Yes, and watch me now.

I’ve graduated from several things. High school, college, CELTA, potty training (debatable)–and today, I graduated from Second City’s Improv Program.

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10 months ago I moved to Chicago. I had no long-term housing, only 10 hangers, and didn’t know anyone. On a muggy Wednesday last August, I sat in a room with 19 strangers and wondered if this would be my tribe.

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Was I right in having moved halfway around the world from Korea for this? Would they get me? When would I eat Korean BBQ again (still unanswered, which is unacceptable)?

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Then…a woman with a foreign accent slammed open the door and shouted “You must get out of building, the roof is on fire!”

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And ever since then, we’ve been stuck with each other. Sure, we’ve subtracted and added some members as the months went on; scheduling and life and new jobs and such, but overall, these people were my lifeline.

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I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to Wednesdays so much. From 11am-2pm I got to see these stone-cold weirdos, then eat lunch and frantically scribble nonsense for my 4-7pm Writing class, which will continue until August.

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It feels pretty unreal to think that next Wednesday morning I won’t see them. Not Jolie’s I-just-came-from-the-gym-but-I-probably-look-better-than-you-did-at-prom stylings, nor Scott’s this-is-just-improv-but-I’m-singing-this-operatic-scene-like-the-pro-I-am and Patrick’s I-broke-my-kid’s-ankle-beating-him-in-capture-the-flag moves.

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These people have supported me, loved me, encouraged me, let me cry on them (even ugly cry) and championed me in ways I haven’t deserved. We were all just a group of strangers trying to follow our fear or defeat our anxiety or live our dream and our willingness to be open on this journey and love each other has changed my life. Not a joke.

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I promised myself (and my family and friends and the rest of y’all) that I was going to give this comedy thing at least a year. I owed it to myself to try it. To see if it’s a real thing, a true thing, or if it’s a fling.

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I think it’s a thing, guys. And I’m not going anywhere yet.

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The roof, the roof, the roof was on fire. No, really.

Also known as: “The true story of how my X-(Wo)Man powers manifested for the first time ever during a class at Xavier’s School For Comedy Nerds and hence I tried to burn my own dreams to the ground.”

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I was only 20 minutes early to class yesterday, which David Brown should be proud of; I’m still not 100% used to relying on public transit everyday and my 3-hours early to the airport brain was still in full effect. I ran into Starbucks to get a donut to go pee. I mean, I probably didn’t need the donut, but a) I didn’t want to be THAT early and b) having worked retail, I get really neurotic about using bathrooms where I feel like I don’t deserve it/haven’t bought anything. That sounds weird but makes sense in my brain, I promise. Also I just wanted to smash a donut into my face what more do you want from me?!

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I walked through the hallway between Adobo Grill and Starbucks on my way to my first ever class at Second City, trying to just be cool and not pulling a Disney princess spinning moment in the lobby.

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Improv A will usually meet on the 3rd floor, but because summer intensives are finishing this week, they had us go to the 1st floor…which is a little bit less shiny and gorgeous, but still. SECOND CITY CLASS, Y’ALL. We could be in a literal dungeon and I would still be excited.

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When I came in at 10:57am, there were about 15 people sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the room and it was dead silent. Not even a sniffle. I quietly sat in a chair between two guys, and tried to melt into the walls. 2 minutes later, our teacher, Kevin Reome arrived and we started class by taking roll, moving into some fun games to loosen us up physically and mentally as well as learn each other’s names.

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As we kept building on one of the games, each level gave us more info about each other starting with names, favorite band, favorite movie and finally, birthplace. When it came to my turn and I said “Bellingham,” one guy on my left said “ooooh” and I looked at him and thought “there’s probably a million Bellinghams, right?” and because the game was fast-paced and ongoing, I didn’t really think about it again until his turn, when he said “Seattle.”

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We made eye contact, and as he said “I went to Western,” my little heart burst with such joy. Dumb, yeah yeah, but having just moved here less than a month ago, it was so…”nice” sounds like too trite of a word, but sure, nice to have someone know where I was from. Ryan and I chatted on the break and he knew where Lynden was. LYNDEN. Tiny, little, Dutch, don’t-buy-alcohol-on-Sundays-Lynden!

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We all jumped into another game, and about 15 minutes after the break…

No, but really. Suddenly, a woman opens the door to our classroom and shouts in a Slavic accent “You must get out of building, the roof is on fire!”

