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October 16, 2011

Last night, I had been working the same 4 sentences of a speech I was writing for 4 hours and was about to text my friend to whine about it, but he ended up calling me before I could, asking me if I wanted to see an improv one-woman monologue with him. I was kind of hesitant because sometimes he asks me to these kinds of things and they’re terrible. Like, really dreadful. But I said “yes” anyway because my brain was turning to asphalt and I needed to stop thinking about myself for at least an hour.

We drive around the east side of Austin for a while until we get to like this “Millenium Center” or something. It was a pretty suspect neighborhood, obviously, since a security guard greeted us with a magic wand that beeps if you have a gun. When he finished waving me down, he said, “you’re good,” and then I followed up with an accidentally creepy “thank you” like I always do. This place looked like a community-run Chuck E. Cheese, with a bowling alley, a movie theater (playing Contagion, ironically), a billiards room, and a pretty limited arcade. Past the arcade, my friend pointed at a castle gate leading to the party room that was guarded by a man wearing an orange tie, bright blue pants, and Sketchers Shape-Ups. He opened the gate for us, and we entered.

The first thing I see is that the room is filled with about 4 round tables, and everybody is wearing party hats. Then I look to the corner, where I see these two people wearing giant Bert and Earnie mascot heads who are playing synthesizer and dancing. I pretty much lost it at this point. The music was terrible; Earnie only knew about 4 chords. I just started laughing uncontrollably. Somebody suggested that I get some punch, so I did. It had ice cream in it.

My friend and I sat down, while more people piled in. Everybody acted like they knew each other, but I didn’t know any of them. It didn’t really make me uncomfortable because I was more preoccupied with the decision of whether or not to dance with Bert and Earnie, since it is obviously a desire that everyone has had at least once. There were quite a few older women, probably around 50, who were dancing and waving shawls around with Bert. I decided not to dance because I would be embarassed.

My friend then explained to me that the show was called “Surprise Annie”. Every week, a woman named Annie would do an improvised monologue for about an hour, and she wouldn’t know where she was performing until they took the blindfold off of her and handed her the microphone. My friend also told me that the week before, she performed in a bunker 3 stories below downtown, and the week before that, she performed on a boat.

I looked in the middle of the performance space, and I saw that there were 23 numbers arranged in a circle. Finally, the man who was wearing Shape-Ups walked to the microphone.

“Hello, everyone! Let’s give it up for Bort and Ernesto! Annie’s just about here, but first, everybody is welcome to join in the cakewalk!”

So we did a cakewalk, and I played twice. I didn’t win. I was 14, and the winner was number 13, but it was OK because he shared his cake with the table anyway. Then the shape-ups man took the microphone again.

“OK, Annie’s about to come in, and she has no idea where she’s performing! When I count down from three, everybody yell ‘surprise’ and we’ll take off her blindfold!”

Then Annie came. She was led in wearing a blindfold and holding cupcakes. Shape-ups counted down, we yelled “surprise!” and then she took the blindfold off. Her eyes opened really wide at everyone, and she turned her mouth into a big smile. She looked like she was in her late thirties, and she wore a black dress with blue tights and chunky-heeled shoes. First, she asked for volunteers, but I knew that she just wanted people to help her pass out the cupcakes. I was right. They were chocolate cupcakes, and she told us to lick off the safetypin picture on them and put them on. My safetypin picture was of a naked woman with a hamster for a head.

Then she started her monologue. At first, Annie talked really slow like she was vamping, but I knew that she wasn’t. I think she was getting a feel for the room. She talked about a lot of things. She talked about tarot cards, she talked about this reincarnation class that she once took that she thought was bullshit, she talked about the screaming kids in the arcade on the other side of the castle gate, she talked about teaching drawing lessons at the jail, she talked about her boyfriend, she talked about how weird it was how gay straight people were sometimes and how straight gay people were sometimes. She talked about magic. She talked about laundry and asked the audience about their laundry. She said that if magic were real, then she would be skinny and rich because she tried all those spells already. She talked about interplay, which is this thing that people do, apparently, where they just stretch and make sounds and unlock parts of their subconscious.

And sometimes, she would pause for a while in between stories, but it was OK because I could tell she wasn’t nervous. She was just thinking. She would kick the microphone chord back and forth with her feet and then start talking again. Finally, when she got close to the end, she decided to tell her whole life story in seven minutes. She said that when she was little, she saw her mom die from a seizure on the kitchen floor, and that she ran away from home when she was 19 after she got in a fight with her stepmom, and that she went crazy twice and did a lot of acid, and that she had recovered from alcoholism. She said that someone finally told her about a guy who lived in Austin, so she was delivered like a mail-order bride to her current boyfriend, Billy. She had a pink vintage suitcase and he had a fridge full of Cokes, and she knew they were a match.

Then she only had a minute left, and she said she was trying to think of one more think she wanted us to know. Then she said this:

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve said and done some pretty horrible things to people. But think everyone has. And I can forgive myself. And I don’t owe you anything. And you don’t owe me anything. And I like your glasses.”

And then she asked Bort and Ernesto for a hug and they hugged her like a sandwich and somebody took a picture and then she just walked away and it was over.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 16, 2011 1:37 pm

    Thank you for this lovely little essay about the show! It was wonderful to meet you and I do hope you will do Fronterafest in January!! Try it, you’ll like it!!

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