Time | since June 2016, now time to write

“Choices are a privilege defined by circumstance. In this country, the circumstance is always racism, oftentimes poverty. The two combined strip our choices away to the minimum.”

– Mychal Denzel Smith
(from his book “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education”)

What?! June 2016 is the previous blog post to this one!

Well, it’s neither that I have forgotten about this blog nor that I don’t have anything to share.

My guess – life stuff (e.g., work, family, friends), including the 2016 presidential election and outcome. This post? A random list of things since June 2016 (and certainly not comprehensive), a few pictures, two things that continue to pop-up regularly as I navigate my thoughts, and why I’m posting. Oh! and Trump is a racist.

A few of my random tidbits since June 2016 include –

Mom’s 83rd birthday celebration with my brother and his family

December 2017 company dinner

  • reading quite a bit of non-fiction (books, blogs, journalists, researchers, etc.), particularly related to race and culture, including re-reading Jeff Chang’s Who We Be: The Colorization of America
  • … and keeping odd hours throughout the day and night.

Why posting today?  Just to get my thoughts/feelings out – I loathe that we have a racist President.  And there are times where I just … don’t want. Don’t want to listen to the news and like-kind. Don’t want to read about ridiculous shitty statements. Don’t want to piece together uninformed decisions. Don’t want to interact.

But then there are the thoughts that swim in my head or events that trigger thoughts … for the better.  This morning I had a conversation with a friend. I was reminded of two things that continue to pop-up regularly as I navigate my thoughts  –

  • narrative creation – What Favianna Rodriguez shared at a 2015 panel about the importance of culture and narrative (and this was BEFORE the presidential campaigns were in full swing) –
    … people defining culture are creating laws, affecting laws, etc.
    … culture surrounds us everyday … we form our opinions based on what’s around us, … allows us to define ourselves
    … narrative correction is important and narrative creation is important
    … stop being the NO culture … what does the YES look like?
  • L.O.V.E. from Love Deez Nutz, or Why Van Jones Is Wrong and Maybe Even a Bit of a Bullshitting Magical Negro, or Happy Friday from My Corner of Trump’s America–Whatever You Like–I’m Tired by Michelle R. Smith – a post that  shifted and impacted my thoughts about race, culture, allies, advocacy, and identity … and for which I continue to read Smith’s thoughtful writing

    “So fuck using love as a weapon for fighting racism. Unless you’re going to make love into an acronym. Unless you’re talking about

    eveling with people about their bigotry;

    Opting into confrontational political action aimed at definitive positive change;

    Voting in every election, not just the Presidential election, so the political process can benefit the oppressed inasmuch as it can in America; and

    Educating yourself about what the-hell the government is doing by reading real news and doing independent, academic research if necessary–yes–you should–knowing the shit that’s happening is that important–look at what just happened back in November. It was only a minute ago.”

My friend, David Ngo

After a morning of manifesting and visioning with several folks brought together by friend David Ngo, David and I spoke about collaborating on an endeavor. During my chat with David, I wept (anger, sadness, frustration) when I shared with him a few thoughts about the Trump Administration and DACA proceedings. Trump is a racist.

So to answer my question – “Why post today?” Partly, it’s a New Year thing. Partly, I have many thoughts about our racist President. Partly, I am finishing up Mychal Denzel Smith’s book. Partly, catharsis. Partly, I am awake and cannot sleep readily.

And mostly,  it’s time to write  – right, Fernando Funes?


Play | rance, improv, pretend, imagine

“Don’t try to do everything at the same time.
And don’t limit yourself to just improv.
Ultimately, you’re stressing out about how good you can pretend and how well you can imagine and make-believe.
So, like, give it – give it the play that it is.
And bring in other life experience to make your play better.”

– Rance Rizzutto


[photo from Episode 193]

The above quote is from Episode 193: Tara DeFrancisco & Rance Rizzutto, an interview by Jimmy Carrane (web, Improv Nerd blog, Facebook) for his Improv Nerd podcast. Carrane asked what advice would Tara and Rance give to new improvisors, and the above is from Rance’s response. I especially enjoyed hearing –

“Ultimately, you’re stressing out about how good you can pretend and how well you can imagine and make-believe.”

– which is the crux of improv – pretending, imagining, make believing. (Bravo!)

It was great hearing Rance’s voice. Rance (iO Chicago, web, Facebook) was one of my instructors at Chicago’s iO Five-Week Summer Intensive.


(actual size. to scale)

Among the five summer intensive improv instructors I had throughout the five weeks, Rance was my (and fifteen other new improv friends) Week 3 improv instructor specifically focused on two-person scenes.


Clockwise starting from top left: Rance, Eric, Chris, Minh-Anh, Will, Ben, Yury, Geoffrey, Ruta, Ginny, Aurelija, Shirley (self), Brittany, Kath, Tim, Simone, Jake

Rance’s closing response to Carrane’s question –

“And bring in other life experience to make your play better.”

