One year in Chicago.

Today is my one year anniversary living in Chicago. It’s also my last 5B show at iO which is crazy weird that they are both happening on the same day. I’ve graduated iO. It’s a great anniversary gift.
  For the last week, I’ve been trying to think of something profound to say about how much I’ve grown, how hard it’s been, and how much I miss Arizona but love Chicago. I’ve had trouble trying to find the right words. 
How do you summarize a year of your life? A year that challenged you. A year that forced you out of your comfort zone. A year that made you become a badass woman with a sword (thank you Jana). 
You can’t. I look back at pictures and stories and think wow I did that? And it’s unreal and unpredictable, my life. I think of all the new people I met, and how crazy it is that a year ago I didn’t know them. I also wonder how I made it through winter. 
I do miss Arizona especially when it’s -30, but I miss my family and friends everyday. I wish I could drive to see them when I need a hug or some good Mexican food. I wish I could go to the Torch and dance in the hallways. But I’m also super happy of their support. 
Thank you to my family. Thank you to Katie who has been so patient and kind. Lauren who understood why we can’t and has been simply the best. Thank you to my new friends and the improv community who have helped make Chicago feel like home.
Here’s to another year of what’s to come in Sweet Home Chicago.

  

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The Improv Retreat

Repost from my blog entry at http://www.nationalimprovnetwork.com/the-improv-retreat/

I would like to start this by saying I grew up in the desert. December for me is 60s and a cactus with some lights. May not sound as romantic to you, but to me it’s the bees knees. It was also that December when I got a Facebook message from Rick Grove and Lauren Corl telling me we must go to Wisconsin (which was under piles and piles of snow) for the Improv Retreat with the one and only Tara DeFrancisco – who I had met for the first time on stage as a part of her show DeFrancisco. While I would like to say I thought long and hard about the snow, before I knew it, I clicked the link to pay and off my pay check went.

I was more than happy to spend my weekend in the woods with 275 other improvisors at B’nai B’rith Beber Camp in Mukwonago Wisconsin. The Improv Retreat started as a dream of Tara’s to help bring improvisors to the Midwest for a weekend of workshops, art, and the love of improv. It’s summer camp for adults who like to make things up. And maybe dance in the woods. And hug.
The weekend finally came as Lauren, Brandon and I picked up Rick from the airport and drove towards the land of cheese. Armed with snacks, cider (did not drink it on the way there mom), and Starbucks, we spent the ride trying to guess who was teaching what, where we were sleeping, and how much bug spray we may need. Rick, Lauren, and I came from The Torch Threatre in Phoenix, so we were even more excited/nervous of the different improvisors we were going to meet.

Upon arrival, I was in awe of how green and big the camp was as we walked to Crown Hall to receive our bunks and schedules. To greet us was Tara, looking excited and happy to see everyone. If you don’t know Tara, she has the ability to make you feel like a rockstar with just a hug. She made us all feel welcomed as we walked up the hill to our bunks. On the way down the 72 steps (which we walked up and down every morning), I started running into familiar faces from my last summer in Chicago, including my level 1 teacher Higbee (who had the same whit and charisma. Big fan.)

Lauren and I quickly got situated in our bunks, covered ourselves with bug spray, and went back to Crown Hall for announcements. During camp, everyone would meet one to two times a day to talk about events, policies, and to laugh. The camp had everything schedule from the moment we got there, to the moment we left. While it left us little time for free time, it also gave you the option to stay active and enjoy your surroundings.

JOE BILL
Included in our schedules were three workshops, shows each night, shows during the day, smores, food, and my favorite- Joe Bill talking under a tree. While technically it was by a flag pole, to be given the opportunity to talk with Joe Bill about his traveling and experiences in improv is something I will not forget.
The camp experience is something I will not forget mainly because it took you out of your comfort zone. From each of my workshops they emphasized being here in this moment-this is what matters. And I know we say this over and over again as improvisors, but we sometimes need to be reminded to get out of our comfort zones. In Fear No More, Nnamdi Ngwe told us to look in our fellow actor’s eyes and fall in love. In the past, I’ve had trouble with eye contact and this was intimidating. However, in this moment, you are here and can’t look away.

