YBY ep 222: Jessica Arjet is a theatrical craftsman and community builder!
This week on Yes But Why, I talk to improviser and theater producer, Jessica Arjet.
Jessica Arjet is an award-winning improv teacher as well as the Youth Director and co-owner of The Hideout Theatre in Austin, Texas.
In our conversation, Jessica and I talk about how the theater just keeps pulling us back! You think you can maybe try something else but then BOOM, it’s calling your name and then you’re just helping …and then, all of a sudden, you’re teaching classes and producing shows.
Jessica considers herself a hard worker as well as being a curious creative so she’s always working to improve herself. She talks about The Artist’s Way and how she did the exercises a couple different times to get the creative juices flowing. This could be a good time to try something like this!
Jessica talks about being a loud child actor. She tells the tales of playing a clown at parties for many many years. And she shares the “one night” she knew she wanted to be an owner of The Hideout Theatre. Great stories from a great guest!
Support Jessica Arjet by checking out her weekly online show, Hideout Kids virtual show!
You can also check out the Hideout Theatre website for lots of online workshop opportunities as well!
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Download the FREE HC Universal Network app for Android and iDevices or visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com and join the fun.
This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible – get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at http://www.audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
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(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 6/24/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, yes, but why listeners? This is your host Amy Jordan. Welcome to Episode 222 with Jessica RJ. But first a bit about our sponsor. This episode of the spy podcast is sponsored by Audible. You can get your free audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audible trial comm forward slash Yes, but why? In our conversation Jessica and I talk about how the theater just keeps calling our name. No matter what we do, we are hooked. So let’s look up magic on Audible. Okay, first thing I see is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I’m going to be honest, I’m going to order right now. That’s pretty perfectly aligned to my guest Jessica RJ and her dedication to her craft. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android or Kindle. Download your free audio book today at audible trial comm forward slash yes but why this week on the But why? I talked to Jessica RJ, the youth director and co owner of the hideout Theatre in Austin, Texas. Jessica talks about being a loud child actor. She tells the tales of playing a clown at parties for many, many years. And she shares the one night she knew she wanted to be an owner of the hideout theater. great stories from a great guest. I now present to you Yes, but why Episode 222 Jessica RJ is a theatrical Craftsman and community builder. Enjoy.
I’m Amy Jordan, and this is yes, but why podcast
First time I was on stage, I was four. And I remember I was a flower. And I remember I was super excited and happy about that. I believe my grandmother set it up so I could take classes at the Dallas Children’s Theatre. And they had this little I felt like I was home like it just like suddenly this was like my place. They had this little room that was out back of the theater. There was like a separate little house that had like beanbag chairs. This was the 70s had like beanbag chairs and pillows and shag carpeting. And we would work on stuff in there and I don’t remember much. I was six at the time. And so I got to do this show and then I got to present it. It was like the greatest race a great it’s the story of the turtle and the hare. The tortoise in the hare, but I was the dog, which is like a big part. And I remember very clearly standing in the wings of this gigantic theater, and like I’m sick, so I must have been tiny. So maybe it wasn’t a gigantic theater, it just feels that way. And just being like, like this, transported feeling like this is outside of everything I know, in a way that’s just absolutely perfect. So I don’t know if at that moment, I wanted to, like, do this forever. But I know that the Children’s Theatre and the acting class I was like, I am home. This is, this is my place right here. And then I basically did as much as I could in theater and acting. After that. I was super lucky in that endeavor. My mom was a single mom and my uncle as a matter of fact, got her into doing stuff at Zach’s got theater. This is back when I was a community theater rather than a regional theater. And so she just dove in headfirst. Like she was a single mom. She was working really hard. And then it was just like, every night we were at rehearsals, or we were at the theater. She was a house manager, like all these different things. So I basically spent my childhood we moved back to Austin, in when I was eight. So I basically spent my childhood from eight to about 1314, something like that, at Zack Scott. And it was like, and I tried. The funny thing is like, there were times when I tried to get away with way from it. I was like, Oh, I don’t want to be an actor of this seems like a tough life. So there are times when I tried to get away from it, but it’s it’s like a magnet. Theater just keeps pulling me back. So why do you think I pushed you back? I don’t know. Like, am I I feel like I’m just one of those people who has to perform. And it’s not that I’m a particularly good performer. You know, when you’re like a teenager, and you’re like super melodramatic, I remember one night just writing in my diary sobbing, because I’m like, God, I really believed in God back then God, why did you give me the need to act but then not give me any talent whatsoever. Just like being distraught by the idea that I had to do this because I knew even at that age, I was like, I have to do this. But I could tell, you know, like, I was not, I was not the first person cast. And I mostly got along because I was a hard worker. And I knew how to behave in the theater. I think I’d been did well as a childhood actor because I was loud. That’s what you need to do when your child is loud. Yeah, yeah.
Engine Right, right.
It’s, uh, did I go from on this loud and not shy person? And then, you know, you go into your teenage and college years and they don’t need you to be loud. No,
no, they’re not into it. They keep telling you to be quiet. You’re like, I don’t understand. I’m amazing at this.
I’m so loud. so loud.
This is my skill.
You know, I wonder if the the thing. I appreciate that you’re like, I’m not so great at this. I mean, like, I understand what you’re saying. But like, there’s a part of me that wants to be like, Oh, come on now. But I understand what you feel because I also feel similarly where I’m like, I want to do this. I don’t think I’m amazing, but I still want to do this, right. That being said, in the course of my life, With people doing theater and film and stuff, I don’t think it’s always the best actors that are the ones that get the work or get cast or, you know, become famous that it’s not always just that sometimes it’s just continuing to show up being the person who you can rely on to do the things that need to do. And, you know, for film, I always tell people, like, do people want to hang out with you? That’s pretty much the requirement. Like right, they are gonna hang out with you for a year. They need to know that’s gonna be all right.
