I’ve been wanted to write a little something to let people know exactly what Bearded Men has been up to lately and just how much has happened in the past year, but wasn’t sure when or how. So much has been going on and has happened, and sometimes I hate to talk excitedly about it for fear it would come off as bragging. I’m just so frickin’ proud…excited…scared. Proud of all we’ve accomplished. Excited for things we’re doing. Scared of what exactly the future holds. Sorry if it reads as a bit scatterbrained, but that’s just how it’s all stored up there, just kind of a big, awesome blur.

It’s hard to know where to start. Well, we hit quite a few festivals, a few even sent personal invites and helped pay our way there, which was a really fantastic first. I cannot describe what it’s like to go somewhere else far from home and have people tell you that they’ve heard about you and are excited to see your show or take your workshop, then to get a standing ovation, it really is amazing. We’ve made so many friends in all the places we’ve traveled and I don’t think there is anywhere that we wouldn’t jump at the chance to go back or want to move to for one reason or another. One of the most interesting connections we made was at the Twin Cities Improv Festival in 2013, when we met the guys from 3 for All, out of California.  I think all of the Beards would agree that they truly are a group that we can only hope to be like someday. We are truly surrounded by so many fantastic improvisors right here at home, but there really is something about these guys that’s just kind of unexplainable. We all took workshops from them while they were here and when we were on our tour, all awesome, and so much was learned.

Oh yeah, we went on our first cross-country tour, Beard by Beardwest. We’d been talking about doing a tour for, well, ever, and we finally did it. The reason for the tour was actually a bit bittersweet, as it was partly just a more exciting way to help Matt move to Los Angeles. At least it got us to do it and we learned a lot. We started the initial planning around September or October and the tour kickoff show was on January 28th at HUGE. We made about twelve major stops over a fifteen day drive. Amazingly enough, we didn’t kill each other and to this day is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had, MJ even won a real Las Vegas poker tournament at MGM Grand one afternoon. We were shown so much hospitality everywhere we went that it made me know that our supporters and the overall improv community are the best. On a personal note, Matt and I have been close for a while and knowing that when I flew back to Minneapolis that he wouldn’t be there was tough, so I think I made even more of my experiences on the tour for that reason.

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At home in Minneapolis, we put on some fantastic shows, if I do say so myself. Over the past twelve months or so we relaunched, “DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: the improvised campaign” for the third time,  launched “Beards on the High Seas,” and most recently launched, “the GOOD, the BAD, and the BEARDED.” I am continually proud of the work we do together. Beyond the themed shows, I think our regular narrative shows (which we call “epic adventures”) keep getting better over time. The kind of better that only happens when you work together for so long. We try as hard as we can to commit to good acting and real moments, really letting emotions build. Are we the best group? No, but we definitely love and trust each other and I’ll take that any day. To this day, the thing I still enjoy hearing most after a show is, “I can really tell you guys are close friends.”

Many great things happened in Minneapolis, but something that was a joke so many years ago also happened. Matt is at the helm of the new, Bearded Men West. We always joked that it would be great if someday we had Bearded Men groups all over the country. This is a start. Maybe this will be the only other one, but hell, I’m damn proud. It made perfect sense, Matt moved there and in the past five years, four of the original Beards moved out there. In just the past four months of being a group they’ve already had multiple shows and have started a regular show of their own, Bearded Men and Friends. I can’t wait for the many Bearded Men exchanges we will have with the guys from there traveling here and us traveling there. Again, I am proud.

And Now, the boring part, the business part. For some reason I thought this was important to have in here as well. As a business, we still basically don’t make any money (and I think I’ve come to terms with that, sort of). We’ve been a business since 2006 and we still don’t make a lot of “real” money. We do get hired out to do events like graduations, senior all-night parties, holiday parties, workshops (this has actually been one of our best years yet), but all that money generally gets funneled back to the group to pay for travel to festivals, tours, taking workshops and buying items for new themed shows we’re putting up. I feel it’s on me to really push for more paid work, so this year I plan to do just that, not sure how yet, but I’m scheming. I can never really say enough great things about the guys and how much they deserve to be paid more than the small stipend they get for those shows (which half the time they turn down). We’ve been fortunate to have fundraisers for different things that so many of our loyal fans have donated to time and again and we can’t thank them enough. Truly, THANK YOU. Of course, there is also no way I couldn’t thank HUGE Theater for paying their Friday and Saturday night shows if they get enough butts in the seats. Pretty awesome to get paid for the shows we love doing the most and awesome that HUGE can do that at all. Business isn’t booming, but it’s still a business and is making something and I am thankful for that.

Bearded Men has come so far, but I always feel like we are on the brink of something new and great. Like I said in the beginning, I’m excited, proud and scared. I hope those feelings never go away.