Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A letter I wrote to a friend of mine.

I don’t know how to sell Chicago anymore than I have. I can tell you all about the city, and it’s people, but at some point I’d just be talking about things you have little to no context for. Like someone talking about a fantasy football league there in without you. You have to be here to see it, to taste it, to really feel the cold road under your feet and realize this city has so much history that you’ll never fully grasp. Leaving Oregon wasn’t easy, but that’s why I left. Oregon was too easy, and represented little challenge with even less reward. I needed a fundamental change to prove to myself that even if I didn’t make it as an actor, that I had still made the effort to try. So all I can do is make the case for why I came.

I’ve been here a little more than 2 years, and with work, I am now part of a welcoming community of likeminded actors and am rewarded each week with the endless opportunities to watch and practice my craft. And I’m only talking about iO. I’ve yet to break into all the people who work at the Second City. And that’s just comedy. The amount of independent theater companies here is daunting. I have friend who work nonstop year round, traveling the theater circuit in town and around the country, making an amazing name for themselves because of all the easy exposure they get for their hard, and I mean hard, work.

Within the first year of being here I found a group of talent guys and organized them into a group that is now beginning to make an impact on the comedy scene here, simply by doing what we want because we love it, rather than what the path is suppose to look like. Imagine meeting some of the most talented people at Oregon during your entire time there on your first day, and realizing that you would all be coming up together. My class at iO is known as the Dream Team, because even though only 13 of the 60 people were put on a team, the rest have all done amazing things in the last year. Why? Because rather than fighting for the stage, we all love and support the shit out of each others art.

Seeing a pattern? The sell for me was community. The only time I don’t feel supported is when my own fear and self confidence gets in the way. Luckily I have people to punch me in the arm and tell me to stop being an idiot. People have my back, which makes any sense of competition seem petty. Yes, there are the ladder climbers, and you can spot them a mile away. But it just make the genuine, kind and compassionate people even more enjoyable.

In my opinion, Chicago is a better city, at this moment in time, than New York or Los Angeles. Though Chicago is a tough city, it’s certainly not NY or LA in terms of things being on the line. Simply looking at saturation levels of bodies and talent, you’ll spend most of your time fighting for stage time rather than focusing on what you’re doing on stage. Chicago allows people to cut their teeth and find their voice before going jumping into the fray. There is a reason that the a majority of the biggest talents. Here’s a little list, to prove my point

Alan Arkin
John Cusack
John Malkovich
Chris Farley
Tina Fey
Bob Newhart
Conan O'Brien
Jeremy Piven
Harold Ramis
John C. Reilly
Amy Sedaris
Bill Murray, along with most of the first 10 years of SNL cast members.
Vince Vaughn
Bob Odenkirk
Steve Carrell
Steven Colbert
All the founders of the UCB

But none of this matters till you can see it. I can talk this town into seeming like the best city in the world (which I may once you’re here). But it doesn’t matter until you experience it. That’s what I had to do. I had never seen Chicago before I moved here. And the first year was scary because I was finding myself here. But once I found people I trusted who could show me their favorite places, then the city warmed to me. Now, I can’t imagine leaving. There is just too much going on here that interests me. Not just theater. The music scene is amazing. I am sure I will see the next wilco or smashing pumpkins, or whatever amazing band from Chicago’s past, playing some small club before the get big, and ultimately disappointing.
And then there is the food. I could write pages on the food.

So here it is. You come to Chicago before the midpoint of year. Once it beings to warm up so we can really walk around and explore. Experience the city with me. I’ll show you the best time you could imagine. I’ll find shows for us to see, people for you to meet and fall in love with, and just give you the grand tour. I don’t want to belittle Oregon and all it’s greatness, but when you leave Chicago, you’ll see Oregon differently. Why? Because you have made the realization that you want to be here. You just needed to see it.

I need to see you here before July. I’m serious about this. Why before July?Because if you wait till later, it’ll be another year to get you out here. You’re at a critical point in your life at this very moment. The world is a blank canvass. You get to make choices not because you have a responsibility, but because you have the desire to. Yes I’m leaning on you, but you know you want to make a jump. You’ve got the fire, you’ve got the energy, and for the first time in almost 5 years, you literally have nothing to loose.

I didn’t write this so we can make magic here. I didn’t write this because I need you here for my sake. To be honest, I don’t need you here. I want you here, but I don’t need you. I am experiencing a lot of success on my own, and opposed to other times where we have needed each other to find success, I’ve stuck a claim on my own and make something. I don’t say this to insult you, I say this to challenge you. You are strong, and can stand tall. This city will make you. I say this so you realize there is no motive more than me wanting to see you succeed because you worked hard, and wanted to triumph on your own will. I would love to create amazing art with you, and the rest of our band of friends. But I realize you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to. I came here because I wanted to work with people who were better than me, and who would make me better. I’ve achieved that and am learning more each day. I want this for you. That’s why I wrote you.

Buy a ticket. Call me the moment you do.

I love you. I would not be doing this if I didn’t, if I didn’t know that this would be an amazing place for you to flourish.

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