Yeah, that’s it. Yeah. You know? Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I feel like now, um, I, I don’t want to answer. I don’t know if I have any talent or not. I think I am funny, but it’s always sort of surprising to me.
And I feel like
that I’m a craftsman. You know, like, I have worked very hard on my craft. I’ve done a lot for it in all sorts of different ways. You know, originally I was community theater, I did clowning for 17 years, which you want to talk about craftsmanship. You have to have a lot of like, just it’s, it’s like a carpenter like you just work away at things. And then improv and, and I’m doing a little bit of writing, you know, like, I don’t, I think that now I feel like those lucky people who are talented like EA for them, way to go, and I am a little jealous of them. I’m like, I just wish I could have that spark. But in the long run, I guess I’m like the turtle in the in the show like, I’m, I’ll get there. If I want to do it that badly enough. I’ll figure it out. I mean, that’s how I originally was able to do improv. I taken classes. I really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t like asked to do a lot of stuff. My kids were really young at that time, so I didn’t have as much time as other people. And I like sort of sat down and I was like, What’s my niche? Ah, kids, I’m going to start a kids show. And this was when there wasn’t anything else in town. And so I just, I did a, this was back before I owned the hideout. And I just did a door split with the current owner Shaun Hill, and, and did a door split for it, and I just made a show. And then and then ask people to be in it if people want to be another people shows it doesn’t matter how much talent you have. They’re like, Oh, yes, you’re doing a show. I will be in your show. And so I got other people who are good to be on my show. And then I had an audience because people wanted to have a thing with kids. And I’m like, you know what, all of you other people who are more talented than I am. I still have a show and for a while before we changed all the structure around I was like, I’m getting paid to do improv and you’re not so they’re more talented person.
You know, what’s funny about the talented people are the people that you perceive this talented is that they usually don’t perceive themselves as talented either.
It’s probably true. Yeah,
yeah, duh. I mean, I’ve talked to people who I would consider like, people who I like look up to in a way that is like, I’ll never be able to do what you do your talent surpasses anything I could possibly grasp and they don’t know that they have that. That’s not a thing you know, like, yeah, and, and let’s be honest, I mean, you and I know, in the comedy world, the blowhards are not the ones that are the most talented the ones who are exam amazing. Have you seen how great I am? Those people are worse, you know? Like nobody who’s great is like telling you how they’re great. Right? Right. Yeah, famous people are like I literally have no idea how this worked out. Like I’m here and thank you for looking at me but I’m just a person you know? Or they just say so little like I heard like an interview with like Leonardo DiCaprio and I love him. But I think the beauty of him is that he keeps his mouth shut. He was in an interview with another PR It was like him and Brad Pitt. He said like three things. Brad Pitt talk the whole time. I can’t say anything at all. He was just like, yes, it was very fun to be on set. We had a great time. Haha. That’s it. You know what I mean? But the mystery helps, because maybe he goes home and he’s like, God, I’m a fraud. Nobody knows I’m the worst. But he doesn’t tell ya. So it’s you. So you’re like that guy. He gets it. He’s so a genius. No, he’s just quiet. Right?
Right. And because you project things on other people, when they’re quiet, they give you a screen to protect on them. So you’re like, oh, he thinks the way I do because I thought this thing.
Which brings us back to when you’re a kid, they tell you to be loud. And then when you’re an adult, all of a sudden, you gotta be quiet, and you’re like, well,
I thought I had this figured out.
I feel that way about all of like childhood to adulthood stuff. Like that’s why I try to forgive everyone between the ages of 18 to 36. Because it’s like, they’re just trying to figure out how to live like, right they do not, you know, somebody told them how to live from zero To 18, and then PS, it turned out to be totally wrong. So now they’re figuring it out again. Like what? You know, so yeah, it’s it’s those kinds of stuff. So let’s bring it back, you mentioned a little snippet that I’d love to get into. You mentioned, after you got older, you kind of separated from the theater and I, you know, makes total sense. We were talking earlier before we were recording about, like, you know, having kids and how kids reject what their parents do, like just sort of naturally. So it makes total sense that like, if you spent all this time as a kid in the theater, you’d be like, get me out of here, right? Yeah, how? How so how did you get into clowning? Like, were you like, I’m gonna get as far away from Zack Scott as possible. Let’s go to France or like, you know, that’s what I think of when I think of clowning. But it’s like, how Where did that?
Where do we go from? Yeah, um, well, I will say I tried to get away from theater and I was never successful like I went I had a
back note. Yeah, I was a social work for for a little while in Lockhart, but then Lockhart community theater needed some people to help. So like I did stuff in that community theater, blah, blah, blah. So I was constantly doing things. What happened was, I had a baby, right? And you cannot really rehearse when you have a baby or I don’t know, maybe other stuff. And they seem able, but it was not something that was gonna work for me. Not only that, but my husband went to graduate school in a completely different city. So I had a five month old baby, I was in a completely new city, and I was jonesing for performance, but I kind of still had this like, I’m not going to be an actor, not going to be an actor thing. So I basically tried a couple things. My original idea was that I would continue working. But then I had a, I just couldn’t put my daughter in childcare. And this is not judging anybody else. This also wasn’t a rational decision. It was a really good Decision doesn’t matter. But when it came down to it, I was like, I don’t want to be away from her. You know, she’s six months old, I don’t want to leave her. I was raised in child care. And I’m very grateful to the people who who were my caretakers, I think that they were wonderful, lovely people. Nothing bad happened to me. And childcare was a great place, but I just couldn’t do it. Like almost physically, like I just couldn’t put her in this place for eight hours while I was away from her and then come home when she fell asleep at like, 630 it just wasn’t gonna work. So I was like, oops, husband’s in graduate school, and I was supposed to support both of us. So anyways, I tried a bunch of different things. And then basically, while my husband was at school, I would be home with the baby and then at night, I would go off and work, which was okay. But I was just jonesing for something. So I did this sometimes. People may know it. It’s called the artists way by Julia Cameron. It is a beautiful book. And I have done it several times. Very helpful. So it’s a workbook where you kind of like figure out what you’re doing. So during this time, I was sort of like jonesing for theater, but I couldn’t do it. And I was like, What is my artistic bent? Who am I? What is this kind of stuff? And in it, one of the things you’re supposed to do is go on artists dates, so I picked up I went, I went on an artist date to a toy store, because I was like, I like toy stores. We go to friggin toy store, and I picked up this book on balloon twisting. And then I know I knew nothing about this. I went to the mall, food court, and sat in the mall food court and made all of these balloon animals and I was astounded with myself. I was like, Oh, my God, look at what you can make. Turns out it’s actually fairly easy. Like it’s really not that difficult to make these things, but I didn’t know that right? like, Whoa, I am so smart at this. I found my new calling, this is what I’m gonna do. And I made like tons and tons of balloon animals. And then I bought more balloons. It came with this stuff came in the book that had like balloons and a little pump. And then I like bought these other things. And then I was, we were home for the summer in Austin, and I just went to monkey business, which was an entertainment thing. I don’t think it’s still around anymore, but, and I was like, hey, I need a job for the summer. And I made I tried to make a dog. But I made the head. I made everything too small that it had this really long tail. So it just sort of crinkled the tail and I went, look, it’s a squirrel.