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We all looked at each other and at Kevin like, “is this…is this like a thing? Is this a hazing thing?” because come on. A Russian woman shouting that there is a fire on the roof on your first day of the first class of improv comedy? It was like they were insulting our intelligence.

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But Kevin grabbed his bag and said “let’s go,” and we all hustled outside, back through the labyrinth of halls out to the Piper’s Alley lobby, and then we smelled (but didn’t see) smoke. The Piper’s Alley building (where Second City lives) is a 4 story building, and if there is smoke smells all the way on the 1st floor…something was clearly going down.

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We exited out to North Ave and saw 4 fire trucks had already closed the street and a couple of hundred people were on the far side, taking photos and talking. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone kind of forgot we were back there in the dungeon…I mean, clearly everyone else is already out and the calvary closed the street during the time for…whatever. Eventually someone remembered and, foreshadowing: the fire never got down to the 1st floor so ultimately we would have been fine and never the wiser until class let out 45 minutes later.

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It doesn’t look terrible, right? This is about 5 minutes after we came outside, 12:56pm. We snuggled our 17-person class together as Kevin told us, “we’re definitely not going to be allowed back in, so class is done and I’ll see you all next week Wednesday.” Half the class left, and those of us who stuck around soon realized that as the smoke got heavier we were standing around getting cancer, so we went moved east, out of the wind pattern.

Ryan and I rounded the corner onto Wells St to find a bar and grab a beer, since we would have class at 4pm again together (Writing 1), and we saw what looked like the heaviest part of the smoke coming out of the 4th floor/roof above Adobo Grill and several Second City offices.

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I mean, it didn’t look great, it’s a FIRE, but it still looked minor-ish and like something that would be resolved in time for us to have class in about 3 hours. We grabbed a beer in Corcoran’s Grill across from Second City, and chatted about where we were from, why we were taking classes, and such. We noticed that more and more people were coming in from the back door of the bar, but no one was leaving out the front…when we peeked out the windows, we saw that they’d closed the sidewalk and that the fire was most assuredly not improving.

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Yeah…we’re not having class today. Ryan headed home and I stuck around for another hour, actually running into my professor for our writing class and meeting him for the first time, and walked back out to the intersection of Wells and North to see the full scale of damage. It was not pretty. I hadn’t realized quite how bad/far spread it was, having stood only on one side most of the fire, but it was extensive. About 5 minutes after this picture I couldn’t even see down North Avenue past that tree.

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I had a moment here, on the corner, where I actually wondered, “what if there isn’t a Second City left?” What if I moved my life here from Korea and the dream is drifting away in little ash flecks from pictures of Bill Murray? Which is kind of dramatic, and rude, considering there are a million and one amazing options for comedy and training in Chicago, such as iO, Annoyance, CIC and so many more.

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The Chicago Fire Department reported that over 150 personnel were deployed for the 3-alarm fire, and you could tell. So many fire trucks, ambulances, support vehicles and people were present, shutting down the streets in every direction and while I was a little disappointed that Jesse Spencer and Mouch never showed up, it was still impressive how much coordination I saw between firefighters, paramedics, police, reporters and even the bystanders.

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Hello, news helicopters.

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Oops. Caught.

Around 3 I decided that since I wasn’t making a difference, was probably in way and definitely had way too many pictures, I grabbed a bus and headed to early dinner with Joanna, a former co-worker from K. Hogwarts (she still works there). So, something good did come out of that fire, I suppose, because we didn’t think we’d be able to meet up due to my classes and her schedule, but we did! We gorged ourselves on chicken at Crisp (where her brother works), laughed, reminisced, licked our fingers and chatted about life.

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Photo stolen from Joanna, but taken by her brother, who makes damn fine chicken.

I’m still not sure what they’ll do about classes for the future; it seems like the offices were destroyed but the theaters are safe. For the full story, including details of how the fire started, here’s the Chicago Tribune’s report and photos from the Chicago Fire Department’s official Twitter that show some of the damage.

So…how was your first day of school?

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Waiting and Waiting and Waiting Some More.

I wanted to wait to blog until after tomorrow, my first Second City class, because that’s what I’m here for, right? I’m so excited I could barf. I’m so terrified I could barf.

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But I wanted to blog about this feeling (not the barf one), the waiting. The ‘just wait’ season I’m in is about to end and I’m so glad because I am not great at it. I feel like Rapunzel in Tangled just dancing around my hair jungle and asking my stuffed totoro “When will my life beginnnnnnn?!”

