Magnet Theater Blog
Magnet mainstay and member of Warm Blooded on Musical Megawatt, RYAN DUNKIN, has just landed himself the role of Cal in the First National Tour of the hit Broadway musical Waitress! We’re super excited for Ryan and had a chance to catch up with him to hear about the experience thus far.
You were just cast in the First National Tour of Waitresshow does it feel?
It feels pretty great! I’ve been on a couple Tours before, but this is a show currently on Broadway, that people actually know! I’ve been very close to a lot of really big projects it’s nice to book one! It’s a First National Tour, meaning it’s the first production other than Broadway.
You’ve been cast in the role of Cal. Can you tell us about that character?
Cal is the cook. He’s a bit grumpy and doesn’t understand why everyone is standing around talking when they should be working. He doesn’t exactly have a heart of gold but “I’m not such a bad guy, maybe?”
For those that’s aren’t familiar with your musical theater background, how the hell did you pull this off?
I’ve been acting professionally since I was about 18. My agents got me an appointment for Waitress and I was really excited. I hadn’t seen the show yet so before my audition I went to get a ticket and Sara was in the show at the time and the cheapest ticket was $400 sooo I did not see the show. I had a good audition and then casting sent me to see the show before I did my final callback with all the creative team and producers which is always a good sign. Sara Barellies was there. I sort of forgot she was gonna be there, but she was very nice. So I had my audition for about 15 people and it went well. I got the call later that day.
As an artist, how do you hope to grow from this tour?
When you are working at this level you get to work with the best. The best in every department and if you’re surrounded by the best you can’t help but learn from them. As an actor it’s always interesting and fun to see how people work. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m just gonna keep my eyes down and hope they don’t figure out they made a mistake in hiring me.
Do you have a favorite musical? Why do you love it?
My FAVORITE musicals are usually the made up ones that I see and do Tuesdays Nights at Musical Megawatt with my team Warm Blooded. My favorite scripted musical is USUALLY the one I’m currently working on or The Full Monty.
You’re gonna be on the road for a long timewhat will you miss most about New York?
Whenever I’m working on a show it usually means I have to leave NYC. What I end up missing is honestly, improv. There really is nothing like it. Most of the time I teach my cast members improv games and make them play them with me.
Finally, can you tell us when the tour begins?
We open in Cleveland in October.
Congratulations to Ryan and the whole cast and crew of the First National Tour of Waitress. Make sure to tell your friends all around the country to get their tickets now and get yourself to Musical Megawatt in August and September to see Ryan play with Warm Blooded before he takes off! Check out the casting announcement on Playbill.com.
Alexis Lambright is a writer, storyteller, and cast member of Magnet ensembles The Wrath and The Cast. Alexis also hosts The Griot Show, in which she brings together a range of black performers and storytellers together around a specific theme! In anticipation of this Friday’s edition of The Griot Show, we spoke with Alexis about storytelling, “edutaining,” and pooped pants.
What makes a compelling story?
For me, the thing that makes a story compelling are the details. This is in no way profound, but I’m drawn to stories with a lot of details. Someone could be telling me about the time they pooped their pants in public, and I wanna know which city they were in, the surroundings, the time of day, the temperature, what they wore, what they ate earlier that day, and of course why they pooped their pants in the first place. All of those details allow me to see it happening (that’s not to say that I am obsessed with envisioning someone pooping their pants, I was just using that as an example). Anyway, I’ve heard some very detailed stories that made me feel like I was actually there.
How does your background as an improviser inform your style as a storyteller?
I think my improv background has allowed me to be able to recall stories pretty quickly. I’ve done shows were I had to come up with a story from an audience suggestion, which means going through my mental Rolodex of related stories. In the case of The Griot Show, I might have a story prepared, but maybe something from one of the performer’s stories sparks an idea that leads to a better story!
Your show features a variety of performers from different experiences and performance styles. Aside from improvisers and comedians, what other people have performed at the Griot Show?