And the lady was like, I have never seen a squirrel before. That’s very impressive. So she fired me.
If that’s not the quintessential don’t deny the mistake, accept the mistake. There
you go. Right.
And so, so she sent me out doing balloon twisting gigs, and then I’m one of them. She was like, hey, this woman’s birthday. It’s for a 30 year old woman, but she loves clowns. So yes, we want you to balloon twist, but we also want you to dress up like a clown. Why I had been raised in the theater and to clowning to me was a profession and like a whole thing. So I did all this research. It wasn’t an internet. I did all this research on like, how to make my my clown face look good. I did this. And I showed up. And I did the gig. And I was like, Oh, I really, I like this. I really like this. And so the next stop for us was Atlanta. We lived in Atlanta. And so I just kinda started doing it. At first I worked through an agency, but then I was like, I can do this stuff. So I put a you know, I put my name in the phone book and I took out a little ad and a parenting thing and I told people, I was available to do clowning, and I made a pretty I made about a third of our income. That way, which was pretty nice, awesome. It was not enough to support the family. But considering that I was home with my child like that, during that time period that was still the main thing is like I needed be able to be home with my children during the work day. And then most parties are on weekends. So it worked out fairly well. So yeah, so that that’s the whole thread of how that ended up happening.
So you maintained this small business as a clown at parties for 17 years.
Yeah, and actually, there were times when it was actually a fairly large business that
I never hired other people, which now I’m like, Dude, that was such a mistake. That was totally me being like, not trusting myself and, and not not believing in my potential. I was like, No, I don’t want to hire other people. I don’t know if I can manage. And now I’m like, I’m a great manager. What was I thinking? But yeah, so we did really I did really well with it for a while. And then there was the recession of 2008.
Which just strangely during recessions, people don’t need clowns. I don’t know why
they would like a couple, you know,
you would want a clown, they don’t want to pay for them anyway.
And I’d also like before that I had already started improvising before that. When I came back to Austin.
It sounds like I move a lot. I don’t really just just a little bit.
But when your whole life it’s not like crazy. We lived in a few cities. Like in the timeline you have given me I lived in you know, maybe five or six different cities so don’t
2008 Yeah, I mean, I was just moving to town, but I was like eight cities before you know.
But anyways, by 2000 Yeah. So by that time, I had already taken some improv classes and really enjoyed them. I was doing a little A bit of improv I had already started the kids show and was doing classes. I also rented out the hideout to do classes through that. And so when everything just sort of falling started falling apart, I didn’t making I my, at my highest I charged $180 an hour and was full. Like this was not like barely got any more I was full with clients. And that was like the small party that had much larger parties that I would charge more for. So anyways, then, I just started doing more and more improv and realized that I really missed improvising with other people. And as much as I loved the actual clowning, I mean, actual clowning is great. talking to parents, some parents are marvelous, but not all of them are and then also, just driving out places was not my favorite. I used to joke that you’re paying me this money not to perform because I’d perform for free you’re paying this money to do drive out there and to take my makeup off afterwards.
Not even to put it on like them put on was fun. The performance was fun but the driving and the cleanup get out here.
Yeah, the cleanest fun artist.
Can I ask you sort of a business you question relationship? You said that you you know you were charging like $180 an hour. Did you? Like just decide on that? Or did someone tell you that how much it was or did you work up to that?
Oh, I worked up to that. But also
I will not say because I don’t want to get in trouble with any fraud people as clowns. We did not get together and decide what was a good price. But we did all talk to each other about what our prices were. So it wasn’t like there was I would listen to what other people were I specifically made my price higher than other people’s because Because I wanted people who were willing to pay a little bit more, I done a lot of the parties when I was in Atlanta, I basically charged, I kind of looked around at what other people charged. And then I tried to charge a little bit less. And I got parties that were not always, most of them were fine. The majority of them were just fine. But there were also when you try to get the cheapest party possible. You’re gonna get people who value cheapness more a lot of the time. And so there were there, I was not treated necessarily in the way that I want it to be. And when I charged about $10, more than everybody else, I got treated more the way that I wanted to be. And it was weird, because it’s only 10 bucks. Like, it doesn’t make all the difference in the world. But I could definitely tell if I charge 10 bucks more than every other client. Well, except for one, use it braincloud He’s awesome. But if I charge more than almost every other clown in town, then I would have better parties and I would have more fun at them. So I just did.
