by Mia Iseman
I know what you’re thinking. “It’s about time someone wrote about that wonderful person, Paul Normandin!” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Wait, which one is this? Paul who? Do I know him?” If you fall into the latter category, take another look at his picture. You know—Paul, the guy that’s quick to lend a helping hand, give a hug, or ask how you’re doing. You probably met him in the green room at a local theater or during intermission in the audience. I refuse to believe you have never met him.
However, if you only know Paul through the improv community, then you don’t know the half of him. I can tell you some of what Paul does, but I can’t possibly encapsulate what Paul is or why he deserves so much praise. So, I want your help in fawning over Paul. I want you to post in the comments below of how Paul has helped you, why he makes you laugh and smile, or the effect he has had on you. Read on, or not, but make sure to comment so Paul can hear from all of us.
When I first met Paul, it was at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos for the Ultimate Players League of Austin board meeting. Paul is certainly pimp enough to be an ultimate playa, but this board just serves a local Austin athletic community. Simply called “ultimate,” players chase a plastic disc around and gradually destroy their bodies over a period of years. Ultimate is self-officiated, and according to the rulebook, “highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors.” It should come as no surprise, then, to know that for years Paul has played with a local team, Riverside, and won the respect of all competitors. He coached another Riverside team in Austin, and can be spotted at countless pickup games around town, always the friendliest and most excited to welcome someone new to the game.
However, that night at Wahoo’s, Paul wasn’t your average community member. He takes it upon himself to volunteer his time and energy to help those around him, in this case so that local players could compete more often, more safely, and more easily. Fellow board member Paul Hanna asserts that Paul not only served on the board but also made it better. Hanna says “he was unflinchingly optimistic and extremely ambitious. He convinced us that we were capable of doing so much more than we were doing – and we were already doing a lot.” Paul served as Board President for years, obtaining a 3rd party website, and at one point utilized his professional expertise to negotiate a contract that no one else had the experience to maneuver. Fellow board member Tina Woodings says, “Paul had incredible vision for our organization.”
But I’m sure Paul would downplay his involvement. He’s in the business of doing good and making others feel good, and I am rarely able to convince him to take some credit himself. Fellow imp and ultimate player Chris Sebilia puts it perfectly: “In the ultimate Frisbee world, Paul’s self-deprecation will belie how much people looked forward to playing alongside him or how early he was chosen in the draft.”
Paul loves ultimate.
Fast forward about 5 years, when I bumped into Paul at the Hideout Theater. We were surprised to see each other, and found we were both members of another community – the AIC. Like ultimate, improv encourages you to play nicely with others and use your brain and body at the same time in “pressure” situations. (There are a lot less injuries in improv.) Paul quickly found his niche in the improv scene as well, taking classes, forming troupes, and making friends at all different theaters. He plays in three troupes – Two Guys from Yonkers, We’re Here to Date Your Daughter, and In Our Prime, and his affability translates to the stage. That’s not to say he can’t play a mean character, but he’s got a connection with the audience that is undeniable. In one scene, he played Napoleon opposite my sassy but helpless servant girl, and things went exactly where you might predict. I remember being grateful it was Paul, because no one else can pull off Napolean creeping on a young girl in such a likeable way.
Paul loves improv.
If playing ultimate or improvising aren’t really your thing, fear not! Lately, Paul can be seen at Salvage Vanguard Theater’s No Shame variety open mic. That’s right, there is another community in Austin that will benefit from Paul’s kindness. Sebilia, also a No Shame regular, says, “Who better to take a supportive role than Paul, introducing himself to new-comers, coaching budding storytellers, or sharing his own captivating stories?”
Paul loves storytelling.
But, it’s not enough for Paul to simply love something. He feels the need to bring that joy to others. Perhaps you saw him with his Free Hugs sign on Congress to any passers-by. Paul has literally touched the lives of hundreds of people. Maybe you were one of the over 40 volunteers at Hideout’s Wafflefest under his expert direction just last year. He’s producing the festival this year. Maybe you were just out of the hospital, only to find that he and his equally-benevolent wife Victoria came to visit you, treats in hand? Were you with him cleaning up the green room at the Hideout? Paul has a unique way of inspiring envy; we are jealous because he makes us want to be more generous, more philanthropic, more like him.
This guy doesn’t just love ultimate, or improv, or story-telling. He loves people.
We love you more, Paul.
Let’s show Paul we love him by leaving our comments below…