





Moving

29 05 2014

When I moved to Seattle, it was unintended and impulsive. I was 22, going on invincible, and the world was my vegan oyster. I was either really good at living in the moment or just too unaware of the future that it didn’t really hit me how difficult it was to move thousands of miles away from home to a region I’d never been to. But then again, it was sort of accidental.

From a collage I made about my first few months in Seattle.  Making collages is a great way to glue all of your feelings together in one place!

From a collage I made about my first few months in Seattle. Making collages is a great way to glue all of your feelings together in one place!

My uncle in Washington state was selling his Cadillac to his sister in Florida. He asked me if I’d be up for flying out to Seattle and driving the car across the country. It was a no-brainer. My first improv class as a teenager taught me to say “yes;” it’s the only way to have any kind of adventure in one’s life. He bought me a one-way ticket to Seattle; his sister changed her mind about the car; and I fell in love with the city, it’s people, and a particular improv company out there. The rest is part of my personal history.

But even though the decision to move snuck up on me, it was still difficult. I fluctuated between being surprised and not surprised at how hard it was. I missed my family. I missed my friends. I missed being around familiar weather patterns and familiar…everything. But I fell hard for Seattle and truly felt I had found my home. Despite being homesick, I felt more at home than any place I’d been before. Being separated by everyone that knew me, I learned more about myself in that time than I ever had. It was incredible.

As the years passed, Seattle and I grew closer and closer. The thoughts of moving back home occurred less and less. I grew roots, forged deep friendships with amazing people, worked on projects that inspired and frightened me, and could see myself living there forever.

When I moved to Chicago, it was planned out and decided on. I was 32, going on famous, and ready for the big city. I was excited to be back near the center of the country—close again to all of those people I’d missed so dearly when I moved to the outer edge ten years before. But, I’d done such a great job of creating a life for myself out on that edge, that moving to Chicago was just as difficult as moving to Seattle had been. I’d left the security of good paying performing and teaching work, all of my northwest friends and theatre family to once again, go it alone in an unfamiliar land.

My one-woman show about being single and dating.

My one-woman show about being single and dating.

And I don’t think I could have gone it more alone. I was so alone that I created a solo show about being single. And I really fell for Chicago. So many creative, talented, friendly folks living in one place! Despite being homesick for Seattle, I truly found a sweet home in Chicago. I grew roots, forged deep friendships with amazing people, created and worked on projects that inspired and frightened me, and began seeing myself living here forever. It was incredible.

And then, for the first time, I stopped going it alone. I fell in love. I fell in love with more than a city. I fell in love with another person—a person who was also in Chicago—an academic on a three-year contract at Northwestern. But Love doesn’t care if he’s not going to be in Chicago forever—like I thought I might be. When Love sweeps you up, you just follow it.

So for over a year now, I knew that his work would take him to another city somewhere. And I also knew that I would go with him. Despite my years of fierce independence and my disdain for the poorly written stories with one-dimensional characters about a woman giving up everything for a man, I knew that if he had to move, I would move with him. Not because I can’t live without him, but because I don’t want to.

After all of those years of being completely independent and single, after both celebrating and cursing singledom, when my beloved told me that he was offered a job as professor at a university in northern Georgia, it was a no-brainer. And perhaps an all-hearter.

Two goobers in love can do anything together--even move to Georgia.

Two goobers in love can do anything together–even move to Georgia.

When I move to Georgia, I will be 39 going on the-rest-of-my-life. I will still be an “I” but also part of a “We.” Even though I’ve done it before, moving will, I am sure, prove once again to be crazy and difficult and stressful and emotional. I’ve done such a great job at creating a life out here in Chicago, that leaving the city I was once intimidated by, will be just as hard as it was to leave my other homes. I am sad to leave my friends and my work. But I am excited to meet new, wonderful people and continue to challenge and stretch myself as an artist.

Regardless of my track record with having great friends and opportunities no matter where I live, I’m still scared. But this time, I’m not in it alone. And I know it will be incredible.








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