First Day Teaching!

I’ve been TAing for a while now at the Institution theatre and I’m finally getting my chance to teach my first class. I’m not usually someone who likes to do things in the evening (perfect for an actor, right?) but I decided my time has come and when they offered I was ready to jump. This evening at 7 pm I will be leading a class of people through something that I love to perform and will hopefully love to teach.

Over the course of the last six months I’ve been learning under some of the improvisers that I admire most here in Austin. Ted, Sarah Marie and Asaf have been amazing to work with and I’m not even nervous about the class thanks to their tutelage.

After a long and very trying weekend I’m looking forward to venting through my improv. I love how I usually can’t stand rehearsal but when I think about leading two and a half hours of lessons I get pretty excited. I know at this point I can’t philosophise about all of things that I’d like to but I can share my experiences and my skill that I’ve gained working for over 20 years as an improviser. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I started performing, making things up and growing through some really shitty personality traits all the while.

I’m not perfect, no way, no how, and I’m not even close to the nicest person I know but man I used to be mean, spiteful and pretty darn harsh to those around me. I was always defensive and rude and I deflected the joke before it could hit me. Then I stumbled upon the world of making the other person look good, the world of improv. It wasn’t until nearly two decades later that I realized that that was just what happened. On stage I was not on the defensive, I was playing with friends. I was there to make them look good and they were there to make me look good. Holy hell, what a revelation!

Now to go make some students look good. :)

That’s all I wrote



Back in Colorado. Sorely missing Alaska, but glad to be almost home.



We finished up the trip so well! The shows were all fantastic.

2014-02-22 18.34.36

2014-02-22 18.35.19


Here is the cast from Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. It was a good show, and a great experience to memorize lines again.



Behind the scenes at the theatre we had some great artwork to look at. I LOVED THIS PIECE. I don’t know how Royce felt about it. DSCN0470

It was done in Maori of New Zealand style, by an Australian woman who lives in Alaska and Arizona. That enough diversity for ya?

On the flip-side we had a great improv show as well. Each was a week apart and worlds apart to boot. I can’t imagine two more different shows but laughs were a common theme.


I love laughing with my husband! Love it, love him.

DSCN0399After all the hard work of putting together dozens of programs for the show Austin and I went on a photo safari.

I love coffee houses, in AK they are mostly little trailers all over the place so we took a walking tour to see everything we could, and a few other things along the way.

DSCN0412(Seriously, how well does he fit in Alaska? He’s like the king of the Salmon)

DSCN0415Over the river and through the town. We got a great look at the thawing river with some nice jet trail like clouds above us.

DSCN0426I hugged a bear.

DSCN0428Austin hugged a bear.

Then we got to coffee-house searchin’. It’s not really that hard, they’re everywhere and they are usually staffed by adorable high schoolers. They must be permanently hopped up on sugar. Every time I asked for a regular Americano without room, without flavor, without anything they had to pause before starting. This concept must not be common. 2014-02-24 16.00.062014-02-24 16.00.12-1

They may not have been used to us walking up either. You gotta do what you gotta do when you only have one car for four people!

2014-02-24 16.17.56I love coffee-house stickers.


I’m not sure where the Java Junction 1 is. DSCN0448

The Daily Buzz featured a “buddy window”.

DSCN0449I love the theming on this one.

DSCN0451This one really committed to the rustic Alaskan theme.

DSCN0459This fine lady was my favorite. Nothing like anthropomorphic sexy foxes to sell your coffee in the dark days of winter. Also, it was the best coffee.

We enjoyed our last night in Soldotna and took some final sunset pictures on our final evening at the Parker house.

DSCN0460 DSCN0462


UP NEXT: The final leg in Anchorage!









Going back in time (I forgot to blog)

So as I was writing in bed this morning and looking through my pics I realized that I haven’t written about so much that has gone on here! I’m no realizing this because I think you all missed out on something. This is my travel journal and I put it out there for me. If we ever have a kid, I’ll probably put it here rather than FB. If people want to see my awesome kid, they can come here. I’m not going to force that on FB, or whatever Social Media platform the current people will use.

