I’ve been fortunate enough to perform at my sixth, seventh, and eight improv festivals this summer: I co-headlined the San Francisco Improv Festival over July 24-26, co-headlined at the Santa Cruz Improv Festival on July 27, and recently wrapped up a great show at the Milwaukee Improv Festival on August 9. Keen-eyed readers will notice I performed at two festivals on one trip. That is officially a tour. I am a touring artist, folks.
“The Uncle Ukulele Show” is a solo musical improv show which means when it comes to rehearsal this can be both a blessing and a curse. Getting an ensemble together to rehearse can be difficult due to people’s individual schedules and commitment levels. But if you’re a regular reader of this blog you know how time management is one of my greatest struggles, and for me, getting oneself to rehearse can be an even greater challenge. Circumstances for all three of these festivals demanded I step up and practice hard and consistently.
For starters, the San Francisco Improv Festival (SFIF) and Santa Cruz Improv Festival (SCIF) both asked me to perform forty-five minute shows. This was the first time I was asked to perform a solo improv show over twenty minutes and doubling my performance time was a daunting task. Both shows also listed me as headliner as opposed to simply part of the show and this made me want to stand and deliver. As for the Milwaukee Sketch & Improv Festival (MKIF), I’m their first Minnesota performer and one of the few solo improv shows in their three-year history and it was important to me to make my appearance there a strong show.
In short, that meant I had to put aside a few projects (including this blog) and really focused on practice, practice, practice.
My show is broken up into a series of rotating segments all linked together by the character. That means I can pick and choose which song genres to try, which storytelling opportunities to use, etc. For SFIF and SCIF I ended up using most of my repertoire and trying some new stuff, too. Working up a longer list of segments than I’m used to delivering in a single show meant giving them all more attention while hopefully not spreading myself too thin. To end the suspense, all of the California shows went really well and I can say without hesitation the show I did at MSIF was the best solo show I’ve ever done.
So what does all of this mean to me? I feel like I have tangible evidence of my creative growth as an improviser, performer, and producer. Improviser, in that I really tried to play off the top of my intelligence and do something great. Performer, as I took my characterization to new heights. Producer, in that I really stepped up the content of my show and made my focus giving the audience a great show. The lesson here for successful creativity is that when one puts in the work, man can it really pay off.
This post is an overview of my preparation and performance. I owe all three of these festivals a separate blog post, and I hope to get those up soon. In the meantime, let’s get onto some photos…
All photos are credited to the delightful, helpful, amazing Clay Robeson, save the last which is credited to my wife, Kelly Melcher. Click the pick for a bigger, higher-resolution photo.
Stay creative, people.