To give a little backstory to my backstory, I started taking improv classes at the Washington Improv Theater (WIT) last summer. My co-worker told me how she had registered for classes at an office happy hour (Please read as: just the two of us drinking at a bar), and three beers later I was texting and calling all of my friends telling them I had registered (I hadn’t). Now, I might be a lightweight, but let me tell you, the one thing I’m not is a lightweight who doesn’t follow through.
On the first day of class, I walked into a room full of strangers — including a college student, a farmer, a self-denied hipster — representing different areas of D.C. residency and spanning three generations. Our first scenes were painful in the awkward-getting-to-know-you kind of way. With most scenes representing over-exaggerated stereotypes. Of a firefighter with a dalmatian that tags along. And of best friends who fight over a boy. And of meatheads flexing their muscles welcoming you to their “gun show.”
I’m not a sentimental person, and I’m not about to start now, but retrospectively, finding improv was one of the moments when D.C. became more than just a city where I worked.
Fast-forward one year, I’m now in an incredible indie improv troupe, Bell Curved, with three amazing improvisers and friends I met during Level 3 of the WIT curriculum. Our last performance was at IMPROVAPALOOZA, a festival of experimental improv, where we had submitted a show where we would receive three book title suggestions from the audience, combine those titles into one new never-been-written title, that we would then improvise the plot of in 11 minutes. Our audience suggestions produced: ULYSSES’ UNBROKEN THINGS.
To watch the video, CLICK HERE.
And as an ode to our performance, I decided Ulysses’ Unbroken Things deserved to be written. So as accurately as possible, here’s to you, Bell Curved.
Ulysses was a busy man, and didn’t get much time to himself. He lived in a beautiful and big house with his two roommates, Annabelle and Gretchen, who maintained slower lifestyles of self-employment that allowed them to telecommute. They picked up the slack on the chores around the house for him, with the agreement that he would run errands on his way home after work every Thursday.
And this Thursday was no different. He had endured a long day at an undisclosed work location with an undisclosed occupation, and then had gone to the grocery store for their usual haul.
When he turned into the driveway, he didn’t see his beautiful and big house, but instead it was burnt down and in shambles. His two roommates were rolling around in the ashes crying and appeared really torn up. Still in shock, and not sure what to say, Ulysses got out of the car without unloading the groceries, and walked up to his roommates, and said what anyone would in this situation, “Whoa, what the fuck happened while I was gone?”
Immediately, they just told him to look away. But the mess couldn’t be missed, and it couldn’t be unseen. “Everything we have kept inside this house is gone,” Annabelle cried. “It’s all gone,” added Gretchen.
Annabelle blurted out that they were sorry, “We came home and there was a fire.” The logic didn’t add up. They rarely left the home. Ulysses already began to suspect they weren’t telling the real story, but let them continue.
“Yes, it was already going.”
“We weren’t even here.”
“We didn’t start the fire.”
“No one knows how it happened.”
“It was always burning.”
Ulysses had to stop them right there (for copyright purposes and), it was clearly a rambling of lies. “Just tell me the truth. I want to know what happened to my things. Take me back.”
Vividly, as if a true time-dash backwards, they went all the way back to that morning when Ulysses was leaving for work. They had claimed to be reading, as they do in the morning, right before Ulysses says his daily goodbye and reminder to watch his things. After Ulysses left, Annabelle revealed to Gretchen where she had found her book. It wasn’t on the communal bookshelf, but behind the old bookshelf with thousands of books hiding a portal. Annabelle had just found it and had no idea how long it had been there. Gretchen, as the former firefighter in the household, pointed out, “If we go through, it should be fine because this is not a fire hazard.”
After entering the portal, they realized, “There’s fire all inside this portal!” And Gretchen being able to put two and two together, yelled,“It’s a portal to hell!”
A noise that could only be attributed to a Fire Lord or a fire alarm could be heard in the background. They both were able to sigh a quick relief that it was just a fire alarm, before then realizing IT’S A FIRE ALARM. They ran back to the portal entrance and climbed back through the bookcase.
