An Uncomfortable Woman: Read, Relate, Donate

Meghan Ross is a writer, producer, and comedian, and the host of the women-run late night show That Time of the Month (Teen Halloween episode is this Saturday at ColdTowne, featuring an all-teen girl lineup!). We sat down with Meghan to talk about her upcoming film, An Uncomfortable Woman.

 How’d you get to ColdTowne?

I moved to Austin 2 years ago from New York, where I had started performing comedy and completed my improv/sketch training at UCB, and ColdTowne was kind enough to give me a monthly spot on the schedule when I wanted to adapt That Time of the Month here (I’d previously been co-hosting it for 2 years in New York with Liisa Murray). This fall, I’m also directing and producing An Uncomfortable Woman, a dark comedy short film I’ve written with Sam Stepp.

You’re currently in pre-production mode for An Uncomfortable Woman. Can you tell us what inspired you to write and produce this project?

Every year, I make a resolution to film something I write, and every year, I procrastinate on that goal (does this make me relatable???). About a year ago, Sam and I started meeting up as writing accountability buddies, keeping each other in check on our own personal projects. During one of these meetings, Sam had just finished watching a disturbing amount of Lifetime movies on YouTube and we started discussing how they all have one theme in common: show women in pain, as a form of entertainment.

We were both drawn to the dark comedy genre, and it seemed natural to use that tone to depict someone going through some real shit, while using humor to cope with it. I’d found myself in one of those shit moments last year with the passing of my Aunt Dawn, who was like a second mother to me. I continue to use comedy to help me ride the ups and downs of the grief rollercoaster (which sounds like a failed idea for a Six Flags ride).

Our idea developed further when we honed in on a woman dealing with her own personal trauma, and at the same time, experiencing the everyday behaviors of a patriarchal society. We thought it’d be interesting to show what seem like trivial moments in the script (ex: a waiter putting his hand on her waist to brush past her) as much more eerie and exaggerated through cinematography, to convey the discomfort a woman feels internally, but might not be as obvious to others externally. And on top of everything that’s already happened to this woman (her mother passed away, she had to move back into her childhood home after the end of her engagement), she still feels like a third bad thing is lurking around the corner.

Tell us about the leading lady.

Robin Beltran as Dylan in An Uncomfortable Woman

The role of the lead character is played by Robin Beltrán, a Houston-based actress who also happens to be an amazing vegan chef and an all-around wonderful woman being! Our goal was to cast a WOC as the lead, because we wanted to flip the trope of an ethnically-ambiguous sidekick who serves a white lead character’s storyline and instead focus the story on the WOC, with support from the fantastic Haley Alea Erickson (Say Uncle Improv) as the lead’s childhood BFF.

I met Robin through casting and quickly learned the obstacles she’s had to overcome in her personal life, from a tragic incident where her husband was shot (propelling her family to adapt a plant-based diet, since it was the only way he could process food), to a former news station employer criticizing and wanting to change everything about her appearance, including her natural hair. Her resilience has been so inspiring to me, and she’s been incredibly supportive of the project since the day she came into auditions.

 

Why was it important to you to have a crew made up entirely of women and POC?

It’s taken a long time for the TV/film industry to realize the importance of diverse casting when it comes to telling stories from the perspective of POC (see: Matt Damon, Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, someone probably auditioning for Aladdin 2 right now) and we still have a lot more work to do to improve it. But booking a diverse crew and staff (anywhere from the writers’ room to showrunners, gaffers to directors) continues to be an afterthought for many studios and networks who boast about their “woke” content.

That’s why another priority on this project was to have a crew that reflects the inclusiveness of the cast. And for me, that extends to booking women in roles that are often exclusively filled by men on set. I’ve witnessed this gender inequality in previous work experiences in the TV industry, as well as in the comedy scene with show lineups. I may not be a rich and powerful TV/film executive, but I can still implement the kind of change I’d like to see, even on a smaller level.

How can folks support the project?

We’re currently raising money to fund our film (most importantly, pay and feed our amazing cast and crew). If you have the means, please consider donating to our Indiegogo campaign where in exchange, you can get some cool-as-hell prizes from local women-owned businesses, women artists, and women professionals.

If you can’t donate, please share the link with anyone/everyone you know! We’re also looking for businesses who are interested in donating meals for craft services during our shoot days, so if that’s you, please email us at uncomfortablewomanfilm@gmail.com.