So, going back in time a few days…Austin, Royce and I decided to use our hard-earned American Monies to go back to Vernonica’s and have some of her (don’t know if there is a her) amazing food. DSCN0291 DSCN0289

Austin took a picture of this little Russian church. One of the oldest in Kenai, maybe Alaska?

Then we went back to the house and Royce and Makena taught us how to play Small World. They are gaming people and this is one of their favorite games. It was fun and they were so patient with us new guys.

DSCN0292After a nice little spell of sitting we went hiking at what we found out was a Ski trail! Oops!

I did find this nice sign. Way to be descriptive Alaska.

DSCN0293We finally found a place for hikers to hike where we didn’t feel like we were trespassing. DSCN0299 DSCN0301 DSCN0305 DSCN0308I like the feet picture. I love boots, I love the cold. It’s making me sad just thinking about coming back to Austin.

DSCN0310Very cool tree. DSCN0311

Our nice loop, I think we’ll go back and do the lake hike but that will have to wait until we get back from Homer.

Then we went to Makena’s family’s house and they let us go into their old place for a SAUNA! After a hike and an epsom salt bath this was amazing. I also informed Austin that I would be marrying the colors of the sky at night.


Really shitty picture of the inside of the super sauna.DSCN0315I love hot saunas. You can sit in there for a while and then practically run naked in the woods for a while after. We slept like babies that night. Long hike, long sauna, and the closing ceremony of the Olympics.

Did you see the fucking crying bear? I couldn’t handle it. I lost my shit. I was gone. Way to go Russia.


D’oh! Back to Homer, AK!

So we finally have a few days to travel after ‘Barefoot in the Park’ Closed last week. Austin and I decided to head back to Homer because we had such a short time there during our first trip to Seldovia. 2014-02-15 12.41.00-2

Remember these amazing people? They were our guest Seldovians.

Anyway, I remembered that there were suites above the bakery that we ate at TWO SISTERS, last time we were here and they are pretty affordable for how damn cute they are. 2014-02-25 12.23.03

Austin got right to work for a while. He wanted to finish up with some customers so I took pictures around the cute little suite. 2014-02-25 12.22.30

They had some issues with the heat so we had to keep our windows open all night! Oh, darn! It’s not like we love looking out to this or anything. 2014-02-25 12.23.21

Homer is one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen. It’s like Lord of the Rings, with a beach and good coffee. That’s the best way I think I can describe it.

2014-02-25 12.25.29Here’s some proof of Austin working hard while I play with mirrors.

After I got a bit more of my work done we decided to go on a hike. There were a few trails at the Homestead trailhead that were open to snowshoers but it was really confusing! We hiked along a few paths and just generally had fun in the snow on a really warm day, I think it was about 38, PERFECT for hiking. 2014-02-25 13.00.36 2014-02-25 13.42.07 2014-02-25 14.29.41 2014-02-25 14.40.31

I wish I had taken more pictures after this but we were SO tired! We both decided to go back to the suite and snack on what we call ‘APRES CHEESE’ Which is just cheese you eat after you hike, or something like that.

Then we trekked over to a restaurant called Fat Olives that was recommended to us, turns out it was closed so we went instead to a place called CUPS that was seriously fecking amazing. We had all sorts of seafood and it rocked my sweat drenched socks off.

By the time we got back to the hotel after picking up Epsom Salts for our legs (like a boss) and advil for the swelling (also like a boss) we very nearly fell asleep watching a movie shot up here in Alaska ‘The Frozen Ground’ about a real life serial killer that hunted women. It’s like ‘Surviving the Game’ with Ice T, only real.

Now, just for posterity, I’ll inform you all that I am writing this from a comfy bed, in Homer, AK. Watching the clouds move over the pre-dawn mountains and I can’t help but love this moment, where this life has taken me.

Oh, and there are Loons. Did I mention you wake up to the sound of Loons? :)

Getting the Show up and Running

These past few days have been all about Barefoot in the Park. This is the show we’ve spent the most time rehearsing and working on, by far, while we’ve been in Alaska. This show has 90 plus pages of dialogue and I’m on every page except for two. Normally the drama queen in me would be LOVING this, but this was a huge undertaking for me. As the minutes inch closer to opening night tonight I’m getting more than a bit nervous. 

