Thursday, July 19, 2007

Robowriters

I am a part of a writer’s group that is meeting tonight. The group is an extension of a New York theatre company called Robot Versus Dinosaur. It’s some group of people that Joe Janes randomly found off of craigslist, which is not always the best place to meet wholesome, savory people. We are in the early stages of writing a show (some type of sketch/play/show amalgam that we have yet to wholly define yet) which, if all goes according to plan, should be up and running sometime in the fall.

The group has been a really exciting project for me. We’ve been doing a weekly meeting since early May in which we’ve been bringing in scenes, doing guided writing exercises, drinking beer and eating free junk-food. It’s been something for me to look forward to each week and, truth be told, it’s a blast.

When I moved here to Chicago, I had difficulty finding somewhere to write. For the longest time I felt like I was just sitting on something that I love to do, something that I was fortunate enough to be able to do all throughout college through the RC Players, where I wrote for evening of scenes and the occasional play, and even through the Purple Rose, where I wrote spoofs and where I wrote scenes for our dark night performance. By the time I reached Chicago I was going through writer’s withdrawal.

I started taking improvisation classes at the Second City before I even had a place to live here (I slept on a friend’s couch for much of my first couple months in Chicago) and I had a great time in class but I still wasn’t really writing. I met three guys through the program – Pat, Todd and Colby - and we started our internet sketch group called Date-Nite. The link is on this page if you would like to check it out. I have done a little bit of writing for the site, but most of what we consider to be writing is really just setting up scenarios off of which we mostly improvise. Every once in a while there is a piece that is truly written, but those are few and far between.

I met Joe by auditioning in a Writing Level 5 show at the Second City Training Center, which he was directing. In addition to teaching and directing for the training center and for Columbia, he also worked with a sketch/improv group called Teatro Bastardo. He cast me for the training center show and then, later, asked me to join Teatro Bastardo to perform in the Danse Macabre, which is an improv show based on early 20th century horror movies.

After the run, Teatro Bastardo decided to write a show for Sketchfest, and I latched myself on to their project. I don’t know if they ever intended for me to be more than just an actor for the Danse, nor do I know if they expected me to actually show up to their writer’s meetings, but I decided that I was going to write something goddamnit and that this was my chance to do it. I actually wrote a proper scene for that show, and it was actually performed in front of an audience too. Once Sketchfest ended we moved the show to Donny’s Skybox Theatre for a run as well. After the run finished up, I was afraid that there would be another long draught before having another show. This time, though, I continued to write scenes for my own amusement. Eventually, I decided to just shell out the money and take comedy writing at the Second City – if for nothing else but for the deadlines and for the in-class readings.

And then Joe called me out of the blue one day in April and asked if I wanted to write a show with this new group, an extension of something called Robot Versus Dinosaur, which he was starting up in Chicago. So, of course, I jumped at the chance. And now here I am, in the group and in class, writing about two scenes a week. It’s nice to be busy doing something that you actually love doing. Once I have more details on the show I will post them on this blog, so check back occasionally.

What, am I writing my life’s story? Good God. I’ll let you go.

2 comments:

Joe Janes said...

You're off to a fine start on your blog, Mr. Topping! See you tongiht.

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