My comedy career officially began when I joined the Second City Comedy troupe. Joined doesn’t actually do the process of making the troupe any justice. Joining implies that I randomly called up the Second City office and told them that I wanted to become a member of their illustrious crew of comediennes.
Hi, I’d like to speak with Andrew Alexander.
Yeah, hi, listen Andy, love your troupe, think I’d make a great addition, when do you want me to join?
No.. no.. no.. no….joining consists of auditioning along with a herd of hopefuls, getting a callback, which is akin to a culling of the hopeful herd, and finally, mercifully landing a spot in the coveted touring company after weeks of feeling nauseated every time the phone rings.
My takeaway after the two years of trying to learn the fine art of improvisation was that saying yes always, always was the beginning of a great adventure, be it a good one or a bad one.
Back in November I received an email invite from Mary-Lou Gardner to be a speaker at the Muskoka Chautauqua I really didn’t have a clue who they were or what they did, but it was a lovely invite. I love to read, I thought it would be fun. (Fun being one of my modus operandi)
Their theme for the weekend was “Humour, Health and Happiness” and I do know a little bit about all of that. Bonus my husband and I got two nights at the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort and Spa and if the weekend ended up being a bust I could always go to their spa.
And so I said yes.
We drove up from Toronto during one of those catastrophic Muskoka rainstorms when the skies look like the end of the world may be on its way. Thunder, lightning and massive rain made the drive up Highway 169 hair-raising. I kept thinking that the storm was poetic foreshadowing and that we should just turn around and go back home. On cue as we arrived at the hotel the rain stopped and we checked in to blueish skies and a fabulous lobby. To say the room was gorgeous would be a gross understatement. One of the reasons I travel for work is so I can play hotel and from my experience I knew this hotel and this room were going to be a great place to play.
Fed and watered we met in the library and mingled with both the participants and supporters of the weekend. I finally met Mary Lou and co-chair Michaele, both gracious and charming women. We were introduced to and by MC and new wave pianist and musician Michael Jones, who in his own right was no slouch. The lineup of speakers was more than impressive:
Dr Mike Evans, Physician, Founder of Mini Med, Globe and Mail columnist and creator of “23 ½ Hours”
Terry Fallis, Writer, Public relations consultant, winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and sometime hovercraft builder.
Francesca Grosso, Writer, Principal at Grosso McCarthy, a firm specializing in public affairs, strategy and communication, and noted health care consultant.
Marnie McBean, Writer, Olympian, three time gold medalist, and mentor to the Canadian Olympic team.
Steve Paikin, Writer, Journalist, Host of TVO’s The Agenda, and not-so-secret peanut butter lover.
Roderick and Sharon Stewart, Writers and co-authors of a biography of Norman Bethune.
Charlie Wilkins, Writer, journalist, Atlantic rower and self-described galactic explorer.
Rolland Smith, Former television news reporter and anchor, commentator, producer, radio co-host and poet.
You would have thought that after the introductions, the drinks and the treats that I would have tweaked on the enormity of the weekend. With a cast of giants in the world of health, TV, news reporting, writing, and a triple Gold Medal Olympian thrown in for good measure this weekend was looking like it was going to be fun. (Remembering that fun is one of my modus operandi)
Call me challenged but it wasn’t until somewhere in the middle of the morning’s panel, that I was on, that it dawned on me that I had said yes to a weekend that was saturated in knowledge, forward thinkers and life changing revelations. Throw in fabulous food catered by Crossroads on Lake Rousseau and you have a weekend to be remembered.
Muskoka Chautauqua was not what I expected. Muskoka Chautauqua is a vibrant arts-based community where visitors come for personal growth, enrichment and renewal. It is an uplifting cultural hub that encompasses the arts, education and reflection; a place removed from the day-to-day world, where practitioners and leading thinkers of our time share innovative and creative ideas; a place where the arts blend with the natural beauty of Muskoka and where the human spirit – and all its hidden talents – may be liberated … and soar. (quote from their website – and I totally agree with every word)
The weekend and the people involved with Muskoka Chautauqua helped all of us soar.
To be inspired take a meander through this year’s event calendar
I learned a ton, laughed a lot, and ate my way through a weekend that was a complete joy to be a part of.
I guess I’ll just have to write another book so they’ll invite me back next year.