Laughter & Play = Best Medicine

As part of my last pre-transplant hurrahs, I was able to attend the Steel Stacks Improv Festival this weekend to see my bestie & a few other friends perform.  In addition,  I also saw many great groups from the region.  Some I had seen from the prior year’s festival. Some were a few of my Del Close Marathon favorites.  Some were teams I had made a point to see because there are people in them who have been a big part of my improv journey & learning.  Others were new. It’s a nice mix.

Friday night was a great night. I was able to be out 4 hours. I went old school with a tank because my current concentrator battery doesn’t last that long (even with a spare battery). After scoping out things at a few shows I had been to prior to the festival, I knew plug-ins were also at a premium in the space where the shows were running.  But that modification worked out well.

I was able to see the final performance of a group that had many of my friends in it over time.  As well as one of the first teams I ever saw when I first started going out regularly to improv shows.

Saturday night I lasted only about an hour.  I just didn’t have the energy & stamina. Also I started having a pain flare, so I figured that was my body’s cue to me to bow out gracefully.

I did miss a few shows I wanted to see, but did get to see Team Lopez in action which made me happy (& selfishly was one of the prime reasons for me going out that night.)

Team Lopez is a group that does improv with puppets & it’s amazingly engaging.  I was fortunate (along with a few former classmates & friends) to be part of their first workshop that they put together for us as part of the festival.

I can honestly say I was glad I had been doing rowing & upper body exercises for the past few months to build up because although I felt it in my arms, I was still able to keep up fairly well.   Better than I had hoped for.

The workshop was so well-organized & well-run.  We covered so much ground in such a short period of time, but at just the right pace.  It was fun & supportive.

When I ran out of steam to stand up after the first hour I didn’t even have to sweat it.  I took a few minutes rest & it was very easy & beneficial for me to observe what was going on.

I wasn’t down for long when everyone noticed I’d have to remain seated for the duration. But then everyone just wrapped the circle around me.  I didn’t have to ask for this accommodation at all, which was such a beautiful thing.

It was just naturally extended, like most people with disabilities wish accommodations could be given.

I’m very fortunate in my local improv scene & in quite a few instances for people to not make a big deal or fuss about my limitations.  They just fold me in subtly & naturally to whatever they are doing.

I know it seems natural to them, but in many areas of life it’s not (as I’ve found out this past year.) So I feel it important to call attention to it when it is being done right & naturally so others know these pockets of safety & beauty exist. (Completely natural inclusion is something that should happen frequently but far too often doesn’t.)

My team did it when I was very nervous at first about practicing & performing with my first oxygen concentrator.

My friends, teachers, & classmates here in the local scene were the same with whatever workshop or classes I felt I could take when my health status changed, & any time I felt up to coming out.

It was one of a few times other than at home or out with close friends or a performance that I don’t feel like I stick out like a sore thumb (& that I’m still me).

Of course people know I am the same inside regardless of what I have going on on the outside, but it’s nice that others who don’t know me as well can see & embrace it too.

I highly recommend that anyone interested in learning more about puppetry take a class from The Brooklyn Puppet Conspiracy (BPC).

David Fino, who founded the BPC, taught many members of Team Lopez.  I’d also be more than willing to take another workshop or classes from Team Lopez themselves even if I have to go to NYC to do it (which I’m hoping I’ll be able to do at some point post transplant.)

Either one or both of them will get anyone off to the right start in bringing together two great art forms.

This picture was taken with a classmate & friend of mine.  We are not only past class & improv buddies but now puppet buddies as well. Above all, we are also friends.   Beth was in my 301 class when I first blurted out that I might need oxygen to continue doing improv.  I hadn’t even intended for that to come out to my classmates that night, but it happened.

She was extremely understanding & supportive as were the rest of my classmates & the rest of my community.  It was great to share this workshop with so many past classmates & friends who were equally excited & jazzed to learn as I was.

Down the road, once I’m recovered from my transplant, maybe I’ll get together some friends with an interest to practice or join in if someone else takes the lead with starting a group.

I’ve even thought about doing an occasional volunteer show at one or both Transplant houses if they’d be open to it because I think it would be a very fun & meaningful way to give back & return the support I’ve been given from them.

I know it will be awhile before that happens, but I think it would be an extremely good time, for everyone involved.

It’s always good to have a few goals set to shoot for.




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