Where You Were and Where You Are

3 03 2015

chocolate-birthday-cakeAs one gets older, it is widely believed that one gets accustomed to getting older. I suppose that’s true to an extent. A small extent. For getting older is not the same as riding a bike or learning another such skill. Every time you get older, you’re in new territory. Every time you have a birthday, you’re turning an age you’ve never been before. Every single time.

It’s sort of exciting, really. It’s always new. Life is the great improvisation. And it’s always spontaneous. We can fool ourselves a bit with routines and patterns. But we’re just fooling ourselves. We never truly know what’s going to happen next or how things are going to pan out. Life is just one surprise after another—some good; some bad.  Occasionally, we make plans and what we think/hope will happen, does.  More often though, our plans are rejected by Life and both far worse or far better can happen.  We simply learn as we go and do the best we can.

I’ve been really lucky. I was born into a loving family; I’ve encountered some of the most supportive, fun, caring, wonderful people in all of the places I’ve lived and visited; and so far, I’ve enjoyed some pretty delightful artistic and creative opportunities. Man, am I grateful for everything.

Tonight, on the eve of my birthday, I got to teach something I love to a group of wonderfully open students. Lucky. I got to drive in a comfy car while listening to great music. Lucky. I got to come home to my “grown-up house” that my lovin’ hubby and I live in. Lucky.

FogYes, I’m a bit of a sentimental fool. I notice significance in places and times where, perhaps, others might not. It slows me down and might mean that I miss out on something else, but I don’t mind it. I love it. I love that tonight, while driving home through the thick fog, I was struck by how immediate it all is. Fog is really good at putting the “now” into focus and leaving out the “much later.” You can only see just a little bit in front of you, and when you’re improvising, that’s all you need to see. You know where you were and you know where you are. And that’s all that matters.

The fog and life and improvisation and the music and the soon-to-be-new-age-I’ve-never-been-before and my gratefulness made me a tiny bit teary eyed. Then, my awareness of my almost-cry, rooted in deep spontaneous appreciation, gave me more appreciation. How lucky that I’m living this, and realizing that I’m living this.

I’m filled with love about the whole thing, y’all.

It’s nice to take a moment to be grateful of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, who you’ve known and all of the unknown that is to come.

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, 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.

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
$20 (cash only)
Saturday, June 7, 10:30 pm


Northwest Tour Update

9 11 2013

I lived in the pacific northwest–Seattle, specifically–for nine years.  Although I’m from the south originally, the pacific northwest always felt like home.  It was a no-brainer for me to at least attempt to do a tour out this way.  I toured my first solo show, The Good, the Bad, and the Monkey to Bellingham, Seattle, and Portland–the same three great cities I’m visiting for my 185 Buddhas tour.

But because the nature of this show is even more personal and quite conspicuously about my journey as a performer, it has been an honor and a joy to perform in the region where so much of my journey transpired.

Last night I had the first of two performances of 185 Buddhas in Seattle hosted by my home theatre of Unexpected Productions.  It was sort of like coming home and doing a show for my family and all of their friends in our living room.  I couldn’t have asked for a better night.  The audience was delightful and I am filled with gratitude that I got to share my story in a theater that takes up a big part of my heart.  And I get to do it again tonight!

185 Buddhas Walk into a Bar 
Written and performed by Amanda Rountree, directed by Jen Ellison 185 Buddhas
Unexpected Productions at the Market Theater
1428 Post Alley
$15 Buy tickets
Saturday, November 9, 8:30 pm

And next week, I’ll be in Portland, Oregon:

185 Buddhas Walk into a Bar 
Written and performed by Amanda Rountree, directed by Jen Ellison
The Brody Theater
16 NW Broadway
Portland, OR
Thursday, November 14, 7:30 pm

185 Buddhas Walk into a Bar
The art of improvisation creates stories from thin air, making the unseen seen. For Amanda Rountree, this is not just an art form, but a way of life — one that includes unexpected twists and turns — leading, if not to mastery, to enlightenment.  Written and performed by Amanda Rountree, and directed by Jen Ellison, this show follows the artist on her path with all of the funny and touching moments along the way.