That’s really good. No, I Because I think that there’s a lot of performers that are there where there’s not like an organized group that would advise you on how much you should charge. So I just wondered, I think it’s smart for people who are doing something similar to kind of check in with each other, if only just to establish, you know, like, what is acceptable for the industry and so that way, one guy who’s like a jerk isn’t like charge isn’t going way low and getting all the gigs. Right, right. But I also appreciate sort of hearing that the more you valued yourself, the more your patrons valued you and I think that’s a great lesson for people who are sort of striking it out on their own doing individual stuff. I mean, night yeah, as you mentioned, I don’t know how, how soon we’ll be super psyched to be having clowns at parties right now. But when it comes back, it would be an important lesson to know because I’m sure private performers all over the world are You know, creating their own little shows in their town, right? And how do you figure it out? Well, you know, you talk to people who do the similar thing and then value yourself and don’t say I’m not worth it say I am worth it. I think right? That’s a smart. That’s a smart lesson.
Yeah, that has been one of the things that I’ve had the hardest time with his putting numbers on, on my worth as a performer. Like, that’s just really difficult for me. There was a period in time where I had to, like, I had gone up in price. And I had to write that number and put it on my desk so that when I had conversations with people, I would say the correct number. Because I kept on undercutting myself. I started out at 90 an hour and then slowly work my way up. And then it’s like, yeah, yeah, there were times when I would just be like, I would literally stutter when I tried to say the word, the 120 or 150, or whatever, I would just be like, it’s 100 Hundred and 50
are, it’s hard to like, allow yourself to see yourself as a person of value that what you are bringing to the table is actually a resource that people want. They’re asking you to do it like, it’s not like you were you were like, what do you guys do need a clown? I’m here. It’s like, No, no, they called you. Right, right trying to get this service. So let them know that you’re providing them with a good service.
Yeah, yeah, definitely.
I know, these days when I do things. When I like, buy things myself, I’ll price it out. And, you know, I can’t afford a ton of stuff. But I still never go for the lowest one. Because the same thing that you were talking about where it’s like that person’s low cost, they are they don’t value themselves and they potentially aren’t bringing everything to the table. So that it’s like, okay, what’s the third or fourth one up that well choose and that was Because they clearly have, you know, they believe in their own worth. Yeah, like sort of mind game.
Yeah. It was kind of fascinating. I was it was an interesting time like working by yourself as an artist. Just very interesting. I much prefer working with other people.
Yeah, me too. That’s why stand up Never stuck for me. I did stand up for a little while and then I was like, Yeah, like being alone with other people and and, you know, then I found improv. So you mentioned speaking of improv, you mentioned that you had started getting into improv while you were still doing clowning. Did you do improv in Atlanta, or did you do did you move back to Austin, continue to do clowning at parties and then and then slowly work that out after you got more involved in the Austin improv scene? Yeah,
that’s pretty much it. I actually took my first improv class with another clown because we wanted more training, we just wasn’t a lot of training in Austin. Whereas in Atlanta had a ton of clown training, I met some of the best clowns in Atlanta, they were amazing. But Austin just didn’t have that. And so, said, this was just a way for me to reach out and try to kind of increase my cloud skills. And so I took one class with this other clown. And then we took, and then I, I took a second one, even though she didn’t take it. And then it took me a while to like, kind of work up the courage. But finally, I took the third and I was like, but I’m just that the point they only had three levels. And I was like, I’m just taking classes. I’m not doing anything else. But then before the class ended, the guy was like, Hey, we we would like you to be in the troop, which means you can play Maestro, and I was like, yep, I’ll do it. And it was so funny, because there was no thought in my mind that I was gonna do it. And my head was all like, I’ve got kids at home. I don’t have the time for this. Blah, blah, blah, but my mom was like, yep, that’s what’s gonna happen. I’m doing that.
Man, sometimes it’s crazy how that works out how you’re doing Like, wow, I guess I just agreed to do that. I guess I wanted to.
Yeah. Yes. This is what I’m doing now. That’s what’s happening.
Yeah. Now this was early on in the hideout world. Did you feel like when you started taking classes there were you embraced into the community? Is that why you kept going? Or was it just the art of improv that got your wheels turning, I guess, or both?
Yeah, actually, at that point in time, there wasn’t a lot of community. Nobody comes back and like, gets me for that. But like,
I’ve done an entire episode that like calls out the lack of community in the Austin improv scene, you’re fine.
Go Okay, cool.
And so it, it was really the art of it. And really the like the call to be on stage again, in a way that I hadn’t been on stage in a long time. I had kept on trying to turn clowning into something theatrical. And I just never figured it out. I had to like, elaborate. I did this whole thing so I could do Renaissance clowning. But and people would like me, but there were, you know, there would be like the one festival like ended up shutting down so they couldn’t hire me. And another one was like, Yeah, you’re great. But have you heard of this guy? And I’m like, Yeah, he’s amazing. He’s like, yeah, we have him. We don’t need him. And you and I was like, Oh, yeah, that’s fair. I mean, it was really fair.
jerky way to saying it’d be like, do you want to go on a date? Yeah. Have you seen this girl? No, I’m dating her instead. Like, you just say no. Just Say No, thank you.
I gotta tell you if you’re looking for politeness from people on the festival circus, you might not be in the right place.
No need to have a tough skin. Got it.
I have to say, I don’t know tons of people on the Renaissance Festival circuit. But from what I’ve seen, they’re they’re very nice once you get to know them, but polite is not the term that I would use. Take Get started with
perhaps the Renaissance, not a polite time, so they’re just in a vibe. That’s just what it’s like.
That’s just the way it is is the way it is.
Oh, that’s funny.
