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.





This post has one title; I have two.

12 11 2014

Every artist is familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of being too far away from creative projects for too long; I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t find something soon enough down south. But, boy, I sure did arrive in Atlanta at the right time.

Right about the time we moved down here, I met Ian Covell, the founder of Atlanta’s new improv theater, Highwire Comedy.

While gettin’ used to a new life and a new home, it has been really helpful to have fun improv stuff and fun improv people to ground me. And now that Highwire Comedy has its own space in Decatur, we’ve been making lots and lots of plans! I am absolutely overjoyed to announce that I have been made both the Artistic Director and the Associate Education Director of Highwire Comedy!

I'm pleased as punch to be a part of this fantastic theater!

I’m pleased as punch to be a part of this fantastic theater!

Just getting the chance to start playin’ with fun people right away was already a relief!   (I got to play in “The Soapbox, Highwire’s weekly Armando-style show, mere days after arriving here.  Plus, I’m currently directing a FANTASTIC group of actors in “The Day Before Tomorrow,” an improvised show in the style of a disaster film, which opens later this month.)  But man, oh man!  Now I have a title–more than one, even!  I feel fancy.

Ian (my Artistic Director cohort and the Education Director) and I have sat down and have started creating class offerings and show schedules for Highwire. Stay tuned, y’all. 2015 is going to be a very exciting year!





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.





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.





Life is an Adventure

20 02 2014

Time doesn’t always feel linear.  Sometimes I feel like I meet and float in between different ages of myself.  Some days, I feel more like the younger me.  Some days, I definitely feel like the older me.  I s’pose what’s really happening is there are times when I feel more like how I defined myself years ago; other times where I feel like how I’ve defined myself now, and so on.

The “older definition of me” seems to make decisions fairly practically.  The “younger definition of me” made even major life decisions based entirely on what seemed more exciting.  It might not have always been the wisest method of decision-making, but I don’t regret any of it.

Hopefully, I’ll define myself a little less and live in the present moment a little more.  Although, there is something a bit liberating about “feeling younger” on certain days.  Then again, maybe I’m just defining it as a “young” feeling.  It’s true that age is relative.  And it’s lovely to embrace that no matter how old I am, I’m always me.

I’ve always loved this song.  For what it’s worth, when I sing along to it, I change the words to:

“…made just for the GIRL who can grow up strong and become a MANDA!”

I hope that you are having a wonderful adventure.





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
Seattle
$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
$12
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.

Chicago

Chicago