Over the past three years, while I started out trying to keep the format to a traditional storytelling show, I’ve found that the show is really great when the performers tell a story through other mediums. I’ve had a video artist on who showed a piece that he directed, in which Harriet Tubman and other slaves were doing interpretive dance to Britney Spears’ “I’m A Slave 4 U”. There have been poets who have shared stories through their work, a few performers have incorporated music into their pieces, and I’ve even projected illustrations from a book I wrote at the tender age of six about slavery. Yes, 6 year-old me wrote a book about slavery. One of my absolute favorite guests on the show was Mr. Dabney Montgomery, who served the U.S. Army Air Corps as one of the Tuskegee Airmen. When I tell you it was an honor, privilege, and just an absolute DREAM COME TRUE having him bless my little ol’ show, I am dead serious! He was phenomenal!
What inspired you to produce this show?
I was approached by Beth Newell (former Magnet Sketch Program head) about creating a show that would bring some diversity to the Magnet stage. I brainstormed some ideas and finally decided on a storytelling show for Black History Month. The first two times went so well, that people came up to me and said “have you ever thought about having the show more than just once a year?” The next show was on Juneteenth for its historical significance to African Americans, and eventually I did the show every other month. I’d like to make it a monthly show, but I need help either producing or hosting it.
You’ve been hosting the Griot Show for a while now. How has the show changed over time since you first started hosting it?
As I mentioned before, it’s been a little over three years since the show debuted. In the beginning, it didn’t have a specific theme- I just wanted to get more black people performing at the Magnet. Now, I will try to come up with a theme for the show, like “Juneteenth Edition”, “Pride Month+Loving Day Edition”, etc. Also, because I love it when a show is “edutaining” (educational and entertaining), I try to do black history or theme-related trivia questions with the audience. There are prizes, too!
Check out The Griot Show this Friday, August 18th at 7pm!
For the entire month of September, all room rentals at the Magnet Training Center are only $10 an hour! That’s right between the hours of 11AM and 11PM, seven days a week, every single one of our lovely rehearsal spaces is available for the low price of $10/hr. Rehearse at Magnet Training Center and save your hard-earned cash for that bus ticket home! Or a flight to Miami. Player’s choice. 😉
Welcome to Magnet’s “Getting To Know” series! We’re using our blog to highlight our fabulous performers and writers and we can’t wait for you to meet them. Want to see them all? Click here.
Whats your name?
Which team or show are you on?
Where are you from?
How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?
My dad lives in LA, and as a kid we’d often go see The Groundlings, Theatresports, and an improv troupe called LA Connection when I visited on weekends. I loved it, and secretly wanted to do it myself, but pushed the feeling deep inside for fear I’d follow up on it. Many years passed in which I lived several lives. By the time I took my first improv class, I was already an old man.
How long have you been performing/writing?
I’m very sorry to blow your mind, but it’s five years *to the hour* since my first improv class as I’m responding to this. I have an app that tells me how long it’s been so I can calibrate my nostalgia. I’ve been writing, in one way or another, since I developed the motor skills.
Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?
Hmm. Improvisers pull out such different qualities from each other depending on the pairing. Zach Woods is my favorite improviser, and we’d probably do a very sensible only-straight-man Harold. I’d also love to be a wildcard with a sillypants wildcard like Lauren Lapkus or Thomas Middleditch. I think it would be fun to improvise with my brother and mom. I bet we’d do a dinner scene. Finally, I’d like to be Charlie Kaufman’s writing partner. I imagine we’d sit in silence on opposite sides of the room from each other for six months, doing separate projects, then switch.
Who would you most like to impersonate or write for?
Write for: Christopher Morris, Armando Iannucci, Charlie Kaufman, Richard Foreman, David Lynch. Impersonate? Stan Laurel.
What makes you laugh the hardest?
Onstage, a dumb, wrong person insisting they’re smart and right. And nothing makes me laugh harder than someone treating a bonkers-absurd point of view as though it’s the most reasonable thing in the world. I’m also a sucker for endless, unvarying, patience-trying repetition. And I think throwing up is funny, but not farting.
Describe the soundtrack to your life!
The Eraserhead steam noises.
What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?
What do you enjoy doing besides…this?
Where can we find you on a Saturday night?
At a practice, a show, or at home. It would be very strange to see me anywhere else.
