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Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Wellington Routine v2.0*

Well since moving to Wellington, I've developed a routine of sorts on my days off in town. Usually I divide my time between haunting any of three or four different cafes and time spent outside (weather permitting), walking around town or along the waterfront, sometimes stopping to sit on a bench and bask in the sunlight.

The good thing about this is that it frees my mind up from having to constantly wonder where I'm going or what I'm doing next. I can just sort of pleasurably amble between and amongst these favourite 'nodes' of mine and just relax and focus on my book, writing, texting (in order to pester my friends that are trapped working) or sometimes taking pictures. I've also come to know the staff in these places on a quasi-friendly level, so it's always nice to be welcomed as a regular.

Such is the conceit of the Day Off: I don't get too worked up about always trying to find something new to see or do and I can enjoy my favourite places out of all the ones I have so far visited.

That being said (written), there is far more to experience here in Wellington than I can shake a program flyer at, so I'm always open to new happenings that grab my attention. As much as I love my routine, I don't want it to become stale and boring. Because then, by extension, I would become stale and boring (no comments from the peanut gallery, please!). If that happened I would have to turn to a life of crime out of sheer desperation. As much as that might spice things up around here, I don't fancy the prospect of writing this blog from behind bars. I hear Internet privileges are rather difficult to come by 'inside'. While there may be 'cooking' and 'laundry' details for well-behaved prisoners, I seriously doubt there is a 'blogging' detail.

Anyways, I digress. Not that this is shocking, for it's now become a trademark move of mine. But now that I've got it out of the way, let me finally come to my point.

Last week one of my friends from Improv class last year, Lucy, invited me to an event via Facebook. Once a month there is a tradition called "The Six O'Clock Swill" (SOS) held at one of the coolest places in Wellington, called The Mighty Mighty. I had yet to go there, so I was doubly intrigued by this invitation.

Mighty Mighty sits on Cuba Street, as do many of the coolest hangouts in Wellington. It is an upstairs bar with high ceilings and a ranging, rectangular floor bisected roughly in the middle by a large retractable black curtain. The 'back half' of the building is dominated by a long bar against one wall, while the other side has some tables, barstools and a pinball machine or two. The front half of the bar is where the stage is, all the way at the front by the big windows overlooking Cuba Street.

Whenever there is a show on, which includes things like bands, one-act plays, stand-up comics and improv troupes, the curtain is drawn between the two halves of the bar. Actually the curtain may not be drawn for a band, but I have yet to catch a band at the Mighty Mighty.

There are many tables scattered in front of the stage, and the walls are adorned with a variety of eclectic items such as a stuffed stag's head, an anatomy poster cribbed from some medical school, various black and white photos, and some paintings. A large chandelier dominates the centre of the room and the stage is illuminated by a singular bank of Fresnel lights. The sound system is truly mighty - perhaps too mighty - as I chose a seat right at the front. As good a view as this afforded of the stage, unfortunately for my tympanic membranes I was also right next to the speakers.

SOS is dubbed as 'pint-sized theatre' which is a cute but apt description of what is on offer. There are several acts but they are short and sweet, and I was struck by the inclusive and friendly atmosphere of everyone involved. As Kelsey Grammer (as Dr. Frasier Crane) once said, there really is nothing like the collaborative spirit of theatre, which here is summed up best by this quote from the back of SOS's programme:

“We are always on the lookout for actors, directors, writers, producers, technicians and other creative practitioners to get involved with the Swill.”

Performing first tonight was Steve Wrigley, one of New Zealand's best comedians and also one of Lucy's best friends. Next up was Lucy herself with, I believe, an American actor named Gene. They would be performing a brief scene from On Intimacy, a play by American playwright Lori Leigh. The one-line description of this scene in the programme read, "Have you ever woken up next to a stranger?" The final segment of this particular SOS was an improv troupe, which contained at least one Wellington Improvisation Troupe member, who would be performing another instalment in their ongoing improv series called "Magnum: The Lost Episodes". In this edition, they were inside Magnum's mind as he struggled in a coma, and in this bizarro world Magnum was played by a woman. They did totally open scenes with no audience input so it was raw improvisation and they had a lot of fun with it. The audience enjoyed it but this act, too, was very short.