Where can we follow for updates?

You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@uncomfwoman), and Instagram (@uncomfortablewoman). This is the one scenario where it’s appropriate to follow around “an uncomfortable woman.”

You can see Meghan Ross in her monthly ColdTowne show, That Time of the Month, and on Saturday, Nov. 3 at BettyFest at the Historic Scoot Inn.

B. Iden Payne Award-winning cast, Prima Doñas presents an all-new live comedy telenovela

You may or may not have gotten a chance to see a Latinauts show at ColdTowne in the last year and a half. If you did, you know that the cast (known as improv troupe Prima Doñas) is made up of Latinx improvisers who have spent most of 2017 and 2018 making up shows on the spot with a telenovela twist. After three sold out main stage show runs at ColdTowne Theater and after bringing home three B. Iden Payne Awards in 2017 including outstanding cast in an improvised play, the group is taking their highly conceptual theater-prov to a White House setting in Latinacional.

The all-star cast of this comedy explore the relationships and trials you might see in a telenovela, all the while maintaining their character’s duties as part of the the President’s Cabinet. The show features some of Austin’s most talented performers, including: Yamina Khouane ( nominated Best Actress in the Chronicle’s 2018 Best Of Austin), Carlos La Rotta of Movie Riot (ColdTowne) and Laura de la Fuente (Martini Ranch & Loverboy, ColdTowne). Prima Doñas also just finished headlining at FuturX: A New LatinX Festival and Out of Bounds Comedy Festival here in Austin this past August.

The idea behind bringing this new iteration of Prima Doñas’ signature telenovela improv format to the White House is heavily inspired by West Wing and HBO’s Veep. If you’re yearning to see literally anyone else in the White House, even just for an hour, Prima Doñas will take you there with a promise to make no references to today’s political disarray… if they can help it.

Directed by Ben G Bazán and Lilli Lopez, Latinacional runs at ColdTowne Theater (4803 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78751) Saturdays at 8:30 beginning September 29 through Nov. 17, no show on Nov. 3. Tickets are $15 at the door and $12 online. For more information, contact coldtowne@coldtownetheater.com, call (512) 814-8696, or visit www.coldtownetheater.com.

About ColdTowne Theater
ColdTowne Theater is Austin’s main stage for alternative comedy. Running shows 7 nights a week and featuring the smartest, brightest, and hardest-working comedians in Central Texas. For phone reservations or more information, call (512) 817-TOWN, or visit www.ColdTowneTheater.com

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/latinacional-improv-tickets-49992183968

MEDIA CONTACT
Lilli Lopez, Marketing Director
ColdTowne Theater
lillianallopez@gmail.com

That Time of the Month celebrates its 3rd birthday!

First impressions aside, That Time of the Month is actually a late night show hosted by a woman that your heart has long desired, but broadcast networks have never delivered! Once a month, Meghan Ross showcases all types of talented comedic acts including music, stand-up, characters, sketches, and general weirdness from women beings, with improvised commercials in between.

Before relocating to Austin, Meghan produced the show in New York for 2 years with co-creator Liisa Murray, featuring past special guests Aparna Nancherla (Corporate), Jo Firestone (The Tonight Show), and Akilah Hughes (Genius Kitchen). She adapted the show at ColdTowne Theater shortly following her move.

That Time of the Month 3-Year Anniversary Show is on Saturday, March 17th at 11pm and features performances from Andie Flores (Muy Excited), improvised commercials from Say Uncle (The Say), a Strong Female Lead(er) interview with Tiffany Lopez (OH TIFF!), stand-up from Avery Moore (Moontower Comedy), plus free champagne along with treats and giveaways from sponsors Zucchini Kill Bakery, Adamo Nail Bar, and OH TIFF! GET TICKETS HERE!

We spoke to That Time of the Month host and producer Meghan Ross about the past 3 years of That Time of the Month!

What was the inspiration behind That Time of the Month?

My fellow improv teammate and sisterwife from another misterwife, Liisa Murray, and I started scheming for our own variety show in New York. We came up with the insane premise of hypothetical TV network executives giving two women their own late night show (there are no women late night hosts on broadcast networks – Full Frontal with Samantha Bee premiered a year after our show, and that was on cable). Since these “TV network execs” clearly didn’t trust us to do a good job, we called each episode a pilot, and at the end of each show, we’d receive ridiculous notes from them on what we should change about ourselves and the show (written by us – shoutout to internalized sexism!).