Usually I’m just hanging out in the wings waiting for cues, or backstage goofing off until my scene but I don’t leave the stage for more than two minutes for the whole show. It was pretty scary as I got to really memorizing my lines. I have to say this has been the biggest challenge of my acting career. 

We’re all just waiting at the house right now. Only about a half hour before we make our way down to the theatre for the show, one of only two shows we’re doing up here. I’m glad that we’ll be done with the tough part soon but I’m also increasingly sad because that means our time in Alaska is growing shorter. 

I’ve been working on whittling down items while were here. I’ll leave a bag of coffee with people we meet, leave some extra clothes at a donation bin. It seems this trip has been about shedding layers and more layers. I’m picking up the things that mean the most right now. Hard work skills that I should have been using for a long time as an actor. And while it’ll be good to get back to Improv (my favorite performing outlet) I’m going to miss the straight up acting of this show. It may not be my best performance and we’ve only had 10 rehearsals but I think we’ve given it all we have to give. And just two short hours after the show starts it will be done. Then just 24 hours past that, the show will be over forever. Gone. Nothing more. Just like every improv show. Never to be revisited in the same way again. 

Everyone has worked their butts off for this little can-do show. People have put in hard work and I’m excited about these two performances. I know in the grand scheme of things, hell, even the grand scheme of Alaska, we’re in a small venue in a small town but it gives me a small sense of the magic I felt while watching Slings & Arrows, and tonight, when I go onstage I’ll be hearing that magical chime-y music knowing that all the learning, all the education, all the life I’ve led has kept me on stage. I can’t help but smile.

Your Moose is Loose and I’m riding a Salmon

Over this past weekend we had our second round of out-of-town gigs. We had two shows and one workshop. We wanted to get up early on Friday to get to Homer as quickly as we could because Royce told us it was a pretty cool town. 

Because Friday was V day we decided to start it off with something sweet. We went to the local bakery The Moose is Loose! and got a cinnamon roll. I had a bit, and it was pretty tasty. They don’t do GF stuff so I mostly abstained but it all looked SOO GOOD. Also, fun little side note, they all wear footie pajamas at work. These ladies were seriously cute and comfy.


This guy greeted us on the way out. Big truck, big dog. DSCN0170We got to Homer pretty quickly, it was only about an hour and a half drive. Then we got the “Airport”. It was really just a building with some guys sitting around talking about whether or not we’d be able to fly in this. 2014-02-14 13.40.15

Turned out the answer was no. The weather didn’t clear up so we got to go on a boat ride! Time to get on the Mako water taxi! I was really happy, and I think we all were. We were not too keen in flying in a small busy plane when the weather was crappy. So we hitched up with Mako’s pilot Gart and he took us over. 2014-02-14 14.59.28 2014-02-14 15.08.21

We found out we were also the grocery delivery for the day so we helped load that all on and we took a quick ride through this for the next 30 mins!2014-02-14 14.59.34

Ok, so it wasn’t all this bad, this was just in the harbor. We got through this pretty quickly and then it was smooth sailing until we got to Seldovia! This town has a winter population of about 200 so we had a great turnout at our show. We assume it was about 20% of the population, how’s that for a good draw?

Seldovia is absolutely stunning, and has NO CELL SERVICE. It was heaven. I loved not being able to check my e-mail, facebook or anything. We just walked, talked and laughed. The city will be on my must visit again list. 2014-02-15 09.55.13

In Seldovia they have a chainsaw festival where they make amazing things from wood using only a chainsaw. This is not your average “Hello Bear” that you see outside of a lot of houses in Colorado and other places. This stuff is legit. 2014-02-15 10.01.38 2014-02-15 10.03.36

How many people can say that they’ve ridden a salmon. Not many. I now count myself among the few. 2014-02-15 10.11.10

Austin took this one using my phone! He’s too talented. Seriously, I’m glad I married that one. :) The boat below is the boat of our Host family. They couldn’t have been any sweeter. 2014-02-15 10.28.14


This is Tobben and Tania. They were the most amazing Alaskan/Norwegian couple. They made great food, great drinks and we had a great time. 2014-02-15 12.38.37

2014-02-15 12.31.54This is our kick-ass water taxi making waves, coming to pick us up. He was going much faster than the picture lets you see. 2014-02-15 12.41.00-2

We all had to say goodbye to our home away from home with Tania and Tobben. We miss them already! I can’t wait to be back in Seldovia. The people were wonderful and, as always, unexpected.