As quickly as they entered the time-dash, the beautiful and big house went back to being burnt and in shambles. Ulysses no longer had time to talk about the fire that destroyed his home and all of his things inside of it, he wanted to know more about the portal. “What happened to the portal? I want to go. You always do fun things without me.”
Gretchen tried to warn him,”It was a terrible place, Ulysses.” But he wasn’t having any of that. He wanted to explore it. He wondered for a moment, “I should probably be more upset my things are burnt,” but quickly shook those feelings. He wanted in that portal.
He wanted to go in that portal so badly that right before his eyes, he noticed a great, bright, red portal burning, fiery, red…
Out of nowhere, Annabelle proclaimed, “It’s been burning while the world’s been turning.” But the portal had to interrupt (this copyright infringement) by getting fiery and sucky, and began to suck Ulysses towards the portal. Ulysses thought to himself what a dream come true this was, it couldn’t be real. But as Annabelle began to shout, “It’s sucking, Ulysses, don’t you see. It’s sucking,” Ulysses surrendered to the portal and let it suck him through, which retrospectively resembled more of a dance.
Ulysses emerged to the other side of the portal with a pencil-roll-like entrance. “Oh shit. Well, it’s definitely full of fire like they said.”
Immediately, Ulysses was welcomed by the Fire Lord, “Welcome, Ulysses. I am the Fire Lord that has brought you to this fiery place.” Ulysses reached for the Fire Lord’s fire-hand but then realized how silly that was. Silly Ulysses. They engaged in some chit chat, some small talk, developed a surface-level friendship.
“Is there any answer I can give you for a question you might have?” offered the Fire Lord. Taken back, Ulysses wasn’t sure which question he should ask, “That is an open-ended question.” But now that he was thinking about it, there was a question tugging in the back of his mind he needed to get off his chest and resolved. “I went to the grocery store and I had all my things in the trunk, but then I saw my house was burnt down so I ran out of my car. I’m giving you a little backstory. So what I need to know is how long until the milk spoils in that trunk because I didn’t have a chance to unload…”
“What is the temperature outside? I haven’t been outside in years.” What Ulysses wishes he had inquired about, now that he had a chance to reflect back, is the last occasion that had called for the Fire Lord to leave hell and go outside.
“It’s like 78, a little overcast.”
First he answered Ulysses’ question,“You have two days, Ulysses.” But then the Fire Lord began to berate him, “These questions are belittling to my power. It’s 4000 degrees farenheit inside here. I’m surprised you’re still alive.” Was that a threat? Jokes on you, Fire Lord, “I’m actually feeling a little chilly.”
The Fire Lord didn’t have time for idle banter. Ulysses thinking maybe he could milk (pun intended) another answer out of him tried for a second before the Fire Lord yelled,“I’m not a genie, you’re not rubbing a bottle.” And before Ulysses knew it he was getting sucked back through the portal back into his burnt down and shambles filled home, completely missing the Fire Lord call out to him,“You’re very disappointing.” That would have broken him.
Ulysses pencil-rolled back into the ashes, but it didn’t matter because his face was all burnt up and there was smoke billowing off of his clothes. Gretchen and Annabelle demanded to know what had happened, but all Ulysses could reply back with was, “We have two days to unload the trunk.” That surprised the whole gang.
Annabelle, Gretchen and Ulysses came together in a warm embrace acknowledging that while their home may be burnt down, they still had milk. And each other. And love. As they stood in a pit of ruin with the walls crumbling around them, they thought of but one thing — a glass of milk.
Ulysses ran to the car and grabbed the milk from the trunk, “I guess the cups burned down?” And Annabelle, as usual, provided the soundtrack to their friendship…“We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning…”
Bell Curved would love to see you at a show; like our page on Facebook (so we feel loved and validated, and) to stay in the loop about where and when we’re performing.
And if you’re interested in taking classes (or if this post sparked an interest), go to www.witdc.org and sign up. You will meet 12 amazing new friends, you will be taught by a talented and fun-inspiring instructor, and you will be guaranteed 150 minutes of happiness a week for eight weeks. They also have FREE shows at 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm every Tuesday at Source Theater on 14th Street NW with a jam at 10:00 pm, open to all experience levels.