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.

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.

185 Buddhas heads to the west coast this fall!

8 08 2013

The tour of my solo show about my journey through the world of improv is going on a little journey itself!  I’ve just confirmed some tour dates in some very cool cities on the west coast.  185 Buddhas is coming to Washington state and Oregon in November!  For exact showtimes and locations, please visit my show page.  If you live in one of these cities, I hope to see your face in the audience; if you know anyone who lives in any of these areas, please let them know about the show!  Thanks!

The Chicago Reader says, “Amanda Rountree is a riot!”  Audience members have described the show as “inspiring,” “funny,” “beautiful,” 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.

185 Buddhas185 Buddhas Walk into a Bar
Written and performed by Amanda Rountree, directed by Jen Ellison
Bellingham, WA:  Thursday, November 7, 10pm
Seattle, WA:  Friday/Saturday, November 8/9, 8:30pm

Portland, OR:  Thursday, November 14, 7:30pm

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.

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.

Morning Glory

5 11 2012

This morning, I left the apartment without eating breakfast.  I figured I would pick up a little something while I was running around.  As soon as I felt the November air kiss my face, I started craving a vegan Morning Glory muffin from Madison Market.  In the nine years of living in Seattle, I had my fair share of those yummy spontaneous breakfasts—especially when I lived in Capitol Hill—right across the street from the co-op.  There were so many mornings when I was running just a wee bit late and needed to grab a bite before running down to the theater or over to UW.  But no matter how rushed I felt, I was able to somehow always mindfully treasure my Morning Glory breakfasts.  Sometimes, it would be the small meal I would bring along with me before heading off on a journey somewhere—a road trip to the ocean or an excursion on one of the ferries across the Puget Sound.  Those little muffin moments were something I could count on in a pinch—dependable and comforting.

I absolutely love living in Chicago and I have some great spots in my neighborhood where I can grab a quick, yummy, healthy breakfast when I need to.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little homesick for the Pacific Northwest this morning.  I had a wonderful life there and my heart is full of lovely, splendid memories.  Sometimes, it’s just nice to be grateful for that.

To the people and places in Seattle, I raise a glass–or a muffin, rather–to you today.

moutain mirages

20 08 2012

there are some days

looking out across the lake

when I see mountains that aren’t there

clouds and sunlight and shadows and memories collaborate

making mountain mirages

after the joy of

Oh my gosh!  Mountains!

comes the disappointment of

Oh.  They’re not real.

but they are still beautiful

which is still joyful

and what’s disappointing in that?



so enjoy all mountains, real or imagined

’cause we need all the beauty we can get




Other Times and Places

17 06 2012

Right now I am in Chicago, sitting at home and thinking about stories.  Stories are like dreams.  They are intimate, revealing, and can transport us to other times and places.

June 5, 2012.  I’m in Seattle on vacation, taking the bus to see a friend.  When I get on the #44 and ask for a transfer, a homeless man chimes in and gives me almost-correct directions.  During the 90 minute visit with my friend we cover years and distance.  We reminisce about our Chicago trip ten years ago.  We laugh about old and new inside jokes.  She hugs me and tells me she’s sorry to hear about my sister.  After our time together, I am greeted once again by the same homeless man I saw at the beginning, sitting in the same spot on the same bus.  We both went many places by being in just one.

February 1, 1998.  I am flying out to Seattle, WA from Louisville, KY with a one-way ticket.  My sister says I am brave, but I don’t really hear it.

June 1, 2007. I am moving from Seattle to Chicago.  It’s a Friday around 5pm and I’m in traffic in my rented moving truck on Devon—except I’m pronouncing it “Devin” ‘cause I haven’t lived here yet.  I pass a street called “Pulaski” and it hits me that I’m going to be living in a very different city—one where maybe I’ll even get to hear Polish being spoken from time to time.  I pass a street named “California” and I feel so very far away from the west coast.  Later, I will arrive at my new home and load all of my belongings up three flights of stairs with the gracious help of my landlord.  Then, when the door is closed, I will sit on the floor and cry and cry.  But I know deep down that everything will be okay.