The Chicago Reader says, “Amanda Rountree is a riot!”  Audience members have described the show as “inspiring,” “funny,” “beautiful,” “insightful,” and “a must-see!“  The Chicagoist picked this show as one of their “three to see.”  Click here to watch a trailer for the show.  You can also click here to read a review of the show.

Living in Chicago

7 08 2013

Sometimes means that you will occasionally attend a street festival by accident in the summer

Sometimes means you’ll find yourself squished into the corner of the train car between an oblivious guy with a backpack and a chuckling gentleman who rolls his eyes

Sometimes means you can fall asleep to the sound of the waves hitting the beach

Sometimes means that you’re waiting in line at the grocery store behind an old couple quietly speaking in Polish

Sometimes means you smell chocolate when you’re walking to work

Sometimes means that on any given week, you receive forty-nine event invitations on facebook and forty-eight of them are for sketch or improv shows

Sometimes means you will hear “Go Bears” as a salutation between strangers during football season

Sometimes means that by walking down one street, you can travel through several countries

Always means you’ll have no shortage of something fun or interesting to do

Always means you’re going to continue meeting some pretty amazing people

Here’s to you, Chicago!  I can’t believe it’s already been six years.



Theatre Family

24 05 2013

They say everyone has two families—the family we’re born into and the family we choose.  For theatre folks, I think there is also a third family—the ensemble that you find yourself a part of.  Theatre families have a strange, magical mix of the first two types of families.  You don’t necessarily choose who exactly is in your ensemble—unless I guess, you’re the director (even then though, some choices are made for you)—but you can choose whether or not to stick around and how you open yourself up to being close with those people.  Because of this, theatre families have one part dysfunctional family dynamics from biological families along with one part loyalty, trust, and love from a close, chosen friendship.

Theatre families, just like biological families, experience all of life’s stories together—the triumphant ones, the embarrassing ones, the hilarious ones and the serious ones.  Theatre families see you at your highest and your lowest.  They see you when your talents and skills on stage shine; they see you when you are a sobbing mess after a bad break-up.  They see when you inspire audience members; they see you’ve had too much to drink.  For every artistic disagreement or backstage quarrel I can remember, I can easily recall a dozen or more celebrations and truly joyous moments together.

goofy, old-school photo w/ us and our A.D., Randy

I became a family member of Unexpected Productions in 1998 shortly after I’d moved to Seattle from Kentucky.  I started, not as an ensemble member of course, but as an apprentice.  However, I felt like a full-blown family member right away.  I was always at the theater.  At first it was because I didn’t really know anyone in Seattle and I missed my own home dearly, but soon, it was simply because I loved the shows, the classes, and the people.  It instantly became my home away from home.

As an apprentice, I was told that I could audit any class.  And I did, every single one.  At that point, I’d only been performing improv for about six years.  I wasn’t totally green, but I had a ton of things to learn.  When I wasn’t in class, I was painting the stage, scraping gum off of the now famous gum-wall, helping to organize the booth, or doing any variety of the multitude of chores necessary for upkeep of a theater.  I was ecstatic when I was welcomed into the company as an ensemble member.  I loved all of the work coming out of UP—the long form, the short form, the narrative based, the abstract, the character-based, the styles shows, the goofy, the dramatic, the old-school harolds, and the cutting edge new forms.  As time went on, I became less intimidated of the senior ensemble members and (I hope) more helpful to the junior members of the family.

In the nine years I lived at my Unexpected Productions home, I experienced weddings, break-ups, birthdays, going-away parties, babies, deaths, family secrets, adopting our pet cats out to another home, minor squabbles among siblings, bonding with every single family member, road trips to visit and play with our extended family, late-night parties when the parents were away, late-night parties with the parents, and special family trips with dad to Europe.