In Organic Games with Higbee, we literally played childhood games to find patterns in the play happening and how we were going to support it without saying HEY SUPPORT THIS. For a moment, I had to remind myself how to play leapfrog. In Fireball Theory with Jill Bernard, we focused on reacting without telling your partner their nana is crazy, and saying the first thing to come to mind (banana banana) by remaining active in your play.

Stepping out of your comfort zone spilled over in other areas of camp. With a large group, it can be intimating at times to go up and talk to people. In reality, everyone at camp was very welcoming and said hey jump right in! For me I got to be a part of my first rap jam, play with improvisors from all over the world, do handstands by the lake, and play Merlin (sorry Robert and Colin if I messed up the name).

Camp gave me the refresher boost I needed. It rocked its first year and can’t wait to go back to the woods. It was awesome.

#Gablesup

A Social Festival For All.

Repost from my blog entry on http://www.nationalimprovnetwork.com/a-social-festival-for-all/

So you have a Facebook and Twitter for your improv festival. You may even have a Google+ page. Sweet. Awesome. Now what? Many festival organizers and improv groups know they need a Facebook, Twitter, and all the things because everyone else has it. But most of the time those pages just sits their unused which can be your biggest mistake. By leaving your social untouched and unloved, you are missing out on one of your festival’s biggest assets to help not only promote, but also build your festival’s presence. Here are a few tips to help you get started make your Social Media well social.

1. Make it a part of your marketing plan.

Along with your website, interviews, and flyers, your Social Media should be considered in your marketing plan. As Ariel said, go where the people are. With nearly 30% of Americans getting their news via Social Media, it is a force that can not be ignored when it comes to promoting. Just posting everyone once in a while is cool, but it doesn’t get the word out. You get the word out by coming up with a plan for before, during, and after the festival. This can range from what you are posting, Facebook advertising, and hashtags for the event.
On anything you use for marketing, make sure it connects with your Social Media. For example, on flyers make sure you have your Facebook and Twitter handle. Connect your website with your social platforms. The main purpose of Social Media isn’t to sell sell sell, but think of it as a television commercial or radio spot, but online. While you can’t always connect directly to ticket sales, the proof will be in how well the word got out.

2. It’s Personal

Let your festival reflect the offline atmosphere online. That means all your posts shouldn’t be come to our show! Come to our workshops! Buy tickets! Some of your posts (which should maybe be 5-7 a week leading up to the festival) should be about the groups, some of the planning, fundraisers, or anything personal towards the festival. One of the 13th Phoenix Improv Festival’s most popular posts were photos of the performers as teenagers. Another was images from past festivals that built up nostalgia and got users excited for the upcoming festival. People in general relate to things more on a personal level. As a result, they are more likely to invest in seeing your festival, and are less likely to ignore your buy tickets posts when they do happen.

3. Get the performers involved

Piggy backing off point two, if your performers are having fun it will reflect in their shows. This can be done before the festival by featuring them in your social media, emailing asking for any of their promotion, or as the Phoenix Improv Festival likes to do, treat them like rockstars. Be creative in how you post or get them involved, and know they may not want to and that is alright. You may want to start with local groups and build from there. Those groups that are invested personally will your biggest advocates for your current festival and beyond.

4. Your audience isn’t just improvisors.

While the performers of the festival may be your biggest advocates, they aren’t the ones buying tickets. Sure their family and friends may purchase some, however you should try to appeal to the general public of your city. With your Social Media, make sure some of your posts are directed at people who love watching improv to those who have not seen it before. This can range from videos, photos, and getting the venue and local businesses involved. For example, any Tweet we were sure to mention the Herberger Theater and mention our Family Friendly shows. Also connect with your local audience because who knows your city better than you?

5. Have Fun!

At the end of the day, improv is adults playing make believe on stage. While we can have grounded moments, your social media shouldn’t be your Office Space type of job. Your Social Media should reflect the fun and beauty that is improv. Whether it is pictures from the event, quotes from the show, or what is going on backstage, let your audience, performers, and online community know the fun you are having. Don’t be an asshole.