June 1, 2012.  I am in Seattle, walking past apartments I’ve lived in, restaurants I’ve dined in, and fields I’ve played Frisbee in.  I am raw with memories.  A stranger wakes me from my reverie by saying, “Are you a local?”  “Ah, I used to be” I reply.  I give her almost-correct directions.  But her question has shaken me and I worry that I’m in danger of regretting my move.  To cure this, I think of all of the reasons I am grateful I moved to Chicago (the lovely friends I’ve met, the way the windy city inspired me to do solo work, how nice it is to be living closer to my family in Louisville).  Just then, walking toward me, is a man wearing a shirt with “Chicago” written across it.  I think I’m dreaming.  But it’s real.  Later, I will sit at my favorite donut spot in Seattle, wearing my Kentucky shirt, and hear them play a Sufjan Stevens song about Illinois.  Places and times will converge in one spot, in one moment—kind of like they do in a dream.

I dreamt of Kentucky last night.  It was a different time.  My sister was still alive.  We were all in the kitchen talking, joking, and laughing with each other .  I was so excited to see her.  I got to tell her that I love her, which felt so good.  But she didn’t really hear it—I realized I was dreaming before she could respond. It wasn’t real.  I guess I was stirred awake by the impossibility of it.

October 11, 2007.  I have lived in Chicago for four months. My parents are up from Louisville to visit me.  When we go to the lake, I experience a rush of de ja vu.  The last few years that I lived in Seattle, I had this recurring dream where I lived in an old hotel on the beach.  My mom, my dad, my sisters, and my nieces and nephew were all in the dream. It made me think that maybe one day I’d live by the ocean–maybe even own a B&B–and have lots of good family visits.  But here I was, with my mom and dad on a Lake Michigan beach and it all made sense.  I will get this de ja vu feeling again every single time a family member comes to Chicago to visit me, like when my sister comes up for a brief visit three years later.

May 19, 2012.  I am in Kentucky for my niece’s wedding.  As I’m walking outside, I see a key chain lying in the grass.  It’s one of those silver key chains with the outer circle and the spinning middle part.  The middle part says, “Illinois” and the outer circle says, “Chicago, the Windy City.”  I smile and remember the very first time I saw this type of key chain.  It was in 1998 when I first moved to Seattle from Louisville.  I was working in the gift shop of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. I was in love with my new city and homesick for my old one.  In the stockroom I opened up a box of our new key chains.  The inside said, “Woodland Park Zoo” but the company had made a mistake and outside said, “Louisville, KY.”  I thought I was dreaming.  I took them around to everyone in the shop, asking them to read it to me.  It was real.

October 1, 2011.  I buy myself a purse in Chicago.  It looks sort of like an owl.  My sister loves owls.  It has always been her thing.  Deanna loves owls.  Laura loves turtles.  Amanda is the weird actor one that switches what she likes a lot.  If I was younger, I might question if it’s okay for me to like owls.  But I’m older and I like the purse.  So I buy it.  I wonder when I will see her next, because I know she’ll think it’s cute.  I see an older man trip on the escalator going into the store.  I try, without success, to keep him from falling.  But he tumbles and tumbles and tumbles on the unforgiving escalator.  It feels like a dream.  It makes me think of how fragile we all are. The man kept falling and the stairs kept moving and none of us were able to stop it from happening.  That night, I dream about being in a combination city made of Louisville and Chicago.  I’m trying to get a hold of my family and my family is trying get a hold of me.  But, the buttons on the phones aren’t working and I’m panicking and it seems so urgent for me to see them.  I wake up, heart racing.  I know it was a dream, that it wasn’t real.  But I switch on my phone and see all of the missed calls starting early in the morning.  When my mom tells me on the phone that my sister has died, I will cry and cry.  It will feel like a dream.  But it’s real.

Right now, I am in Chicago, traveling to other places and times while being in just one.  May we all be wakeful enough to appreciate the dreamy moments and restful enough so that we are not stirred by the impossible ones.