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I finished my job at K. Hogwarts on May 31, spent June in Japan and Korea, traveling, saying goodbye, etc. July 1 I flew home, fought a WWE bout with jetlag, loved on/with my family and friends, and flew to Tulsa on July 22, seeing folks, driving to Little Rock on the 24th to chill with my friend family and finally, driving to Chicago with Michael on July 31.

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I’ve spent August pretty much just…sitting. It is the worst. It’s great to sit for a weekend. It’s great to vacation for a week. Or two. But having spent 3 months (THREE MONTHS!) now not working, not having structure, not having a patch of space that is mine mine mine is…exhausting. Which is probably the most pathetic first-world problem ever, says I, a white woman sitting in a Starbucks and blogging on a $2500 laptop.

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But it’s true. I moved out of my Korea apartment on June 6, and since then, have stayed in people’s apartments and houses, and I’m so grateful, truly. I am just tired of traveling out of suitcases (even though I have stuff hung up in my place now), and I want to just have my space to hang stuff on the walls, eat off of dishes I haven’t seen in 2 years, laugh/cry about what I thought was worth saving before I emigrated.

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Since I have had almost nothing on my calendar, I’ve become a weird, nocturnal squirrel. Probably more like a gremlin, if we’re being honest, since I like to eat after midnight and do occasionally shower. I go to sleep anywhere from 3-4:30, waking up from 11-12 (once, 12:45), and I don’t consider myself fully awake until 1-2pm. Which is ok on a Saturday or vacation, but other humans don’t subscribe to my hours, so I find myself watching unhealthy amounts of Criminal Minds, convinced someone is going to kidnap me from my basement room; I talked to Kevin, the dog of the people I’m staying with, holding long conversations about how much poop we could fit in the plastic bags I was carrying (hers, not mine); I probably have enough frequent flyer points at Walgreens to open my own franchise; you get it, I get it…

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HOW I LOOK SO GOOD

I AM BORED, PEOPLE. BORED. And I realize that it’s no one’s fault but my own–I’ve ventured out to get a library card (nerd), walk the dog, get groceries, explored the Broadcast museum downtown (free admission AND free Rice Krispie treats, can I get a HELL YES [also, nerd]), walked the dog some more, fallen in love with Matthew Gray Gubler’s muppet-isms, had some beers with a couple of new and re-activated friends, picked up dog poop in bathtub, ordered weird stuff online (including your birthday present, Brianna, YAY!), Skyped people I love and miss, laundry from sitting around in own filth, this list sounds impressive except its been FOUR WEEKS of this.

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But finally, it seems about to change. Classes at SC start tomorrow, I just signed paperwork for a job that starts on Friday…finally I have a reason to get out of the house before 9am…I’m just ready to go. To try the damn thing that I moved from Korea to do.

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YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! *pumps fist*

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Hello, Chicago.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks on Irving Park. In Chicago. I live here now.

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No, really! I do. I am.

I came home from Korea on July 1 and spent 3 jet-lagged, laughing, warm/hot/muggy weeks with my family. I got to meet my giggly poundcake niece, Olivia, take Zoe on a walk to the park, eat green beans right off the vine from my Nana’s garden, have sweaty grass hugs from my Papa, listen to Brianna rap in the car, shoot some jugs full of water in the backyard with Dad, cook all my favorite foods with Mom, watch Em drive and start basketball games and come home from a One Direction concert like me after BigBang’s. It was wonderful.

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Then I flew to Tulsa, hugged a lot of people, ate some real barbecue (MY GAWWWWWWWD YES), and went to Little Rock. Where I then proceeded to hug even *more* people, ate more real barbecue and other assorted favorite foods. Someone tell me why my pants are tighter… And then Michael and I drove me up to Chicago (with a pitstop in BFE Missouri to see Casey & Steven, my favorites), dragging a beached whale of a U-Haul trailer halfway across the country to start my new life.

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So, I’m here. And in less than a month, I’m starting classes at the Second City Training Center. The home of comedy legends. And here I am, a 27-year old woman who majored in Broadcast Journalism at a small Christian college, who worked for the retail arm of the #1 company in the world, who just spent 2 years teaching in Korea and traveling in Asia…jumping off of a cliff. A metaphorical cliff.