What an interesting verite like so many different sort of art venues that you found your way into from, like private parties to like, you know, even even, you know, this amazing clowning scene in Atlanta that you are not only able to like check in with them, but like take classes and workshops and stuff. That’s a cool thing. Yeah, I’ve got this connection to the Renaissance. I mean, like I’ve done theater my whole life. I’ve never done clowning or Renaissance Fair. How did you like move around to these places where you just like trying to find a way to get on stage or was it again, a thing with your kids where you’re like, we went to the Renaissance Fair. You know what, I could do it here. Like
I would say it’s mostly desperation. You know? Like, at some point, you’re just like, oh God, I’ve got to whatever, you know, make money or get someplace or I gotta be on stage again. And so you just like start thinking, what are all the different possibilities? What are different? What are things where I’ve seen people do stuff? How could I do that as well? How can I do something similar but different enough that I could do my own thing? I think it’s just I, I like coming up with things. I like different possibilities, but mostly, it’s just like, usually it’s an Oh, no moment where I’m like, Oh, no, oh, god, what can I do now? And then I start desperately thinking of what’s the next thing?
Tell are very smart, the like, moves that you made. The idea of even looking into putting an ad in the parents magazine for the clowning thing. I was like, Mind blown like a horse, of course, is what you do. Everyone who’s watching your thing, that’s whose magazine you go. Like, I was like, of course. That’s what you do. Like, I don’t know, you just, you sell yourself short, but you have a very sort of like smart mind for what how to get how to do this and how to like, find the places where people really need it, you know, and better and performance is important for all of us. And so you’ve just found the corners where, you know, people aren’t necessarily always giving those corners the most respect, but you’re like, I’m gonna go and be the coolest best clown and I’m gonna go to this Renaissance Fair and raise the level, you know, to the point where they were like, we’ve got top quality clowns in here, and that’s right. You do?
Yeah, damn it.
I’m part of that top quality clown crowd.
Yeah, I was. I was definitely a top quality clown. I was very I was very good. I even got an Austin Chronicle best of award.
Pretty awesome. That’s pretty awesome.
That’s impressive. Especially right you know, Renaissance giving you shade and stuff, you know,
the same year two thirds like well rounded series. So see they’re
like bubbles not so great is angle. Yeah,
Now you also have mentioned that you were sort of like renting out the hideout and using it for performances and classes and whatnot. That is, you know, the idea of making a show and producing it and putting it up. Not everybody wants to do that, either. So that’s, that’s pretty impressive. How did you, like decide to be in charge of that? It’s a lot of work.
I mean, nobody else was gonna, so somebody had to do it.
The main show I was sitting, I was watching an out of bounds performance with a couple of other people who were also parents. And this was at a time where I was like, I am Not getting traction, like, I am not the person that people are calling to be in their improv troupe. And even when I was like, like putting my name in for my show, people were like, hey, do you want to do lights? Like, like? So, so I’m sitting it out of bounds. And there’s two parents on either side of me. And I was like, Hey, isn’t it funny that our kids have never seen us perform? And they’re like, yeah, that is kind of sad. And I’m like, Huh. And I knew I wanted to do more improvising. So I was like, I mean, it’s just it’s, it seems to me one of those things is like, if you want to do something, sometimes you just have to make it happen. And so they were both in for the idea of doing originally it was a four week run. And then it’s still running. That was when was that was that was 2000. We’ve been running for like well over 10 years, so maybe 1213 years now.
I can’t On number but, uh, so originally the four week run kind of got extended.
Um, but yeah, I didn’t know. I mean, it doesn’t. I guess that’s one thing that it’s never really bothered me to do some hard work. Because that’s how things get done. And a lot of times, it’s weird. Like you’re saying things and you’re like, you just took this on and I’m like, it just seems kind of natural, like the thing that you do. I will say, I often beat myself up for being lazy, but then I kind of look around and I’m like, Well, I get a lot of stuff done. You know, cuz like, shoot, I took a nap yesterday. I’m, uh, I’m lazy. And then I’m like, Well, I still like made all this other stuff happen. So it’s okay, I guess.
All right. I’m gonna say of all the phrases I’ve heard with reference to lazy never the phrase
nobody else uses it. It’s just me like it’s just inside my head. Joe was like,
based on literally even just the slightest amount of research that I was like,
What are you doing right now? Wow. Okay.
So you You’re not you’re not lazy gal, you know, you’re getting done. And also what’s funny is we do, like we do what is comfortable to us? Or like, like you said, Oh, I did it because it needed to be done. How many you know, as well as I do, how many students we talked to every day, who don’t make moves unless somebody else tells them or make gives them an opportunity. So it’s like, yeah, that’s not just everyone’s skill. That’s your skill. You know, it’s,
it’s true. And it’s one of those things that I’ve had to kind of like reconcile myself because I’m like, Oh, this really is different. Like, I really, like if I want something done a lot of times, like I have to stop myself from making things happen, because there’s only so many things that you can do in your life. And there are times when it’s like, No, you cannot take on another project. I don’t care if you can see how it would happen. Don’t do it. But I feel like it’s hard for me to have compassion for other people sometimes. Because I’m like, you know if, like say so. Somebody is upset that they didn’t get to do the type of show that they wanted to do. And there’s, the theaters in town are all great, but they’re not doing the type of show that this person wants to do. And they wanted to do it at the hideout, mainly because we’re their friends, but we don’t do that kind of show. And then they seem very sad and upset. And I’m like, I don’t, I don’t understand. Go do it. And but but then I have to remind myself that that’s not something that everybody does, you know, and I have to be compassionate about that person, because they’re like, Yes, I get that you would like, for X to happen, and, and I guess you just have to deal with the fact that you have to be sad, because other people are not going to make it for you. Whereas like, when I look at that I, the the question then becomes, do I want to make do I want this enough that I make it for myself? Like, that’s always a question. And then once that’s answered, then I just go in that direction. But yeah, that is I’ve noticed that I call it being a maker. My daughter has the same thing, but not everybody does, where you’re just like, you know what this should happen? Then you do it. And it’s not like, you just do it. And it always works. Like, I feel like I’ve got about a like, two and 10 percentage, you know, like you try to make things work about two out of 10 work, and then you keep going with them, which is actually pretty high.
