When I stepped into the People’s Improv Theater last summer, I never would have imagined how my view would pivot – from watching the performers on stage to performing on stage – just one year later. This journey of producing my blog into a show is a story of serendipity – linked to my blog launch party in January where my friend Steve brought his friend Michelle to the party. As I tried to remember where we had met before, my friend Wendy reminded me we had seen her on stage at the PIT last summer!
I left the launch party, wondering if over the next few months I could write enough material to bring the blog to life as a show. And at the start of June, I was ready. I reached out to Michelle for an introduction and in July, I pitched the PIT. September 9th would be the debut of Roommate for Rent – The Show! Steve and Michelle, I’m not sure if you know how grateful I am to both of you for inadvertently inspiring me to take my blog to the next level.
Now, in July, two months seemed like significant lead time, but it was barely enough. Suddenly, this summer, the beach had to take a back seat priority to writing, editing, rehearsing, prop shopping, and publicizing. I discovered writing for stage contrasted significantly with writing for online. And acting, well, that is not something I had really thought about since Drama Camp when I was 14 years old. But, the challenge of creating and implementing something I had never done before inspired me.
Initially, my vision for the show began with roommate monologues, but it evolved into a narrated story with a roommate tour guide (me) who would take the audience through what I now refer to as the roommate lifecycle – from the classic New York broker stereotype to the Craigslist living with walks down memory lane to college and camp roommates. To finalize the script, I tapped into my extremely funny family who critiqued and contributed to the final product – thanks Grandma, Mom, and Dad!
The scenes came to life in my living room for the first time in August! I cast friends who I know from high school, college, New York City, and my day job. I watched in awe as the scenes were read, discovering the many talents my friends had to make me laugh (and I hoped the audience would as well). When we brought out the props – the giant sunglasses, the Grandma clip on earrings and other items – the characters and scenes took on new directions. I am truly grateful to the friends who gave generously of their time and creativity to make this show a reality.
Finally, a few days before showtime, I applied the final touches with the help of Sherill – we blended the music with the stories together – selecting from tunes like The Golden Girl’s Theme Song to introduce living with my Ex-Boyfriends Grandmother and Elton John’s Crocodile Rock to conclude a scene with a Zoologist named Wendy who had an alligator as a roommate.
The afternoon of the performance, I learned we sold out. I was beyond excited! With my friend Arielle who traveled into New York City for the weekend to be my sidekick (thank you!), we arrived at the theater early to discover the show received the equivalent of getting upgraded to first class – we were relocated to the larger theater and we got a dressing room! As we piled into the Green Room, the reality hit me. All of the months of hard work were about to take shape.
Practically, one week to the day I moved to New York City seven years ago, I hoped on stage with my friends to celebrate my New York-aversary. With the Jefferson’s Theme Song “Moving On Up,” I walked out to welcome the audience. I am incredibly moved by the friends who came to see the show and pleased that strangers were actually in the audience as well (perhaps, we are on to something funny with this topic!). The show had its bumps – not everyone laughed when we thought they would, but it also had its hilarious improv moments when the characters surprised themselves and the audience.
The 45 minutes were a blur, and the after party was the perfect conclusion to the night. I woke up on Monday morning, realizing what we had accomplished. Then, I wondered: what’s next? I would like to host another show, but not before I have feedback from the first run (please let me know what you think of Part 1 on Vimeo) Perhaps next up is a YouTube webseries?
I learned a lot from this experience, and more than just “How to Produce a Show for Dummies” – although this was not even Off-Off Broadway. But, I learned how to take an idea and make it real, the art of time management as I juggled multiple projects, the power of social media for publicity, how to better understand personalities (in real life and in character), the potential of creativity, the support of friends who are far away can seem so close (hi Heather!), how to be a stronger writer, the excitement of thinking on your feet and that laughter is really the best medicine.