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Except I am. At least a little. Right now, I’m walking around my neighborhood, Albany Park (unofficial Koreatown, which is kind of hilarious in the context of my life); learning a new bus system, carrying pepper spray (yes, Dad, its in my bag now). And I’m not scared of Chicago–not smart–thanks to 2 years of super safe life in Korea. I’m scared that I’m going to be bad at this–that I will have romanticized comedy and my role in that world.

I like comedy. A lot. I like performing it. A lot. I love when something I’ve said or done can make someone laugh, in any language. And I don’t know if Second City and improv and sketch writing is my niche. But I feel like it’s now or it’s never for this step–before I don’t have the funds or the ability to go, before I have another person’s dreams to consider or tiny humans who look half like me run around–I want to try.

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So I’m here. And I’m about to try. And I’m looking forward to where this next step in my life is going. I know a lot of you are as well–your texts, messages, calls and prayers are all balm to my heart. They are tamping down the doubt and insecurity that threaten to overwhelm me in a gas station bathroom in rural Lick Creek, Illinois and every time I look at Amy Schumer sketches and think “could I do that?”

So, to parallel how I began this blog over 2 years ago, the night before I left for Korea, I’m taking a deep breath and thinking:

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Thingamabobs (you know, I got 20).

In the words of my Korean non-husband (WHO IS HAVING A COMEBACK ANNOUNCED TODAY), “long time no see long time no see.”

Here’s what you missed in the last 4 months on “Glee:”

  • Pizza Hut is the husband I tried to cheat on with McDonald’s, the evil, non-delivering, dicks and yet Pizza Hut lovingly takes me back like Hosea’s wife and delivers me gorgeous, glorious pizza with no trauma or difficulty or Korean. Website here
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  • me trying to teach kids how to say “freckles” and explaining it in Korean only to discover I’ve been saying “줄넘기 (julnumgi aka jump rope) instead of “주근깨 (jugeunggae aka freckles)” FOR MONTHS. MONTHS. “Hey kids, look at all the cute jump ropes ON YOUR FACE.” Not nightmare-inducing at all, I’m sure.
  • getting into an existential crisis about how I’m now Korean 29 years old (read this for why) and I’m like one foot in Ms. Havisham territory despite the fact I TURNED 27 JUST 3 MONTHS AGO. I’ve slid over into the mental block of being 29 and I can’t claw back out.
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  • doing one of those quizzes where you put your music on shuffle and answer questions to only get “This song describes how you will die: Too Much Food-Jason Mraz” and “This song will play at your wedding: Rollin’ Home Alone – Jason Lytle” which is unacceptable and hence I’m never playing again because my iTunes is clearly out to get me and artists named “Jason” are dicks.
  • met a guy from Bellingham who went to Sehome High School on my birthday in Seoul at a random, hole-in-the-wall bar and he kissed me on the cheeks 3x as he told me to smell a fir tree for him when I went home (I did).
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  • I’ve been writing down my dreams and you guys, you should all try this. There are some real gems, such as “at one point I reached up and touched his right bicep as part of the dance. then we took a weird group photo where someone sat on me and i was their legs. ” as well as “i was at first on horseback and we were like, trying to catch a old murder/solve on a and were riding down the hill behind the now food pavilion in lynden. […] then other people came and i fake slit my own throat and laid down in the water and watched what they did.” Just…even weirder things going on in my sleep, guys.
  • I need to throw out a shoutout to O’Fallon Brewery for spotting me a 6pack, and my former co-worker John Mitchell for draggin it over halfway around the world. I told none of my other fiends about this because you best believe I gollum’d those real hard and told NO ONE MY PRECIOUSES WHEACH BEER JUST FOR ME.
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  • Just was gifted some gummy bears from a student and the bag said “made with real fruit juice” and let me tell you that is a nightmare waiting to happen. I used to work on a raspberry harvester and when the season is done and limping out with its’ tail between it’s legs, that’s when you do “juice” barrels (or some farms just do juice only). If you’re lucky, there’s a sorter sitting there throwing out the weirdest stuff (dead birds, worms, plastic bread ties, mold, unsolved CSI mysteries), but usually, there’s not. They are literally pulling blood from whatever turnips (raspberries or whatever else) go across the belt. So the next time you see “made with real fruit juice,” you better start hoping you get one of the *good* superpowers.
  • Saw my first Korean celebrity, “God of Asia” Lee Min Ho, when I went to H&M for a pair of leggings and emerged empty-handed to about 250 people outside the doors looking expectantly towards the black, heavily-tinted bus in the street. I grabbed a passing Korean girl and, gesturing at the bus, asked “누구세요?” (who is it?) and when she replied I shouted “진짜?!” (REALLY?!) in her face like a grown-ass woman clearly in control of her faculties. And let me tell you, it is unfair for him to actually be so good-looking in real life. There is some weird juju going on there. anigif_enhanced-buzz-14966-1389606273-34 vs IMG_0592
  •  Had an impromptu 8.5-year high school reunion when I was home and everyone is married to everyone else’s somebody and half of the people are showing baby pictures and it was great. Beer and people you used to be afraid of sharing bottomless fries with you is just magical. Also, when you see a guy that 16-year old you had a huge crush on and 27-year old you is still like tumblr_lu5jnkcTFs1qd3x44 then you know it’s time to go before you embarrass yourself and his mom (hi Leslie!).
  • I have less than 2 months left in Korea. I know. It’s weird. I’ve decided to go ahead and pursue a year (at least) of Second City improv comedy training in Chicago. Yeah, dreams! I can’t even tell you exactly what I’m going to do with it, but unless I want to be a shriveled up “what if” grandma wondering about it…I’m going to do it now, before the aforementioned fake Korean husband locks this down. Classes start August 17 and before then I’ll wrap up Korea life, travel to 3-4 Asian countries (Japan, Philippines are locked, possibly also Thailand, Cambodia and/or a Vietnam, China) and then be home for a couple of weeks, Tulsa/Little Rock for a week and then the great migration to the Windy City around August 1.