So, you know, you have to be willing to be like, oh, that didn’t work, move on to the next thing.
Yeah, I mean, it’s also interesting to like not to get down on yourself about the idea that like, other people aren’t going to do it. And so you have to do it yourself. I mean, I would say that pretty much almost every project that I’ve done with any length of time and consistency has been something that I’ve created myself, and then sometimes people join me, but sometimes they don’t. And it’s okay. You know, it’s like, this is my own thing. This is what I want to do. In the same way. We were talking earlier about how like theater pulls you back. I feel like projects do Like, I have notebooks filled with ideas. And sometimes when I’m like, you know, because I, I have a baby to my child is three, so he’s not grown up like yours but like, but like, so I have to hold back from doing a lot of things. So I keep a list of like things that I want to do. And I try to think of, if an idea nags me, then I go back to it and try to figure out how I might be able to do it, you know?
And in a way that like, I’ll go Okay, well, I’ll put this away. And we’ll see how that goes. But if like later, like I have a few screenplays in my head that will not go away that I will have to write because these people are in my head and they need to do something and write either that or they’re just characters that live inside of me which is possible. But but at the same time, like there’s something a lot of I used to I used to feel bad that like oh, people don’t want to work with me. Oh, I have Do this by myself. But even just talking to you right now, I’m realizing that like, it’s kind of like we have just have different skills, and we just have different drives, you know? Yeah. And we got to be cool with each other’s different levels of drives and what they bring to the table. And, you know, when I’m the leader, I can be cool with people doing different levels, because I’m still in charge, and I’ve got control, right? But, um, but like, in the times when I’m collaborating, and it’s like, why is this person taking so long? It’s like, let them be who they are, write them recreate the way they create, especially now, where it’s like, it took you six months to write three lines, you are doing great. Like you’re alive and yeah. And it’s great. It really is. But it’s like we all hold ourselves to different high standards and like expect of ourselves more than we would ever expect of another person. Um, I don’t know I appreciate you like hearing your story because because it’s making me feel better about my life. But it’s certainly giving me perspective on like, also being a person like you who like kind of create stuff on their own and like, builds it and also has that vibe of like, Am I doing it? I guess you know?
Yeah. Yeah, I, I totally think that that, like what you’re talking about different people have different skills is great and that’s like, I feel sometimes like I’m capitalizing on other people like because I know how to like, put an ad in a paper and hire a theater and stuff like that. That then I get really good people working for me because because they’re attracted to doing something. And I feel like I’m, I used to feel like I was manipulating them and now I’m just like, No, we just have different skills. You know, this is my skill. This is what I do. So I’m doing it.
Yeah, they don’t want to do what you’re doing.
Boring. Well, how boring would If we all did the exact same thing, that’d be terrible,
we’d never get anything done. Because we’d all either want to be part of the organizing part or we’d want to be a part of the creative part. And then nothing on the other side would ever get done and feel like they did. I wouldn’t tell anyone there was a show and that they should come to it. Oh, no, I was too busy developing my character. It’s like, well,
well, I guess we’re just doing the show for ourselves then.
so so you are an organizer though, and you are a person who puts things together? How do you get from? I’m making some shows and creating a kid’s show, which ends up going 12 years. Um, and then how does that lead to you becoming an owner as part of hideout theater, one of the oldest daughters in Austin.
Well, I think it at least partially is because I had already been doing my own classes and doing my shows. So the Shaun Hill, who was the owner of the hideout before, wonderful man, I love him. He couldn’t keep running it. He was basically by himself and had small children and things were just difficult for him. So he was wanting to sell it. And
I was in the theater going past the greenroom. And I hear somebody say, they’re like talking in there. And then I hear them say, Yeah, he wants to sell the theater. And somebody else was like, Nah, I’d be interested in that. And I literally did the clown thing where, like, you’ve walked past the door, and just your head comes back. And I was like, I would be interested in that. And one of the people was Roy, and the other people was a soft Ronan. And he was just talking with him. But Roy was interested in I was like, I would be very interested in that. And I didn’t know at the time, but it turns out later I kind of found out that because I had already started something that was like, oh, That’s, that’s a person that you want to partner with. But we all like had and and then we brought Kareem in. So that’s how the three of us karimun Roy, we’re good friends. And so we met with with Kareem. And all talked about, like, do we want to do this? And they’re like, Yeah, let’s do this. And I was like, wow, I thought there’d be more like discussion of personalities. And do we all work well together. But instead, it was just like, Yeah, let’s do this. Like, okay, let’s do this. And so it took us a while, we had a bunch of different things. Nothing, nothing worked completely well, but it was like, more than a year of like, late night meetings to try to figure out how to make everything work. But in in it for a while it looked like it wasn’t going to work. But then it all turned around and we finally ended up owning it. So I’m very grateful. My I did have a small inheritance from my grandparents, which helped me actually buy the place because you know, you have to have money for these things.
Yeah. Yeah, you got it. Pay him to be an owner of a theater especially in the case where you know, it’s who knows how a theater runs sometimes it runs great there’s tons of people coming in sometimes there isn’t so the owners are shouldering a lot of that. ups and downs so it’s good that you had something to back you up yay grandparents for helping out. I hope they liked theater because they helped theater.
Yeah, they actually were big patrons in Dallas and and my grandmother every time we went into a place my grandmother would walk up to where her name was on the wall and be like, Look, see our names that are on the wall, like Okay, thank you.
Dude, that’s awesome though. Like the legit means that like, they would be so happy to know that that’s how you spent that money like that’s that it’s not just like they were like, We don’t like theater and you’re like, haha, I spent the money on that. It was like they really loved it and you were like, you know, for us to really make a serious theater in town, it’s gonna be a thing. That’s amazing. What year was that when you became the owner?