We had to take the water taxi back again because our plane was cancelled the next day as well. We had a gig in Ninilchik in the evening so we had to make a quick getaway up North. We drove by Two Sister’s Bakery…amazing…to grab a cup of coffee and hit the road for our workshop and show. 2014-02-15 12.58.38But before we got off the boat we saw Otter…everywhere!! This is a really lousy picture of an otter mama and her baby on her belly. Gart told us the males can get up to 90 lbs. That’s a friggin huge otter!

We made it to the gig on time and had a great show. They loved getting the chance to see some outside talent and we love sharing it. Improv can be a game changer.

We were totally spent by the time that show was over on Saturday so we went back to our rooms at the AK Supper Club. We hadn’t seen the place yet but we were told it would be amazing. They did not disappoint!

If you’re ever in Ninilchik you must go to the AK Supper Club to stay or eat or both. The owners, Paul and Angela treated us like family. Even though we were smelly, tired and really road weary they offered us wine and brownies. It was like Manna from heaven and we stayed up way too late talking about everything. Life is good.

Just to give you an idea about the scope of the awe this place inspires, this was our view at breakfast. 2014-02-16 08.54.04

We noshed on a breakfast of yogurt, fruit and french toast and then we had to get back up to Soldotna, but not before we could take a picture of the whole gang. 2014-02-16 09.46.02

Why did we have to rush back to Soldotna you ask? Because Royce’s wife Makenna had gotten in from Denver the night before and they needed to be reunited!! And reunited they were. The rest of the weekend was full of more rehearsals and work so all the boring stuff. I prefer to stick to the amazing weekend we had. I’m already ready to go back to Homer and Seldovia. We do have some free time next week…

We’ve got some Wicked Digs

So now that we’re into rehearsals and moving around a lot less I’ve had a chance to take some more pictures of where we really live here in AK. The town of Soldotna is what I keep hearing is a “small fishing village”. I’m sure during the summer it is just that, but during the winter it’s a normal, little town.

Our house belonged to an older couple here in Soldotna and their children are the caretakers now, they were kind enough to let us use their parent’s old house for the month. It’s really amazing.

Panorama of the house

Panorama of the house

Inside of the house

Inside of the house

Game time

Game time

2014-02-09 07.50.38

I don’t know how well you all can see the Panorama of the first floor but it’s a pretty big house. There is a nice large fireplace and a TV but it doesn’t get any channels. This is pretty great because we watched a movie last night and it felt like a total waste of time after playing some of Royce’s fun games every other day of the week. I think we’ll stick to Zombie Dice before we decide to watch another movie again soon.

I’ve been trying to keep up with my workout routine up here but unfortunately Mario isn’t faring so well.

No Mariooooo!

No Mariooooo!

Time to retire?

Time to retire?

After we were up and working we had to go over to do a short radio interview and, of course, three actors would totally ham it up.

Merill and the radio

Merill and the radio

Our big interview

Our big interview

Austin is really taking to selfies

Austin is really taking to selfies

And while we’re living the cheap life of actors we’ve been given a few gift certificates to some local Restaurants so we can actually eat! Yay! This most recent location was an amazing museum of dead animals. They love their animal skins up here, and this place was no different.

Ghost Royce

Ghost Royce

Whole lot of em'

Whole lot of em’

Lot's O animals

Lot’s O animals

Hanging out at the hall of death

Hanging out at the hall of death

Places like this always make me think of Ace Ventura 2, “What a lovely hall of death you have”!

Anyway, I’ve got to get on my lines right now. Have a good night!