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Reflections on Wanderlust

by Wanderlust cast member Ceej Allen

I don’t like mirroring.  Rather, I used to not like it.  Mirroring, for those who don’t know, is when two improvisers face each other and try to copy each other’s movements.  To mirror each other.  To move around in some wavy, twisty way that always used to feel artificial or forced to me  This exercise has made me so self-conscious in the past.  What the heck does this exercise have to do with us getting on stage and interacting?  We’re not gonna do this twisty weird thing on stage so why bother?  Why am I moving and bending with my twin snake?

And then Wanderlust rehearsals began.  And we did the mirroring exercise.  Over and over and over again.  And then something clicked with me.  I felt relaxed.  I moved with my partners and let my intellect fly away.  I just felt and moved.  Wow!  And these exercises advanced into even bigger physical exercises.  And then we started creating movements in a large group.  We started creating moving tableaux that were either physical elements displaying a location or an emotional resonance within the characters.

Co-directors Ruby Willmann and Aaron Saenz have a strong vision of this show.  And they are putting us all through the motions of creating this as a unit.  They trust us.  And we trust them.  But it’s not just creating stage pictures. What’s beautiful about Wanderlust is that it is a show where two people get to talk and interact and take a road trip together.  Two people.  For ninety minutes (with beautiful interview moments from other cast members). Discussing life, emotions, real things.   An improv show about two characters connecting while so many other amazing connections are happening all around them.

I am so excited about this show because it is all about sharing.  Sharing our hearts and intellect as duos verbally while those duos share the stage with an ensemble that will create stage pictures and movements that will echo emotions and paint beautiful visuals.  And (here’s the bonus) all of this will often be inspired by lighting and music from our amazing tech crew, Chad Wellington and Michael Yew.  All of us sharing.  Yes, please.

Imagine two improvisers set up to be in a forest.  Imagine a forest forming around them.  That’s what happened in a scene during rehearsal with Chris Albano and myself.  The ensemble grew around us as trees and we climbed them while having a heartfelt conversation about our father.  The lights and music shifted and matched the tone.  Imagine all of the sharing and mirroring that happened to create that.  That’s the beauty of Wanderlust.

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The Journey to Wanderlust

by Wanderlust director Ruby Willmann

In sixth grade, my class and I were assigned to make a token for our school to commemorate our graduation from the safe place of elementary school into the scary and daunting world of junior high. So, as a class, we decided to make stepping stones that would snake through the school’s front garden. We raised money for one bag of wet concrete and we each brought knick-knacks from our houses. We matted the concrete into circular shapes the sizes of our faces, and, as others placed their favorite colored marbles or action figurines into the concrete, I ripped out the pages of an old storybook and carefully pressed the tattered words into my sticky stepping stone. Why? Because at twelve years old, the most personal thing I could offer was my love for storytelling.

Now, twelve years later, as my husband and I prepare to move away from Austin to Los Angeles, I find myself leaving one last token, one last mark. It’s the one thing that has proven to be the only way for me to truly leave a bit of myself behind – a story.

Wanderlust tells the tale of two friends embarking on a journey together. We see this through the lens of a memory which allows us to bend reality because, as many of us know, memories and storytelling go hand in hand. Our emotions color our experiences, our regrets influence our recollections, and we relive our memories through a filter of hopes and wishes and wonder. Wanderlust creates a stage where reality battles perception, and, through it all, our two heroes undergo a shared journey of love, laughter and discovery.

I didn’t expect that while attempting to bring this show to life onstage, I would find myself simultaneously living it out offstage. But before I knew it, Wanderlust had jumpstarted a shared journey between myself and my co-director, Aaron Saenz. Through pitch creations, auditions, casting, countless meetings and rehearsals, every stage of this project tested, amplified and solidified the friendship Aaron and I shared. As we directed a make-believe show centering around a single, fictitious relationship, I found myself discovering, developing and delighting in a single friendship worthy of fiction. This project went from being mine to being ours, and with that, Wanderlust truly came to life.

In truth, solitary storytelling inevitably becomes as hard and stale as the stepping stone I made when I was twelve. In sixth grade I read so many books and wrote so many stories, but I always read and wrote them alone. Today, however, I write them with others, and the light that these stories shine has yet to lead me astray.

I wanted to write this blog before Wanderlust premiered because I wanted to emphasize that this story, while far from finished, has already taken on a life of its own. It is already filled with love. It is already filled with heart. It is already a success. I will always remember this road, and I will always remember I travelled it with friends. Ironically, in my effort to leave a bit of myself behind, I ended up discovering a new part of myself to take with me when I leave.

An incredible thank you to the performing cast and tech of Wanderlust for taking on such an extremely ambitious and vulnerable show. Thank you to the Hideout Theater for placing trust in Aaron and me. And thank you most of all to Aaron for being my steadfast companion through this unforgettable journey.

We would love to see you in the audience of Wanderlust as we bring memories to life every Saturday at 8pm, in January and February at The Hideout Theater.

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