–  reminded me of one of Rance’s suggestions encouragements, which boiled down to learn and experience new things. He suggested taking advantage of some of the discounted activities offered by providers such as Groupon and LivingSocial. There are conventional, as well as off-the-beaten-path, activities one can learn and experience, and such experiences can further enrich one’s improv play. Good stuff!

And admittedly, one of my several “ah ha” moments last year happened during my week with Rance. He shared –

surprise for a_ax

“Always be ready for a surprise.
Already be ready to surprise.” 

20150722_170519_ginny(I think of this like an hourglass where scenes are a series of surprises (and discoveries), and each improvisor can turn it [the scene] over and over to evolve the scene and relationship.) This came from one of our scene work exercises, which was described as Inspector Clouseau, from the The Pink Panther series. The exercise was based on the relationship between on Inspector Clouseau and his trustworthy servant, Cato. Cato was tasked to surprise Clouseau. (some clips online). Lucky me, one of my fave scenes (which i lovingly refer to as eyeball) was when I was paired up with the talented Ms. Ginny.

What do you think is the crux of improv? If you listened to Jimmy’s interview of Tara and Rance, what were some of your favorite moments?


Drop By | pop-up improv, on demand (OD), friends

imageMy Saturday afternoons have been spent indoors creating and having fun. For several past Saturday afternoons, I have been doing a series of 90-minutes(-ish) drop by improv workshops at my friend’s home, and it has be FUN!

This post shares what my friends and I have been up to over in the East Bay.

Homegrown Improv. My friends wanted to take weekend Introduction to Improv classes in May, and I agreed I would join them. We found two options offered – Synergy Theatre (Sundays in Berkeley, 8 weeks for a total of 24 hours) and Endgames Improv (Saturdays in San Francisco, 7 weeks for a total of 21 hours). However, because of some scheduling issues, they did not sign up for classes. The result? From a casual conversation, I said “YES!” when they asked if I would drop by their home to teach them improv on the weekends.

Their interests in improv

After talking through about their interests in taking improv classes – if not for performing purposes, their three reasons boiled down to the following –

    • to learn basic improv skills
    • to apply improv skills to public speaking
    • to have fun

The reference to public speaking? One of them finished reading Scott Berkun’s book, Confessions of a Public Speaker, and Berkun mentions the benefits of improv. Here is Berkun’s What I Learned From Improv Classwhere he shares his perspectives about assumptions (about improv) that are wrong and what he learned.

(Side note: Prior to their expressing any interest in improv classes, they have watched improv around the SF Bay Area. And because we are friends, of course I subjected them to playing improv warm-ups and games with me.) 

Our past three weeks of OD’ing on improv

After agreeing to pull together a loose curriculum to support my friends’ interests – AND with the surprise of their 10-year old son also wanting to play, the following are how we have spent our last three Saturdays – warm-ups, exercises, and short form games.

Week 1

We started scratching the surface on demonstrating some of the basics. (Yes, these are in order.) Prior to getting improv-physical, I talked a little about improv and applied improv.


Week 1 warm-ups, exercises, games

20160521_124521-1.jpgI pulled from my bookshelves a variety of improv-related books and a card game to kick us off. These were pulled to let them know the variety of improv-related resources.

I also talked about online resources. And of course, I mentioned Mama Tina Fey (via her interview at Talks at Google) and the four rules she shares from Bossypants, The Way of Improvisation (TEDx talk) by Dave Morris, and VAPAPO from Jill Bernard because it would be fun to make up characters.

Week 2

Based on their reaction about what they enjoyed (and did not enjoy), I added a few more like-kind warm-ups and exercises – AND I snuck in some scene work via “Shop Talk” and variations of “Scene Paint” exercises.


Week 2 warm-ups, exercises, games

Turns out – they enjoy scene work, are naturals at creating characters, and have fun doing so! Ask me about their Shop Talk scene of earthly superheroes as customers in a cupcake eatery. What a treat to watch them!

Week 3

Based on their reaction AND what I enjoyed watching, I added a few more like-kind warm-ups and exercises, revisited a few oldies, and snuck in creating characters.


Week 3 warm-ups, exercises, games

Our next drop by* will be a best of our three weeks and more like-kind activities to reinforce improv basics and applied improv and to sneak in more scene work and character work.

Our ritual closings – puns!

We have been ending with a couple of pun games (in the spirit of Made Up Theatre fun like their Laugh Track City) including One Eighty Five and its pun cousins – I Kissed A and Sex with me. (Admittedly, we do not play Sex with me when youngsters are around. Of course, adults can play that game whenever they would like – and they do.)


Want to join us? Let me know.
Want me to Drop By your place? Let me know.

*We’re on a brief break and will start-up again later this month or early July.
We’ll also see about jamming, so they can get the real feels of improvising with others.