2009 2009. Yeah,
I have to say, I don’t think they would have understood improv would have, they would have kept a nice smile on their face and been very supportive.
I mean, improv is hard to take for certain. For a lot of artists, you know what I mean? Like, just the freedom of it blows their minds in a way that they’re like, What do you mean, you’re not reading lines that a playwright has written? Like, no one, no one wrote this. I’m just saying words. I’m making it up and they’re like, you’re not qualified for that. You’re like, Okay.
Like, that’s probably where they would have been. I never thought about that that much. What would they have thought about it? I think, yeah, you’re right. They would have been very happy that I was spending it on the arts.
He was so great. Like such good solid use of like, you know, I got, I got money from my grandparents and then Instead of doing I don’t know, any sort of life stuff, like if I gave money to my grandkids, and knew that they spent it to, like, build a business that they wanted to work in, no matter what the industry was, I’d be like, yeah, they did it. You know, you took care of yourself. And I was able to help.
Like, that’s awesome. Like you did something that was good and for you, and were able to get yourself in. And I think the idea of you being an owner at this space, and that you have this collaborative relationship with the other owners. You know, again, this is inspirational when it comes to like, how do people maintain these things? So the theater they as you’ve been running it at this point, 2000 so we got like, 11 years or so going ups and downs all across the board? Are there any particular lessons? I mean, I would say across the country right now, at this very moment, there are improv schools and theaters, trying to figure out how to keep their business afloat. Are there any bits of advice that you might have? Because you’ve hit some tough times? Maybe not COVID tough times before, but certainly things where it was like, well, we have to refigure how we do this now. Right? What? What sort of things have you learned along the way?
Oh, man, that’s a really good question. You know, you have your head down and you’re working so hard that sometimes it’s hard to like, step back and go like, well, what did I learn from this amazing thing? Sure. I I would say,
that is the lesson.
Keep working hard. Don’t focus. Don’t worry about it. It’ll work out keep going.
Don’t stop just keep never stop. Be like a shark. That’s actually legitimately part of it is just don’t stop. Just keep pushing. I would say that. I think something that I have learned is to just know how to put this like I want to say be super gracious, but like, realize that you Your business is not your business, especially in a community. We’re basically a community theater, right? So in this type of thing, the way that we are kept up is because we have people who love us and people. And you know, that makes it sound like it’s about us. And it’s really not people who need theater to be their artistic expression, and they can’t make it themselves. And we made it for them. And we try to be both welcoming, but also very artistic, and to be very, very gracious about the fact that those people love the thing that we built. They love that home, and that that home is very important to them. And I think in general, that’s kind of like through some of our more difficult time periods. The thing that’s kept us going and I don’t mean like fundraisers or anything like that, I just mean like, people kept coming, despite like there was a hotel being built next to us and despite the fact that there was banging during shows and stuff like that people would keep coming and would give us a lot of slack. You know, they like they were rooting for this theater to continue. But it’s not because of me, Roy and Kareem, although were very nice people. It was because the, the place itself was their home. Oh, bring it back around when you are asking, like, when did I know that I wanted to be in theater, it’s that they get the same feeling out of the hideout that I got when I got into the child, the Dallas children’s theater. It’s like that same feeling of like, yes, this is where I belong. This is a place that accepts me. And that, you know, I think just being aware of that, and being aware that you’re not just building a place, it’s not a business. It’s a it’s a home for a bunch of people and that’s really important for them. I think that’s my takeaway in general is to like, hold that if you hold that closely. It kind of helps you figure out where to go from there. Now I say all that, I mean, who the hell knows? We, like this airs in August. There might not be a hideout in August. And and and if there isn’t, they’ll be like, well, I guess that didn’t work for a while. And if there is there’ll be like, Yeah, she made it through, you know, we just don’t know at this point in time. So things are so crazy that who knows if we’ll make it through this one, but I guess the most important thing is that is that all those people still had that home, they still have that place, even if they maybe by the time this comes out, maybe if they don’t have it, and certainly nobody has the space anymore, right? Nobody can go into the space except for the people who own it or work there. So even without that the community is endured. And that’s amazing. That’s, that’s pretty amazing.
I would say regardless if the downtown space doesn’t maintain because of X, Y or Z due to COVID and everything. You know, maybe when not of us are allowed downtown again, who knows? Yeah, but like, but like, you’re right, it is the community and it like, it isn’t the space. It started out with the space. You know, brownhill got a sweet space. It’s developed, it’s changed. It’s become lots of stuff. And it’s been home to lots of different shows and festivals and everything. But who, right but the people, that’s who it is that commodity that you have, that wants to be there with you. That’s that’s what the hideout is and, and the larger Austin improv community have multiple theaters, I think, will support one another no matter what happens, you know, right. So they’ll, they’ll always be a chance for there to be shows and whatnot. And who’s to say that, you know, who knows what sort of space could could be there? Or maybe it turns out it is the perfect space and we all just go right back there. I mean, it’s where we started right it would make in my mind, I imagine that the high will last the longest of everyone because it’s been there the longest. It’s like the bedrock of Austin improv community. And so like, everything else can fall away and we’ll all just go back to the hideout. Like, it’s still like, like, that’s where our mother is. And then like, everything else is like journeys to figure out other adventures and try new different kinds of things. But we’ll still come back to that. I mean, that’s how I feel as a person in the community, and how I saw it when I first moved to town, which was 2009 hilariously, but like that’s like, it just seemed like this was the you know, the center of it all. And that everything else was like this group, you know, broke off and did this. And this group did this, and this group did that. And it all came from the center. And so it’s still the beating heart of of Austin improv. So even no matter what happens with the space or anything like that, I feel like the community will still always thrive. Because those human beings are still here. And yeah, we need to connect and like you said, Have that home and, and have someone who will put up a show and say, Hey, you want to be in that show? Right, right. Exactly.
