Q&A: The Vortex with Amanda Xeller
Coming to Magnet Theater on Sunday, October 28 at 9:00PM is the all-new sketch show The Vortex! What is so special about The Vortex, you ask? Well besides having to gasp audibly any time you say it aloud or read it written, creator Amanda Xeller has some thoughts.
Why did you want to create The Vortex?
I wanted there to be a short-term opportunity for comedians who wanted to gain experience putting up a sketch show in a sketch team environment. Something that was through a lottery and not hand-selected. Just a space for people who wanted to do the work, wanted to collaborate, and wanted to develop their voice more. Putting up a sketch show and working on a sketch team is a shit-ton of work (can I say ton?). I wanted to have a program where comedians get to experience table reads, practice pitching, practice noting, talk about their choices and their impressions on their work, and be able to critique their work. But also not feel like they’re wed to this team for an indefinite amount of time. So it’s 6 weeks - just enough time to develop different scripts, pick a show, and rehearse it.
What are you excited about in Vortex-land?
The crews. The Vortex is showcasing two teams each consisting of 10 very different talented comedians from all over NYC. We got Magnet, UCB, BCC, PIT, and indie comedians and their voices are so varied: topical, political, dark, silly, DUMB, character-driven, physical, abstract, etc… Everyone this round wants to be in this room. Everyone wants to be and is doing the work. Everyone is so kind and sweet. Honestly, the makings of what you want in any working environment: kindness, professionalism, and talent. It’s all there and it’s really awesome.
You've been a part of other Magnet sketch vehicles like Moxie and Ringers for a long time. How does The Vortex compare or differ?
Moxie is massive and features about 100 comedians who are all pretty much brand-spankin’ new to sketch. It’s purpose is to create a fun collaborative sketch setting for female-identifying and non-binary comedians. Ringers is an opportunity for the people at The Magnet who are interested in acting in and directing sketch to get a stab at those roles. It’s also gives writers who have a backlog of finished sketches an opportunity to put up their work. The Vortex is a temp-team program. We meet only 6 times to develop and rehearse new work. Writers aren’t expected to have finished sketches day 1. Just a first draft. Writers bring in sketches and actors pitch. We work as a unit to strengthen voice and direction in sketch. The Vortex also isn’t limited to just the Magnet community. It’s for comedians who want to get more involved with sketch in NYC. Each group is limited to 10 people - all a mix of writers, performers, and writer-performers. It’s pretty fucking cool (can I say cool?).
What do you love so much about these lab/workshop-based sketch programs?
Showcasing voice and talent AND connecting people to each other! Shows and opportunities to perform are so limited in this city. It’s so unbelievably hard to put up a good show with a full audience at a theater. The competition is crazy. I also think people forget just how much talent is in this city and how everyone is going out for and wants the same opportunities. Everyone who seeks out these programs loves comedy, wants to do good work, wants to play with other talented people, wants to be at a theater, and wants to have fun and make people laugh. I try very hard to make as many opportunities as possible for people who want to and can do the work as well as connect them to other people who want to do the same thing. As much as the labs, Ringers, and Vortex are a showcase of work, it also connects people to each other. It helps people build their comedy networks up and hopefully opens up opportunities to work with each other.
What would you say to someone who's considering sketch at Magnet, but is feeling a little nervous about jumping in?
Just do it. Writing is such an important tool to have. We all have takes on things, a specific comedy taste and aesthetic, etc… and writing is only going to help define and strengthen that. It’s UNBELIEVABLY important to be able to have a portfolio of your work and duh writing is big fat way to showcase that. Sign yo’ ass up! (can I say thank you? Cuz thank you for asking me to do this Elaine <3)
Gasp (and laugh) with us at The Vortex, Sunday October 28 at 9PM at Magnet!