For the thirty-year anniversary of Unexpected Productions, I wanted to write a little story—share a memory of something that happened at the theater or because of the theatre.  But it was harder than I thought it would be.  Not because I couldn’t think of anything, but because I’m thinking of too much.  There are so many stories that I could tell:  sharing beds and rooms on our travels; my Austrian lemon drop with Randy and Jill; going on the off-ramp and late-night scavenger hunts with Jay; winning a bet with Brian Mac; 3am meals in the international district; getting paid to argue with Brandon; 4th of July on Bilsy’s houseboat; staying late to hang out and play Celebrity after doing three shows in a row; performing in an old stone tower in Switzerland; free breakfasts with Purcell, Michelle, and Jesse; weekend-long retreats near the ocean or in the mountains; the Edmonton trip with Paul; hearing German with a southern twang with Troy; City Life rehearsals and excursions; Jeff and Susie helping me be a better ball-player and not just cursing like one; falling off the stage during an Improvised Christmas Carol and having Kameoka rush to my aid; fun Bellingham weekends; wearing a sombrero in my waning moments of the Improvathon; having to hitch a ride in Boulder with Elicia and Gabe; the traveling eel of Hamburg; late nights at the theater with Ron, Stackhouse, Leona, and everybody—everybody, at one time or another hung out late at the theater and I love everyone and I know I sound drunk but I’m not and if you’re a family member of Unexpected Productions, then I love you!  I love [insert your name here]!

Some of us have moved out of the house, but we are all still family.  And whenever I’m in Seattle and I walk down Post Alley, I have many of the same feelings I have when I go back home to my biological family.  So, to my dear theatre family of Unexpected Productions, I wish you all a very happy thirtieth anniversary.  Hugs, kisses, and love from Chicago.


29 04 2013

Oh, my goddess!  Look, everyone!  IT’S SPRING OUTSIDE!  Right now!  Right now, spring is happening!  Just yesterday, I was walking outside past a tree–you know, those big stick-things protruding from the ground with smaller sticks branching out from them to hold snow.  Well, guess what!!  Guess what I saw on the sticks!!  I saw SOME GREEN SHIT coming out of the branches!  GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!!!  Beautiful!  I can’t remember the last time I saw something so beautiful!!!  This tree is not just a big stick, you guys.  IT’S ALIVE!  It’s this beautiful living thing.  AND IT’S GROWING RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES!!!!

That’s not all, you guys.  There is some green stuff coming out of the ground too.  That’s right.  GREEN STUFF IS GROWING RIGHT OUT OF THE FUCKING GROUND!  And when it comes up and out, it’s not done growing!  Gorgeous, colorful shit called FLOWERS are going to keep growing on those beautiful green stems.  AND THEY SMELL WONDERFUL!

I don’t mean to alarm you or yell at you too much, BUT YOU NEED TO GET YOUR BUTT OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW AND SMELL THE AIR AND WALK IN THE GRASS AND LOOK AT THE TREES!   Seriously.  GO OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW AND HUG A FUCKING TREE.  You’ll thank me later.  And if you don’t, that’s okay.  I don’t fucking care.  I’m so fucking happy that it’s spring outside.

Chicago actually had a winter this year–which means we all died a little bit in our soul.  But not the year before that.  The year before that, our winter was so lame, that we never felt dead inside.  I almost missed feeling dead inside.  Because when you are beat down so much by a long, cold, relentless winter, it feels amazing to have spring breeze in and rescue you.  Because spring comes in and says, “Guess what!  You’re not dead inside!  Your spirit was just sleeping!”  And just like that, YOU ARE RESURRECTED!  All of a sudden, every single religious and mythical tale about resurrection makes sense.  THEY ARE ABOUT SPRING, YOU GUYS!  They are about how you are now saved!  YOUR SOUL IS BACK!  IT NEVER REALLY LEFT YOU.  It just felt like it was gone.  But now–now, you have a new life.  And this life is fucking beautiful.  Your skin can be exposed to the outside air and not hate you for it.  It will love you for it.  You walk outside and suddenly, everything is beautiful, you’re in love with everything, and you suddenly understand how someone could write a whole fucking poem about a blade of grass.