Yeah, thank you very much. That’s very sweet. The way that hits me right in my heart. Thank you, Amy. I’m glad I’m
glad I wanted you to. I wanted you to feel that because it does matter that people see you guys, as you know, sort of the warm heart of I mean, everything that happened at the hideout is sweet and wonderful and lovely. That’s why some people want to do other shows because they’re like, how do I get edgy? Like I want to offend everyone they’re like get it out of the hideout go there’s other places Lister and you’re edgy material. You know so right. That’s why I call it the mom. But also boom for bringing the topic back like wow, that’s some Herald stuff right there. You just like Firstly, I sat back like,
Oh, I like story section in my mind, it might be one of the things you might be good at. It turns out Oh,
I do want to say though, like, I love everything that you said it’s beautiful. But also, if, if the pandemic goes through this artistic community, like a brush fire, which, right at this moment, when I’m looking at it, things might change tomorrow. But at this moment, it looks like that’s what’s going to happen. You know, it’s going to go through the artistic community, like a brush, fire and kill lots and lots of stuff, which is going to be incredibly sad. If it did that. That would mean that there would be new things springing up. And they’re not the old things that everybody loved. And they’re not the things that we’re familiar with. And they’re not the things that we wanted to keep going forever. But it would be okay. Like you said, because we there are so many artistic people, and if something new springs up, maybe it’ll be different in a beautiful and new way. So I want to say even if the worst happens, which now it actually looks like maybe it could, if the worst happens, we’re gonna be okay. Because we’re still artists, you know, and the pandemic isn’t gonna kill our artistic intent. Even if it kills our spaces and some of the other stuff. We’re still going to be there and it’s, it’s all going to be okay. Now do I hope that that doesn’t happen. I’m just saying, if it ends up that way, we’re our community, the people that we love all of that stuff. We’re going to be fine.
Yeah. In the long run. Yeah. And in the larger sense, I mean, if, as a person who has actually like, built something, realized it was rotten at the core, broke it up, exploded and ran away, cried, came back, figured it out, help to run a new thing build. It’s okay. It’s alright. Like belts, a quick, quick precis of what’s going on in my life. They’re not I mean, what as far as that goes, it’s like, I, I just feel like you’re right. The It doesn’t matter if it’s a phoenix rising from the ashes, the people in this town who want to make stuff who want to create things there. They’re out there and they’ll connect and maybe we’ll meet people we never met before. I mean, no kidding. If my if if the new movement hadn’t crumbled, I probably wouldn’t have met half the people in other theaters because I was so kept in my tower of like, this is where you stay. You don’t talk to other people that I didn’t know that I could just talk to all these other people and like the breadth of human beings involved in not just improv, but like yeah, theater and dance and performance art even The like, I did a bunch of research, like in the fall about like, avant garde experimental theater in town. And God, there was so much I had a student, like, hey, I want to do stuff. Can you suggest theaters and I was like, let me see what I can find. And I just searched and searched for stuff and looked to see who was doing stuff that I thought was like, they’re gonna continue to do work. They’re actually building creating things, and like, sent her Hey, go to this theater. They seem like a good crowd. They’ll probably, you know, you’ll get an audition and you’ll help them create something. It’ll be fun. And I was like, who had no idea there was so much going on. So all these human beings here, everyone who survives financially and life. Yeah, they will come back together, we will come back together and whatever that becomes, will be something brand new. Yeah. And you know, the other thing that’s great about the hideout Is that you guys are connected to the international community in a way that no other theater is going to say, in the US. And that’s gonna I’m sure people are gonna be mad at me for saying that. But legitimately, since I started interviewing international improvisers, like across the globe, I’ll interview people all over the place. When I see our Facebook mutual friends, it’s pretty much just hideout people. I know people and Europe, you know what I mean? So there’s a crowd. And that crowd is, is y’all right? And you’re staying connected not just in the city, but also across the world to people and and allowing for, you know, people to learn different things. There are people who have come and taken the Summer Intensive with y’all were like, I’ll talk to them and I’m like, I’m sorry. You came and did what? And they’re like, you I’ve been to Austin I did this at the hideout. I’m like, my brains exploded. We’re talking here in Bulgaria, bro. Like, are you kidding
me right now?
You know so.
So it’s, it’s great. It’s a great community. You guys seem to have a great business plan as far as I mean, you were the first theater to get on zoom and start doing shows and classes and stuff like and yeah. mmediately and that, that like jumping on a change, like, what is it? No problem. I’ll ride that wave. You guys are on it. And like, I don’t know how it feels to you. And yes, maybe everything might crumble because it turns out everything’s crumbling. But know that the work that you guys have done and are doing is noticed and really important and inspiring. For so many of us who are like, I don’t
know what to do right now. So.
So you guys constantly order, even legitimately hearing about you know, you’re like, oh, there’s people working on a class, I might need to talk to them. That’s amazing. I love that that’s happening. I love it. There’s people doing in class right now like,
yeah, yeah, you guys are just greatest fun. You’re great.
Thank you. That’s so sweet. That’s really kind. Yeah. I mean, it’s not like we’re throwing in the towel. Believe me, we’re not Oh, no. But it’s just we’re, you know, we’re at that point that I was talking about earlier, where it’s like, it’s time to start being desperate and seeing what what are the options? How do we do this? What are some other avenues that we can explore? And you know, typically when that happens, exciting things happen. So
you if Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy taught us anything, it’s don’t throw in the towel, keep your towel
they’re gonna need That’s right. You need that towel. That’s right.
Well, listen, thank you, Jessica, so much for being on the podcast with sharing stories with me and chatting about all the things that you’ve learned creating the utricle businesses and working so hard. Thank you so much for doing it. And thank you so much for sharing with the audience.
Thank you. Really it was delightful talking to you. I mean it’s really easy to just like talk about everything and I appreciate you so much and all the kind things you said they’re like really making my heart warm right now so thank you so much for for inviting me to be on I’m very excited.
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