Robin

26 08 2014

Mr. Williams has always been one of my favorite entertainers.

Mr. Williams has always been one of my favorite entertainers.

With everything that is happening just in my own little life, I haven’t really mourned the death of Mr. Robin Williams yet. I found out about his death at our going-away party in Chicago two weeks ago, mere hours before we packed up the car to head to our new home down south. So the weight of the news was not something I could handle at the time.

We’ve been in our new home for almost two weeks now and yesterday I stopped by the new-to-us grocery store to grab some supplies for dinner. I cut through the magazine aisle—an aisle I don’t think I’ve ever fully utilized in the grocery store. Perhaps one time, in the mid-90’s, I bought an Utne Reader before a long flight I was going to take. Even when buying magazines was a thing, I didn’t really do it. But then I saw his face on the cover of a special Time magazine tribute. And I bought it. I’ve only gotten through one article—too difficult for me to read more than that in one sitting.

Robin Williams 1951-2014

From a very early age, he was one of the most inspirational performers for me. I’m sure there are countless actors, improvisers, and comedians who’ve said the same thing. I loved his humor, his originality, his spontaneity, and his heart. Everything he did, he did with sincerity and heart, and that makes all the difference in the world. When a performer shares a piece of himself or herself, a strong connection is made to each individual audience member. I felt a strong connection to Mr. Williams. But I am by no means the only one.

Any suicide is so very hard on the loved ones surrounding that person. There’s always a feeling of betrayal. “But I loved you! Why wasn’t that enough for you? Didn’t you know?” And I am selfish enough to have felt a small pang of that betrayal when I heard of his suicide.   But even a casual understanding of addiction and depression tells us that loving someone who suffers from these demons isn’t enough. And it was no secret that he struggled with them for years.

He was so incredibly loved and admired—an amazing performer and human being, a man full of kindness and creativity who brought joy to me, and so many others. But all of that love, all of that admiration we had for him, was still no match for his demons.

May he rest in peace. His work will continue to entertain and inspire others for years to come.





Big Life Changes are Always Hard

24 08 2014

As a writer (and a performer of those stories), my writings are often well thought-out. But with all of the feelings I’ve had lately, instead of thinking-out the thoughts, I’m just going to put-out the thoughts.

Big life changes are always hard. A lot of times, they’re rewarding too. But man, they sure can be difficult. Whenever I mentioned to people the fact that we were getting married and then moving out of state three days later, most folks responded with shock and amazement that we would attempt something so incredibly stressful. Sometimes, I would throw in the fact that we were also buying a house for the first time—if they didn’t seem appropriately shocked enough.

Well, here we are, a couple of weeks after our wedding, in our new home, in our new state. The wedding went off with only one hitch—the important one—and it was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. We were surrounded by our loved ones while we openly expressed our love for one another. It is a mighty powerful thing to experience so much Love all in one place at one time. The minutiae of the day seemed to also go quite well, but really, the LOVE is the important part and that was amazing. 

My hubby isn't an actor and doesn't have his face plastered all over, like actors do.  So I'm not about to start doing that for him now.  But aren't we so cute?  Imagine that you can see his face and that he's smiling.

My hubby isn’t an actor and doesn’t have his face plastered all over, like actors do. So I’m not about to start doing that for him now. But aren’t we so cute? Imagine that you can see his face and that he’s smiling.

Just sitting and thinking of the day puts smiles on our faces.

We wanted to spend the day after simply doing just that, but were forced into packing so that we could properly ready ourselves for the movers the following day.

The move went as well as moves can go. I don’t have to tell anyone who has moved before how incredibly stressful it is. Ugh. And it was surreal to follow such a happy day with all of the weirdness of uprooting our lives. I can always tell when my students really enjoyed one of their classes when it takes them a long time to leave the classroom. As humans, we just tend to want to hang out in places where nice things are happening, or just happened. It’s obvious, if you think about it for longer than a second. Of course, we want to just hang out around good feelings! That’s exactly how my new husband (tee hee, still enjoying the newness of that word) and I felt after our wedding day. But we couldn’t dawdle around in that feeling in Chicago. We had to leave the city right away and start our new adventure together.

We’ve been here for about a week and a half now. In some ways, it feels longer than that; in some ways, it feels much shorter. Hubby started his new job right away and I started teaching three different weekly classes right away.

This is our new state.  We're still getting used to it.  And it's still getting used to us.

This is our new state. We’re still getting used to it. And it’s still getting used to us.

So, I still have a lot of time in our new, big house. Our house is HUGE. Well, maybe it’s not HUGE for normal suburbanites. But having lived in studio and one-bedroom apartments for nearly all of my adult life, having a two-story home feels pretty much like a palace. Even the laundry room has a door, you guys. I mean, sure you can’t open the dryer and the door at the same time. (Like I said, maybe a normal suburbanite wouldn’t be impressed?) But I am still shocked that we have MORE THAN ONE BATHROOM. The size of the house, combined with STILL not having our furniture and other belongings (that’s right, the movers picked up all of our stuff over a week ago and we might not see it for another five days), makes for a pretty isolating experience when I’m home alone. It was for sure worse before the wifi was installed or before I’d gotten the rental car. But even now, it feels lonely. I know the lonely feelings are here because I dearly miss so many of my loved ones and the nice, dependable work/art opportunities in Chicago. But those feelings are definitely exacerbated by being alone in an empty house in the suburbs. I know what I need are some local friends and some local art projects, but there are times where I’d settle for a couch and a tv. That might sound horrible, but it’s the truth.

Having more frequent steady work or a calendar of upcoming shows and other artistic projects will, of course, help me greatly. Not only will I get the much-needed artistic outlet, but I’m sure I’ll meet splendid people, who might just become new friends, along the way. Mercifully, I was just asked a couple of days ago if I’d like to perform in an improv show with the lovely folks at The Brink in Atlanta this evening. I barely know them, but they have already proved themselves to be delightful and kind and fun. Thank goodness for meeting other improvisers. I am so very excited about tonight.

A big ol’ upheaval of a move can make a person feel isolated and alone, but here are some things that make me feel that I’m home:

My husband obviously. 

(I was trying to imbed this video.  But had all kinds of trouble.  Maybe I’ll go back later and try.)

We’re in this together, big time. And I wouldn’t wanna go on this crazy ride with anyone else.

Meeting other improvisers, actors, teachers, and artsy types.

The library. You guys, it is so comforting to go to a place where you give ‘em your name and address and they hand you a magical little card that allows you to check out/download tons of books/music/movies. Plus, the kind librarian plied me with brochures and schedules of free, local, upcoming cultural events! This was especially appreciated after moving from such a cultural hub like Chicago.

Getting mail. We’ve gotten a couple of non-bills in the mail and it makes my friends seem so much closer. Seeing what they’re up to on Facebook makes them seem farther away, but getting a personal “hello” in the mail has been something special. The world is a smaller place. You never lose friends. You just make more.

And I’ll end this post, unashamedly, on that cornball note.

 

 

 





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.








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