Reflection #100HappyDays Day 40ish

I’ve been asked by several people why am I doing the #100happydays challenge. I appear to already be happy all the time my friend Brandon has repeated, and while I want to argue…I can’t.I am happy, but there is always the thought of missing. Missing a moment, someone, or something. I think a part of the reason I did this challenge to answer what is missing.

I am getting there. What I can say is at this point in the challenge, I have started to smell the roses more. I am one of those go until the wheels fall off and then some more. It’s almost like I can’t be by myself and enjoy my surroundings mainly out of fear. Fear of being left to my own thoughts and questioning them. ‘What will make me happy and are you?’ is one I repeat a lot. For the most part yes, but something is missing. And as corny as it sounds, the more I do this challenge, the more I am getting a clearer answer of I can’t plan my happiness.

My best friend Karli (if she is reading this) is probably say uh duh as I am a planner. At one point I had my whole life planned of getting married and having kids after college in a job that requires a suit. I would say I often ignored the little part of me that said that’s a dumb idea, but my actions of travel, bad breakups said otherwise. You need to do more, and while it maybe for others, it isn’t for you now.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have all that one day (well maybe not the suit portion), but it took life and my mind and body agreeing that planning was silly including my happiness.

I’ve found by doing so, a lot more positive energy has come my way and my Type A personality has calmed down…kind of. 🙂

Here’s to 60ish more days of happy to lead to a lifetime. You can follow the adventure at http://www.instagram.com/mariakonopken

Soy Lime Shrimp

This is what happens when you forget to buy honey at the Grocery store, but did buy 2 lbs shrimp.

Soy Lime Shrimp
Serves 4

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ingredients
1/4 cup of butter
1 lb of shrimp
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup of soy sauce
2 pinches of parsley
1 pinch of grounded ginger
1 tsp of garlic
2 tsp of lime juice
Black pepper

Directions

1)Melt butter on skillet on medium heat
2) While butter melts, mix canola oil, soy sauce, parsley, grounded ginger, garlic, and lime juice in mixing bowl.
3) When butter is melted, put cooked shrimp on skillet.
4) Pour mix over shrimp. Mix thoroughly and then sprinkle black pepper over shrimp.
5) Keep the shrimp in the skillet, and let it sit for 15 minutes.
6) Eat!

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Back to writing

Flying high in the air, I got the urge to write for fun again. Strange considering the last time I wrote was a year ago today. The same day my uncle died. Today I have cried three times about it; once in a bathroom, the other in a car, and now on a plane. It is hard to believe Carlos has been gone a year. A year…

This maybe the reason I feel to write again. It has been a crazy year since I wrote last. No new boyfriend, but a new nephew, job title, ran a half marathon, now doing improv, and learning to adapt.

Now what to write about? Maybe about my new love for running or improv. Maybe cooking again. I am not sure. But here it goes.

Nervous excited!

Week 12: From Broke College Student to Chef

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Dessert Can Still Be Kind of Healthy

Let’s admit it; we all love dessert. Oh sure we tell people that we aren’t “sweet people,” but we don’t say no when the tray comes around now do we? That is why we always seem to make excuses when we want something sweet. Mine this week is if you put strawberries in it, it kind of counts as healthy…

Alright maybe not. However I still decided to cook Strawberry Cake. This is different from Strawberry short cake because…I am not exactly sure, but I didn’t make that, and I smothered it with chocolate frosting. Note: This may make this dessert a little unhealthy.

Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup fresh crushed strawberry, unsweetened ( I put in two cups, and then blended them)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift together: flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
  4. Beat for a total of 3 minutes, scrapping the sides of the bowl.(or watch 2 minutes of basketball)
  5. Then add flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternating with strawberries.
  6. Beat for two minutes.(continue to watch basketball)
  7. Pour batter into two 8-inch round greased and floured cake pans.
  8. Bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until cake tests done
Just so you know, it won’t turn out red, but you will definitely be able to taste the strawberries. In the video below, my dad gives his review. It should be noted that my dad insisted to sit in his chair to be interviewed, hence the bad lighting. I still love him.