When I sat down to write this entry, my initial thought was to discuss choices in improvisation scenes.
As an improviser, I should know that to go with the first instinct is the best bet.
And then I realized what day it is, and how it’s been 6 months since Thomas, my friend and fellow improviser, passed on.
Choices can wait.
Rather than mourning, I’m using this post to celebrate Thomas. How his charisma, enthusiasm, and humor came to be such a large part of my life.
I can’t tell you the exact date I met Thomas. His personality was such a force of nature, he had this ability to sweep into your life, and you’d become convinced he had been a part of it since you were born. Dig deep enough, you could probably convince yourself he was the one who delivered you into this world.
I do know that he appeared at CSz practices some time within the first months of my rookie year with the group. There had been stories told about his past exploits, and these stories only served to heighten his legend among the new people populating the cast. When he entered through those doors, it was evident that his personality was not exaggerated by others; he was gregarious, smiling, and quick with a joke.
Time passed on. I worked with him on occasion, but nothing too deep. Helped run sound for his segment in a Valentine’s Day themed musical show. Watching him work the audience was a lesson in of itself. He didn’t care who you were, just as long as you were having a good time.
More time passed. He started offering a workshop on Sundays. 5 bucks. Couple of hours of just playing and learning and honing skills in an enclosed, supportive environment. These times were the times that I started connecting with him more. We would hang out after practices, discussing what had transpired in the past couple of hours. Then the conversation would veer off into completely unfamiliar territory, where it seemed the only goal was to make the other person laugh the hardest.
More time passed. CSz closed its location, leaving that Sunday crew looking for a new place to practice. Thomas, ever the one the one to put forth effort for something he cared about, finagled his way into a space that was an office used by one of the Sunday players. It was there the next comedy experiment, Paradox, began.
Our time at the office wasn’t too long. Soon enough, we moved into Art6, sharing space with random and sometimes weird art pieces. Ask anyone in Paradox about the cardboard sculptures, and they’ll be happy to give you stories upon stories about how those damn things were always in the way. The space was cold in the winter, unbearably hot in the summer. But it was a space, and we used that to our advantage by putting on several shows of all types of formats. Shortform, longform. A variation on Inside the Actor’s Studio. A story based within a motel conveniently found in the depths of Hell. A lemonade stand where the proprietors almost always ended up with a visit from the health inspector.
We rarely sold more than 15 tickets. But it was all right. Paradox wasn’t about the money; It was about people getting together and putting on a show for other people and just having a grand time.
It was within Paradox where Thomas gave me the reins, to be the director of education. It was a title that I held with distinction. Any ideas I had, he was immensely receptive to them, and would gladly add on things that would make the initial concept even greater.
Paradox was essentially Thomas’ beliefs in improv form: Open to anyone. No judging. Everybody brings something to the table.
As Paradox continued, Thomas and I would begin a tradition of “Sheetz Runs.” We’d finish practice or a show, and head over to the 24-hour wonderland that is the Sheetz gas/gastro station. Our foods in hand, we’d sit for hours on the patio, again discussing whatever it is that came to mind. There was the unspoken rule that if we stayed past 1am, we knew we would be seeing the oddballs of society, either drunk, aggressively friendly, or just aggressive and necessitating assistance from law enforcement.
It was on this patio that some wonderful games were discovered, in semi-twisted glory: The terrorist leader who runs his pack of believers as a manager in an office runs his employees; The numerous types of farts, and their official names (The Lunchable and the Hindenburg were top favorites); How many different ways could we end someone or something in “-obama” (ex: If our President had been the father on Family Matters, he’d be Carl Winslow-bama). Were they our smartest and sharpest humors? Not at all. But it was fun.
More time passed. With the re-emergence of CSz, Paradox was put to the wayside. Bittersweet, but overall we were both pleased with what he had done, and were ready to perform in spaces where temperature was actually regulated without the use of space heaters or portable fans. I focused on helping CSz become built, while Thomas focused on creating a weekly variety show for the Capital Ale House. Once again, his life philosophy bled over into this venture: Be interesting, love what you do, and there’s a space on the stage for you.
Thomas brought in a variety of performers. Singers, comedians, comedians trying to be singers, singers who were unintentionally comedic. The only thing that mattered, it seemed, was if he was entertained. If he was laughing, that was the validation. That was what made the sometimes otherwise deathly silence liberating. You knew you had entertained the big guy, so it was going to be all right.
More time passed. After dealing with apathy from the Cap Ale venue, Thomas moved back into CSz, picking up right where he had left off: Making new friends, flirting shamelessly, and impressing everyone with his improvisation skills and philosophical speak which, frankly, sounded like it came from demented Hallmark cards on occasion. The passion and enthusiasm behind each message was evident, though, and each person took what they needed, and felt good, felt wanted and talented and that yes, they could do this scary improv thing.
Then the end of December, 2012 came.
And time stopped passing.
Now, it’s the end of June, 2013. According to the calendar, time has continued. But in my brain, my heart, there are times where it skips back to that weekend, and those feelings.
Like I said before, this isn’t a post of mourning. It’s a post of celebration. And Thomas should be celebrated. His vivid character, his distinctive laugh, his overcoats, his perpetual Eagles baseball cap.
He was CSz’s Falstaff.
Goodbye, my friend. Save a duck or two for me.
Additionally, if you’d like to donate anything to the George family, to help offset the costs that come along in this hard time, visit the YouCaring website. Every little bit helps.