To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Magnet, Sulaiman Beg and Kelly Donahue have developed an Oral History of the Magnet Theater.
The full story will be released in early April, but over the coming weeks we will be releasing some interesting stories that didnt make the final cut.
The first in this series is a profile on how the teachers & founders first discovered improv in their own lives. Read Part 1 here.
DISCOVERING IMPROV – PART 2
Herbstman: You know that last thing you think about before you go to bed is usually different every night. For me it was the same thing every night. It was, Ive got to audition and get into Second City. It became pretty consuming for me. I cared about it a lot. My stomach would be turning. It worked out. I auditioned and they hired me.
Andrews: I just loved it. I just thought it was so much fun. I had never done any theater, I had never done anything artistic of any kind. But i was just super fun. I was really bad at it because I had terrible ADD I couldn’t focus on anything. It was a nice challenge for me to have to learn how to listen, to get good at that. I just remember it was one of my favorite things to do.
Herbstman: After I did five levels with Razwowsky he was like, now do you really want to learn how to do this? And he told me to go study at IO with Del. And I did. At 17, I went and took my first class with Charna.
Diaz: Back then, Improv Olympic would just take up residency in some bar. I didnt question it back then, it was just kind of like, of course, thats how you take comedy classes. Having started a theater, I realized wow, she had to do whatever she had to. It was just kind of like, a very gypsy kind of existence.
Herbstman: My iO Level 1 class was Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Neil Flynn, Ali Farahnakian, John Rosenfeld, Andrew Moskos — those guys started Boom Chicago. Shortly thereafter, maybe 6-8 months after that there was Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Rachel Dratch was performing there and also taking classes. There were under 50 people doing iO at the time.
Diaz: Del was just teaching the last level. You got into Dels class and then you stayed in Dels class forever. There was no graduation. You kept on showing up Monday night. There were like 30 people in the class, people on house teams.
Herbstman: I chose to go to Northwestern because they had a great improv group there that I wanted to be a part of and I also wanted to continue taking classes at IO, which I did all through college. Pretty much just wanted to get into Second City. That was my only goal. College was mostly just how do I get more stage time and do more improv and get better at it so I can be prepared for my Second City audition.
Diaz: Sometimes guests would come by. I remember [Chris] Farley, he graduated from IO and then was cast in Second City and he was doing Second City Mainstage, I remember him showing up and then sitting in on Dels class. That was such an insane experience because it was Del in the first place which, he was was so scary, and smart, and such an authority. And you had all these other people that were amazing improvisers. You felt like, What am I doing here? Im just a freshman and heres all these seniors.
Andrews: In high school, my friend and I were annoying in improv and a lot of people didnt really like us, contrary to how they might remember it now. We auditioned every year for everything. We didn’t get cast in anything. Nobody ever asked us to be in a group with them. The first time I ever got cast to be in a group with other people was when I went to college and that was after I was doing improv for like seven years. The team was called Suspicious of Whistlers, which is not a good name.
McNerney: I went in and I auditioned for The Meow Show at Northwestern, and I didnt know it, but they had combined their auditions with this new long form group, called Titanic Players and so I accidentally auditioned for that. I came for The Meow Show. I didnt know what long form was. But I got cast on the Titanic Players. My sophomore year there was a new freshman group cast and I became the first assistant director. Junior year I became a coach, and I cast Nick Kanellis on the next freshman team. He and Matt B. Weir, and Zoe Garmin from the Mindy Project were all on that team. My senior year, Russ Armstrong and Nick were in The Meow Show with me.
Marino: Ed was at iO West when I got there. I saw him onstage a bunch of times there. I thought he was great. I was like, who the fuck is that guy? This guys great. He sat in with a group called Tiny Hostages that did The Movie. They did that on a night that I performed. I auditioned for a Harold team at IO. Didnt get on one. Not getting on a Harold team put me on a path to expedite my move out to New York, to do so as soon as possible. I moved there in 2003.
McNerney: I moved to New York in 2005. I knew I was going to do improv. I knew UCB was out here. I drove all my stuff out here the week before graduation, dropped my stuff off at my sublet and then drove to my Level 1 with Chris Gethard and then the next day drove back to graduate. And then the day after graduation, flew back to take my second class.
Andrews: I moved to New York in 2009 to do grad school. This was a point where I was like, I need to keep doing improv. I applied to PHD programs. But, I only applied to grad schools in New York and Chicago, so that I could keep doing improv which should have been a pretty good sign of, hey, just go do your thing.
- alex marino
- armando diaz
- ed herbstman
- io west
- Kelly Donahue
- kill your darlings
- Los Angeles
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet theater
- Magnet Theater Oral History
- Megan Gray
- new york
- new york city
- oral history
- peter mcnerney
- rick andrews
- Second City
- Sulaiman Beg
- The Meow Show
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