Lucy was great in her scene, which was also disappointingly short. I say disappointing because it was really neat to see her perform outside of an improvised setting and she did really well with it.

When Lucy and Gene were done with their scene (the laddie reckons himself a poet!) rather than strike their set (which was basically a big inflatable mattress), they left it on stage. The improv troupe made often comical use of this prop but they were careful not to be careless and damage it. It would have been far too awkward to try and deflate the thing offstage while the improv troupe was performing, as the stage area is tiny and 'offstage' is really nothing more than 'Stage Left' concealed behind a folding screen. It would never do to be upstaged by a prop, let alone one not even on stage!

Although I wish there had been more time spent by all three of the acts, there is truth to the theatrical adage, "Always leave them wanting more." They certainly did leave me wanting more and I know I'll now try and make The Swill a regular part of my Wellington Routine, which is now dubbed Wellington Routine 2.0! SOS is a monthly affair on two consecutive nights including my day off so it's very doable for me.

In a way I was glad that the shows weren't too long because I was worried it would clash with the beginning of a WIT show later that same evening. It was the first of their eight weekly instalments of a new show, "The Young & The Witless". This format of improv revolves around eight characters in a soap opera set aboard the fictional New Zealand ferry, the SS Blake. It's a great vehicle (Hah! Get it?) for exploring the character and narrative aspects of improv, and my teacher Simon is one of the eight people in the cast. Y&W is being performed at the Blue Note Cafe, a jazz bar just one click north of the Mighty Mighty on Cuba Street.

The show was great fun, and here is a linkie to a review of the show and here is WIT's own page about the event and the people involved. For tonight's performance I'll be buying a season pass because I'm such a groupie this also gives me something new to do on my days off.

I do love my work schedule, in that having Wednesdays off breaks the week into manageable halves. It's quite a comfortable work week. The only problem I am having with it at the moment is that, once I complete this second half of improvisation classes next month, all of us in the class will be invited to attend WIT's weekly training sessions. That is fantastic, but unfortunately they meet on Tuesday nights - the very night I work late. So there is no way I could be a part of WIT, wit my current work schedule (heh). I have mentioned this to my boss and stated that I am quite keen to change my schedule so that I can attend training. Much as I am loath to give up my Wednesdays off, the chance to perform wit WIT (wheee) far outweighs what day of the week is off for me.

My friend and co-worker Sarah is sadly leaving us soon, and the only silver lining to this is that she has Tuesdays off. It is then a natural time for me to switch to her schedule and have our new hire take over mine. Sorted! But this is not a definite thing so I shall have to wait and see. At the very least, there won't be any changes for several months so training is not an option this year no matter what.

So I'll be soaking up as much improv as I can in the interim, so that I don't lose that edge that you get with repeated improvisation. As Derek, one of the WIT trainers, says, improv talent is a muscle that needs to be worked out frequently or it just atrophies away. So improvisation ain't exactly like riding a bike; it's more like ... pumping iron!

I might even sign up for the Monday night beginners' improv class again, just to keep a hand in, and I'll try and see as many WIT shows as I can until I can train.

What can I say? I'm a slavering fan-boy devoted student of improv!

*I arrived here in New Zealand exactly two years ago today! Nice symmetry, ay? Two years today, Wellington Routine v2.0! Yeah, yeah, I know. Shaddap.


Blogger Sandjoy said...

That sounded like so much fun, What a neat venue.

Two years, yipes!

Love xo

4:28 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Yes I know. Time flies when you're having fun!

9:11 PM  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

The Mighty Might sounds like a neat spot.

After reading the links, I understand why you didn’t want to miss “the Young and the Witless.”

You just gotta find a way to change your routine and free your Thursday evenings!

9:53 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Thanks for reading Nick! I did have to miss Young and Witless tonight, but it was for a good reason! I'll post about it soon hopefully. And yes, Thursdays free as well would also be nice!

11:37 PM  

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