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June, 2013

“Marathon” Means “A Place With Fennel,” Seriously

By Ryan Hill

You know what “Marathon” means in Greek? It means “a place with fennel,” as in the herb. Seriously.

You see, sometime before 490 BC (it’s difficult to find the exact date because the history gets all caught up in a legend about a runner and leaves out important things like the founding of a town) some Greeks settled in a place where a lot of fennel grew. Fennel (“marathos” in Greek) is useful for making tasty food, and as a medicine, so that makes sense. The town founders could’ve used some improv training, as they called it “A Place With Fennel,” which, in Greek, is “Marathon.”

Somewhere around 2500 years ago the Persian Empire invaded Greece. I’m not going to actually recommend the film “300,” but that film is, sort of, about that conflict. Well, it’s actually, sort of, about the Second Persian Invasion of Greece, which started in 480 BC, which is later. The First Persian Invasion of Greece started in 492 BC, 12 years earlier. That BC stuff always messes with my head, sort of.

The Greeks (mostly Athenians) put a stop to the first invasion near the town of Marathon. This victory proved that the Persians could be beaten, and set the stage for the Greeks ultimate triumph in the larger conflict, which led to 200 years of advancement of Greek civilization: you know, little things like philosophy, democracy, mathematics, science, theater, gyros! Some have even argued that the Battle of Marathon was a major turning point in history and that our world would be wildly different if the Greeks had lost.

Let’s go with that.

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Marathon Musings Before Leaving Austin

by Kayla Lane Freeman

Since I started improv in Austin in late 2010, I’ve always been attracted to the diversity and cross-pollination of the Austin improv community. I studied at three different theaters, and I’ve performed at all five of them in town. I’ve made close friends and connections with people of widely varying play styles, philosophies and tastes. I’ve gluttonously sampled from the entire AIC buffet. A few months into my classes, one of my first teachers, Andy Crouch, deemed me “a lifer”, for it didn’t take me very long to be enraptured by this art of extemporaneous creation. Falling in love with improv happened alongside falling in love with Austin improv. The paths are so closely linked, that it’s hard for me to separate my affection for the two.

Because of this love, I’m incredibly excited to be a core cast member of this year’s 44-hour Improv Marathon. I volunteered and performed in the 42 and 43-hour marathons, and I believe this event truly typifies the variety and camaraderie that makes Austin improv so great. I’m excited to play formats I know I love (Coldtowne’s Bat), formats I’ve long wanted to try (Confidence Men’s Mamet), and the formats I think will be especially challenging for me (bring it on, Start Trekkin’). I’m one lucky cat. I get to do my favorite thing in the world for three days straight, while lieges of fun and talented people from all five theaters come to play with, challenge and support me and my sleep-deprived comrades.

Despite all my love for Austin Improv, I will be moving to Chicago about a week after the marathon wraps, for wanderlust knows no better host than a 21-year old with an arts and humanities degree and no appealing job prospects. Having never lived in a cold climate, I fear the day that I’ll long for the smothering oppression of triple-digit Texas heat and the odd sensation of sweating inside an air-conditioned space. But more so, I dread the day that the Midwest winters become routine, and I fall in love with Chicago. When that day comes, my heart really will be split in two. A part of me will always remain rooted deep in the heart of breakfast tacos, too many festivals, and the hodgepodge improv community that, to me, symbolizes Austin.

Performing in the 44-Hour Improv Marathon feels like a perfect sendoff — an excellent way to commemorate being a part of a community that I love so much. Improvisers, instead of making small talk with me at a party in some bar two weeks from now, I hope you’ll be playing in one of the shows over the course of the marathon weekend. And if not, I hope you come see a show. Even if I am psycho or sweaty or grumpy or exhausted, I know I will be happy to see you to say hello – and also to say goodbye.

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