JANUARY launched 2014 with our third Big Blue Door Slam bringing together the audience favorites from true stories shows of fall 2013. Miller Murray Susen, Graelyn Brashear, Yousaf Sajid, Clare Terni, Anna Jones and Chris Estey presented a great lineup of stories inspired by the theme ‘Schemes & Dreams.’ Plus great old-time tunes by Green Willis! January also saw winter classes at Live Arts and the Director’s Studio. Plus we were featured for a member interview by Piedmont Council for the Arts.
FEBRUARY featured Big Blue Door Jam storytellers in a special Valentine’s Issue of the C-ville. Congrats to Jammers Ray Nedzel, Elizabeth Derby, Graelyn Brashear, Kelly Kroese, Jenny Mead, Yousaf Sajid, and Miller Murray Susen for the wonderful stories. The issue was a sort of companion to the February Big Blue Door Jam featuring true stories inspired by the theme of ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ by Lauren Ballback, Clare Terni, Miller Murray Susen, Jamie Dyer, Debra Weiss, Tom Clay, and Elizabeth Derby.
Our MARCH Big Blue Door Jam featured true stories by Tyler Frankenberg, Charlie Gilliam, Robert Packard, Lucas Gillenwater, Patsy Emmert, Miller Murray Susen, Tom Clay, and Rosemarie Harper inspired by the theme of ‘The Big Show.’ (Emceed by Jennifer Jones and produced by Graelyn Brashear.) Speaking of the big show our own St Patrick Day extravaganza called Big Blue Door Unhinged was to feature three class shows, but the snows came. We had to cancel and split the show into two. We did two class shows on the top floor of Live Arts. Then the Improv 2 show followed a few days later at the Director’s Studio, but things got stranger when a fuse blew and we didn’t have access to the breaker box. No matter, our intrepid improvisers improvised, running an extension cord into a nearby hall and hooking up one light. The audience added some flashlights and a great show was heard and dimly seen by all! Speaking of classes, March as a milestone: Big Blue Door’s first ever Improv 3 class!
In APRIL a new show format, Big Blue Door to Door, took veteran Jammers Graelyn Brashear, Anna Jones, Mickey Kampsen, Jude Silveira, Elizabeth Derby, and Clare Terni on the road to Four County Players for our first ever road show! Back in Cville the Big Blue Door Jam featured true stories inspired by the theme of ‘Obsession’ by Maggie Thornton, Broocks Willich, Yousaf Sajid, Laura Ingles, Larry Goldstein, Candy Schoner, and Clare Terni. Anna Jones and Ray Nedzel did a tremendous job producing and hosting.
MAY marked our first ever show at BON on South Street. The place was packed for Harold Night, as the Lady Pills, the first-ever graduates of Big Blue Door’s improv program, performed two Harolds. Brian Weisbrod, Deborah Prum, Maya Hislop, Nikolas Hayes, Tyler Frankenberg, Jennifer Slate, Jude Silveira, Stacie McCormack, and Larry Goldstein put on a great show! Congrats to our other Big Blue Door improv graduates, there-in-spirit Wes Young and Nauder Namaky too! May’s Big Blue Door Jam featured Browning Porter, Mickey Kampsen, Bret Jones, Emily Kilroy, Casey Paul, Marty Moore, and Moona Cancino sharing true stories inspired by the theme of ‘Flirtin’ with Disaster’ under the expert auspices of emcee Sean McCord and producer Miller Murray Susen.
In JUNE Big Blue Door produced a World Refugee Day Benefit for the International Rescue Committee featured readings from oral-history-style interviews by Big Blue Door Jammers Elizabeth Derby, Yousaf Sajid, Maggie Thornton, Andrea Rowland, and IRC volunteer Stephanie Lind, plus a non-trivial trivia contest by IRC Volunteer-Donations Coordinator Katie Bercegeay, songs by Estela Knot and Ben-David Warner & Joe Basconi, and improv by BBD’s resident improv troupe, the Lady Pills. For our Big Blue Door Slam at BON Browning Porter, Mickey Kampsen, Yousaf Sajid, Rosemarie Harper, Marty Moore, and Clare Terni shared true stories inspired by the theme ‘Entrances and Exits.’ The aforementioned improvisers, the Lady Pills (Brian Weisbrod, Nauder Namaky, Larry Goldstein, Stacey McCormack, Nik Hayes, and Deborah Prum) performed a run of Harolds on Sunday evenings at the Director’s Studio that culminated in the final show of BBD’s second season at the Magnet Theater in New York City!
