Sandino had their last Harold Night this past Tuesday (Sep. 25th).
I was lucky to be their first coach. Last night Kate Riley thanked me for starting Sandino off right. I told her I didn’t deserve any credit, and while she disagreed with me, I still stand by that statement. They were immediately great even in that first rehearsal.
I should point out the pictures I posted are NOT from their first rehearsal. They might not even be from the first few months when I coached them. But they are all the rehearsal photos of Sandino I had.
Here’s a story from the early days of Sandino. Between their second and third show we had a rehearsal where the main goal was playing everything real. In particular we focused on treating death as seriously.
In their next show they had a group game where they tossed around dead bodies while laughing. I was furious.
Then they tried to get a blackout on Nate Dern shrugging his shoulder and saying “That’s Starzinski”. It got a huge reaction from the crowd, but it was unearned… it was just trading off the people in the crowd knowing Alan Starzinski. The tech looked at me and I said “I’m not giving them that blackout”. I then gave them a tepid, poor blackout.
I went into the back hallway and saw Sandino all standing around, pleased with their very well received third show. I looked at them and said something to the affect of, “That was a very funny show. But you did everything wrong that we worked on” I then spent a moment or too longer saying I expected more from them, and they are better then that. Without giving any specific notes I turned to walk away and Alan asked for a letter grade on the show. Furious I said “F! For you guys? That was an F show.” then I left.
That’s incredibly harsh! They didn’t deserve that. It was the team’s THIRD show. But they had raised their own bar so high, so fast, it felt true. They were better then that. They were smarter then that. And on their next show they proved it by having their best performance yet.
I didn’t coach Sandino long due to scheduling issues. But from time to time I would coach them randomly as a fill in. Here are some of the reasons Sandino was great.
They were organized. Everyone did their job. Whether it was booking rooms, getting a coach, or handling money. I never once saw them confused about who was doing what. They always knew what was going on. I think they were afraid of what Kate would do if they didn’t remain organized.
They had fun. They created their own warmups. They made each other laugh. They were never selfish. Happy to be silent, or just do walk-ons, or sit on the back line. You have to enjoy the team you are on if you want the audience to enjoy your shows.
Here’s another fun story. In an early rehearsal they did a scene where two people played Jenga. I proclaimed “Never play Jenga in a scene!” because I never saw a scene involving Jenga that worked. Later in that rehearsal I jokingly said “Never do scenes in a van” after a scene that involved a van. I then promptly forgot about it.
Maybe over a year later I was coaching them and they proudly told me that they still followed those rules. “We drive buses, trucks, or SUVs, but never a van!”. And they told me about a show (I hope I’m remembering this correctly) where Kate initiated a scene that involved Jenga. She realized her mistake, tagged herself out and let someone else take the scene to a new Jenga-free place. Their coach was confused by the meaningless self-tag out. But the team backed Kate up saying it had to be done.
They were smart. As a fill in coach I would come in with some fun, hard ideas I wanted to try out and they would always nail it the first time. The second half of a Sandino rehearsal always involved me scrambling to come up with things to do because I had expected them to have to struggle more at what I had planned.
Their secret weapon was every single member of the team. Every time I thought I had them pegged I realized I was wrong. Kate is their game person. Nope she was the one who played it real. Nope she was the one who kept the show’s theme alive. Oh right, she can do it all. Now replace the name Kate with Alan, John, Aaron, Brandon, Anna, Nate, Dru, Terry or Don. It was true of all of them. They all had their strengths they were great at, but then they were all very good at everything else. That’s a nice backup skill.
Sandino was a great team. They still are, I guess because they are performing their Unsolved Mysteries show every few weeks at the UCB. But they will be missed from Harold Night. Raise their team name up into the banners with all the other great teams that have come before them.