This weekend Urban Yeti took on it’s biggest challenge yet: Two nights of performances at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. We revived our show formats from the first two seasons on the Sydney Laurence stage. There are a lot of thanks to give out for an adventure like this. The first, I’ll give to the the ACPA and house crew, in particular Cindy Hamilton, for having faith in the show we wanted to bring in to the big house. The second is to our wonderful stage managers, Shiela and Rick, for taking a group of improv misfits and helping shape it into a professional show. The final one I will give to the community of Anchorage, who showed strong support for both of our performances. We had over 100 in the crowd for each evening and they left loving the art. More than numbers and acolades though, I was particularly relieved to see that hard work with promotion and talent was rewarded. There is no single silver bullet or secret ingredient. If you work hard in rehearsal, come together as a team and put determination into the way you do business and promote, it can pay off in the long run.
Some people might read this and say I am overhyping things for the purpose of promoting our group. However, if you go back and read previous blog entries, I’m confident the tone that shines through truly represent our shows. Sometimes you’ll see excitement, other times you’ll see a lot of focus on opportunities for improvement. The blog is not just for our audiences to get a behind the scenes look at our art, it serves as a platform to improve our performers. I want to emphasize this to bring further strength to the following statement: Our PAC performances took us to a new level of improv comedy in Alaska and the shows were so good I’m left exploring what we need to translate from the PAC into our work going forward. I’m truly sorry for those who missed these performances as they missed something special that will remain with us at Urban Yeti for a long time to come.
I would like to provide insight by highlighting my personal top five of the overall experience:
1) The staging in our scene work was phenominal. The ensemble pulled the audience in to several worlds through the simple act of where they stood and how they transitioned. We had a scene focused around NASCAR (don’t care if that is not single speed bikes) and a beautiful constant transitiong between a pit crew on stage right and driver/inspector on stage left. It culminated into a really fun moment where there was a transition into a car crash that brought the two parties together. We had a scene focused on online dating where the performers were switching back and forth between two different users. The performers then decided there was no reason to keep jumping in and out, why not split the scene into the right and left sides of the stage and play the scene together. Beautiful connection and truly unique scenework.
2) It’s no secret there is strategy behind doing performances at the PAC. Challenging our performers and trying bigger things is important, but building relationships is what builds businesses. Behind the scenes was going just as well as on stage. Our house crew had a good time, our house managers were fun to work with. Learning more about the craft from our stage managers was enlightening. To have a conversation at intermission, back stage, with a very experienced stage manager telling you the ensemble has true talent is revitalizing. We hope to continue building this relationship to even more performance opportunities and exposure to the Anchorage community.
3) In previous show wrap-ups, there is always a segment that didn’t go as well, had more content for improvement. However, throughout both of these shows the story work in all of our segments was strong enough to continue on, whether it be voted forward in Frigid Affair or lengthened for another hour in Debauchery. I wanted more Point Waranzof ranger training, vinettes on Jansport backpacks or scenes involving Buffalo. Time to vote which story moves on? It doesn’t really matter, I could have taken them all. I want more Men’s Health articles! Strong transitions and scene wipe timing helped the performers keep the audience engaged from curtain up to curtain down.
4) There was even more humor and great scene work in our warm-ups. I laughed really hard from a seat in an empty theater two hours before the show even began on both Friday and Saturday. A team firing on all cylinders is one that is keeping things fresh even when the audience isn’t around to validate. It also helps validate there was no luck or fluke with this experience. Two solid show run throughs with two amazing shows over two days breaks the notion it can be anything but great talent.
5) Allow me a more emotional observation for a moment. After it was all done, three months in the making, promotional pushes all throughout August, rehearsal preparation emphasizing strong scene initiation, projection and enunciation for a bigger venue, there was signing the wall in the hallways of the PAC and toasts throughout downtown Anchorage. I have directed several groups and worked with a lot of people. What a lot of folks don’t realize is the payout is not in the crowd numbers or ticket takes. It’s in that handshake that is particularly strong tonight or that hug that is held a bit longer after the show is done. It’s in the moments where performers don’t have to break down a show or talk about it because they all know they just went through something special. It’s been a long time since I felt the way about a project or team as I did last night. I am no fool, I know it can all go away in an instant, but with Urban Yeti Improv, it doesn’t matter, we have now had so many wins it will hold a special place in my memories for a long time to come.
It is now time to head back to our awesome partners at the Alaska Experience Theater and debut our two new shows: Love is Blind and After Dark. To keep up the momentum, we need to continue with hard hitting scene initiations and not getting lost in dialogue and character introductions. We need to continue watching our work from the wings with an attitude of getting in their and doing what needs to be done to maximize audience engagement. We need to treat every show like we are going on under the lights of the PAC. Time for reflection is pleasant, but I’m already back on the boards hungry for more. We have broken through so many walls up to this point, it would be a waste not to keep unleashing the beast. No more apprehensions, game on. The Yeti is on the prowl.