In between our self-deprecating womonologue jokes that poked fun at stereotypes placed on us, we featured comedic and musical performances from humans who happen to be women, along with late night-style couch interviews. It was important for us to provide more stage time to women, since then, and still today, you often see a lack of diversity in casting and show lineups – both in the comedy scene and in the TV and film industry.

How has the show evolved or changed over the last three years?

Shortly after I moved to Austin, the 2016 Elections happened, so I took some time off from comedy to sit shiva for the country, and to get my shit together for the next iteration of the show. That’s when I decided to incorporate a Strong Female Lead(er) segment, where I interview an activist or entrepreneur doing kickass work in the community. It’s been one of my favorite additions, and I’ve met some incredibly inspiring ladies that have helped restore my sanity and faith in humanity.

Hosting the show solo versus leaning on my co-host Liisa for emotional support and general Stevie Nicks witchy vibes was also a new challenge, but it’s forced me to gain confidence in my ability to run a show by myself in a new city. Or at least pretend I’m confident for 60 minutes.

Also, for the first year and a half, Liisa and I would start the show by dancing to a song (for a while it was Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman”) for the entire length of it (upwards of 5-6 minutes). We’d end up out of breath for our monologue, and when we kept running over our 60-minute slot, we’d be like, “Well, what unnecessary thing could we possibly cut to save time?” and proceed to include the entire dance intro for 20 episodes. It was inspired by how Abbi and Ilana used to start their Broad City Live show at UCB (gotta point out that this was pre-TV show, post-web series, because I’m a recovering comedy snob), since they looked like they were having so much damn fun together, and we wanted to convey that up top. I’ve retired that bit, and accepted that no one wants to see me dance alone on stage for that long.

Any memorable moments or stories?

During the third pilot episode, which was also my birthday show, our late night desk (a cheap folding table from the props closet) collapsed on one side right after one of us said, “Legalize pot,” causing everything to go flying into a puddle of champagne. It was the funniest, dumbest visual ever for our low-budget show and the best comedic timing I’d ever witnessed.

About a year after that, I got the brilliant idea to host a dog wedding on the show, and since no one could really tell us no, we did it. During the desk bit segment, we had a barkelorette party for the dogs, because dog toys look a lot like sex toys. We had a real ordained minister, comedian Lauren Brickman, lead the ceremony and we married off comedian Lily Du’s puppy Jacuzzi to singer Jessica Rowboat’s dog Frodo. The dogparents even read beautiful vows on behalf of their doggos, and afterwards, Jacuzzi ate a doggie cupcake to consummate the whole thing. It was pretty weird of me to force these dogs (neither of which are mine) to marry, but even weirder was when I ended up fostering and adopting my dog Dreidel just a week after the wedding. Second best comedic timing.

My Aunt Dawn, who was like another mother to me, passed away suddenly this past May. I thought about cancelling the May show, but realized she would have wanted me to still do it (not via some Field of Dreams voice, but more because she’s that kind of selfless person and was very supportive of my comedy). I dedicated the show to her and tried to include as many details in her memory, like baking funfetti cookie sandwiches for the audience, which were her specialty, and making a show playlist of her favorite songs. I wrote about her for my monologue as I was flying back to Austin, but didn’t have time to prepare a written desk bit. I decided since it was right around Mother’s Day, I would do an improvised “Call Your Mom” segment where I ask if anyone would be willing to call their mother on speaker at midnight in the middle of a late night show. Improvisor Laura de la Fuente volunteered, and her amazing mom answered the phone and casually chatted with us (in front of our audience) while rushing to catch a plane, and indulged us with an embarrassing story about Laura that had everyone in tears from laughing so hard. After experiencing a family tragedy, that episode really helped me use humor to cope.

What are you looking forward to – creatively speaking – in the next year of the show?

I’ve started partnering with women-owned businesses to showcase and promote women entrepreneurs and business owners in the Austin community, and in return, they generously provide the audience with treats and prizes. I’m also investing a lot of my time and resources to growing the show in 2018, turning it into more than just a side hustle. If given the opportunity, I’d love to make some real TV network executives uncomfortable with my presence.