Big Blue Door took it easy in JULY & AUGUST but we still got some important stuff done. We were juried into McGuffey Art Center as an associate member. Plus we taught a wonderful Telling True Stories class and your humble narrator even had a few plays staged at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
SEPTEMBER was the start of Big Blue Door’s third season with more classes and an increase in productions to about three shows a month. Thanks to WNRN for having us on air to tell stories and plug our upcoming season. We had the first Big Blue Door Jam of the year at C’ville Coffee featuring the theme of ‘Strangers In a Strange Land’ and true tales by Ken Jackson, Joanne Breault, Joni Michelle, Elizabeth Derby, Laura Ingles, Clare Terni, and Broocks Willich. Big Blue Door also launched a new improv performance series, Smallprov, at McGuffey Art Center with Brian Weisbord, Jennifer Slate, Debby Prum, Nauder Namaky, Nik Hayes, Maya Hislop, and Larry Goldstein. Plus we kicked off fall classes at McGuffey and Writer House!
Our OCTOBER Big Blue Door Jam presented true stories inspired by the theme of ‘Shadows and Light’ by Nancy Parks, Raennah Lorne, Lewis Reining, Tom Clay, Emily Kilroy, and Browning Porter under the leadership of emcee Graelyn Brashear and producer Brian Weisbrod. Plus our Smallprov longform improv shows with the Lady Pills continued at McGuffey and traveled to BON!
NOVEMBER got underway with Big Blue Door Unhinged at BON, a double class showcase featuring our awesome Sunday night Improv 1 plus the second-ever full program graduating team, One Man Short. Congrats to Shawn Hirabayashi, Max Hoecker, Kirk Martini, Erik Swanson, Tu-An Truong (and Jason Megill there in spirit)! The Big Blue Door Jam was at C’ville Coffee with true stories inspired by the theme of ‘School Daze’ told by Ruth Walkup, Erin Kennedy, Peter Malcolm, Kelly Kroese, Lauren Ballback, and Maggie Thornton. (Produced by Yousaf Sajid)
DECEMBER was a fitting climax to 2014! Our longform improv series Big Blue Door Unhinged returned to BON with two resident improv teams (The Lady Pills and One Man Short). Then the graduates of our Tuesday night Improv 1 class presented their class showcase at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church. The Lady Pills also performed as the opening act of Festivus, Richmond’s Comedy Festival. There was still time to squeeze in a Big Blue Door Jam produced by Emily Smith and emceed by Miller Murray Susen with stories by Rosemarie Harper, Maggie Thornton, Raennah Lorne, Laura Ingles, and Browning Porter inspired by the theme of ‘All in the Family.’
Thanks to our Jam photographer April Muniz for the great images throughout the year!
Thanks as well to our Jam sound expert Lewis Reining who not only worked our shows, but recorded them. Thanks to WTJU for airing Big Blue Door stories as part of Friday editions of Soundboard!
Thanks to the venues and institutions who have welcomed us, those now gone (Black Market Moto Saloon/Woolly Mammoth, Director’s Studio) and those happily still part of the Charlottesville community (McGuffey Art Center, Live Arts, Writer House, C’ville Coffee, BON, Four County Players)
Thanks to all of you for taking classes, telling stories, coming to shows, and visiting our site and facebook page! (Our blog had over 31,000 views last year, which we’re pretty proud of.)
Finally, organizations and blogs naturally tend to celebrate the successes and happy achievements, but Jen and I founded Big Blue Door in the belief that true stories, writing, and comedy are part of experiencing all that happens in the world, not just the upbeat stuff. 2014 was a difficult year for the local community and the country. With that in mind we’d like to finish this post with a video put together by our friends, The Whethermen, the UVa improv troupe. Their newest member, Peter D’Agostino, was also one of Big Blue Door’s improv students. The Whethermen were editing a video that featured Peter on the night they found out he died. Our condolences go out to all Peter’s family and friends. We link to the video below as a tribute to Peter, and a tribute to the power of comedy to express the truths of life and death with humanity and strength. We think the video is sad but also funny and beautiful.