I’ll let my spirit animal, Adele, close us out.

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Acting out.

I should write more often. But because I should, I won’t. I don’t. It’s been over a month now since my last post, and that’s ok. Things here at the Village keep on trucking; we’ve had a lovely and slow 3-4 weeks thanks to exams and grade changeover in the Korean schools. Most of us had the opportunity to co-teach with several different coworkers, giving some new insight and ideas into classrooms and management. I was most definitely blessed to see a big variety of classes and work with some of my favorite people and see how they run their classrooms, which is great. 

I’ve just signed here for my second year at DGEV, which will renew as of June 1. I’ve found a lot of happiness in teaching our university and adult students, and without further education on my part, I wouldn’t be able to do that at a university or college in Korea. I’m really honored to have the chance to lead the Adult Program with my 6-year partner-in-crime-and-chocolate, David Brown. He’s heading out April 1st, but he’ll get me up to speed and then we will have a large ceremony where he will transfer his power to me by the ritual passing of the sock puppet, a hallowed tradition. 

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On a personal note (I mean, clearly this website is all about me, so of course it’s all personal), I am positively chuffed (thanks Brit friends!) to say that I did my first real acting yesterday. After a power-course of rehearsal all day yesterday, Daryl, Nikki, Rae and I produced something beautifully insane and genuinely fun. We were one of 8 groups participating in the first ever Daegu 10 Minute Play Festival. Our story, “The Zister Sisters” was written by someone in the Carolinas, and depicts 3 strange sisters’ attempt to check their mother into a nursing facility. The youngest sister, Edith (Rae), is lovably, laughably lost, 20 and still waiting on her Hogwarts letter. Elaine (Nikki) is the middle sister, and hasn’t been home for 10 years–she’s currently sporting an English accent and some suggestive business wear. The oldest sister, Edna (meeeeee) is fed up with the fact that she has to care for their 86-year old mother, Edith, and herself, having just divorced Ben Isaacs, “a rich old one-eyed Jew man from Detroit” who cheated on her with the produce lady from the Piggly Wiggly. Hilarity ensues as the sisters clash and the director of admissions, Fleming (Daryl) tries to keep the peace. 

I thought I was going to mess everything up. All 3 of my castmates have done acting (Nikki was even in the Les Mis film, SHE SO LEGIT) and I was convinced I *was* the weakest link, goodbye, embarrassed that 10 of my friends from work paid money to see me ruin the thing. BUT I DIDN’T RUIN IT. It was funny and great and magical and I didn’t throw up and my voice didn’t shake and I love, loved hearing people laugh. It was like a superpower. I even got a message from a friend of mine who I really respect as a writer with a lovely, warm compliment and I’m just bursting. I’m so grateful to my friends for coming, for laughing, for buying me drinks after and most of all, for putting up with me. 

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(me, Rae, Nikki and Daryl)

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People I am lucky to call friends and work with (plus Marty and Elins, who came too)!