What is your favorite place to go on a weekday afternoon when you have no plans or obligations?
The dog park, with my real friends.
Lorena Russi is a comedian, actor, and creator of a brand new show at Magnet, Timoteo. Timoteo is a stand-up comedy show that consciously thinks about what our bodies/status bring to performances. Each show will have people from one identity sitting in the audience as comics from the counter community perform a set. It’s an incredibly interesting concept and so we wanted to ask Lorena a few questions before the show’s big premiere next week.
What inspired you to create the show Timoteo?
Timoteo is a show inspired by lack of versatile spaces for marginalized communities. It’s designed so that groups can come together without it being in the context of a bar or to hook up. I was also curious about combining opposites in order to highlight how status and bodies affect space and performance. Essentially, I wanted to design a situation where people of the same tribe can engage, to not only learn more about each other and themselves but witness it through a comedic lens.
What’s the origin of the name Timoteo?
Timoteo was the name of my grandmother’s pet bird in Colombia. Apparently, the bird acted like a dog and was a real treasure of the Russi household. One day someone brought a pig into the apartment -this was Colombia in the 80s, so pigs were the equivalent to a new born baby- and it swallowed the bird. SWALLOWED. THE. BIRD. The poster is a photo of my grandmother and Timoteo together, and I appreciate how their colors, physicality, and tone contrast entirely, but show how they love each other. Since the show is about opposites coming together, I wanted to reflect that in it’s photo/name…even thought I’m probably the only person who understands that.
Your show involves comics performing for audiences that are their opposites. How do you attract these specific audiences to your show?
Well at this point my strategy is just running around to all of the Queer bars, talking to homo ladies, and not bringing up how late on a Monday night the show is. BUT. In practice it’s been pretty incredible to see just through word of mouth alone how people have shown interest. There’s not many shows that make it so that only a certain group or community can attend, which I think has made it interesting for people when I tell them about it. Ultimately it’s meant to bring fun to the audience on another level than just the performance, so word of mouth and carrier pigeons are what are filling the seats.
Your show on August 14th features exclusively straight, cisgendered male comedians performing for a queer female-identifying audience. What inspired you to bring these two groups together in this way?
There’s obviously a bias for the first show because I am a Queer female identifying person, but I wanted to able to experience the show as an audience member, especially for the first one, in order to get a feel for how it is impacting the audience. I also wanted it to be as specific as possible in the two groups and boy howdy is it specific….I’m sorry for saying boy howdy.
What communities would you like to bring together for future versions of Timoteo?
I would love to have POC from NYC with white people from the midwest, Robots/Technology and humans, older adults/young people.
Check out the premiere of Timoteo on Monday, August 14th, at 10:30 pm when Straight, Cisgendered men will do stand-up for Queer, Female identifying people in the audience!
Perri Gross is the host of “Everyone Is Sad,” a stand-up show for comedic performers who are relatively new to stand-up. These performers may appear happy doing improv, sketch, and musical improv–but they are all very tormented and sad and want to stand alone on stage. We sit down with Perri to ask her a few a questions ahead of her August 14th show!
MAGNET: What was attractive to you about hosting a show with relatively inexperienced stand-up comedians?
GROSS: I was lucky to have joined a stand up club in college that helped me work out some kinks in my stand up before performing in shows. We would meet every week and have shows a few times a semester. When I moved to NYC, I couldn’t imagine not having any experience and just hitting the open mic scene. I liked the idea of creating a similar space where people could give stand up a try and the rest of the audience is also new. It helps people feel comfortable to know everyone is on the same page and new. I encourage experienced stand-ups to come to my mic as well so they can get a true reaction from the audience to test out new material. Having new excited comics creates a comradery that is hard to find in the comedy scene.
M: What was the most embarrassing moment of your early days in comedy?
G: At one open mic, I had to stop my set because I felt my material was too upsetting and no one was laughing just making “awww” noises. Most of my material is based off of real stories, and my set that night wasn’t funny it was just sad. I got off the stage, left the venue, and walked all the way home.
M: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve cried, and why?
G: I had a major breakup over the phone near the clock in the middle of Grand Central station. I was dry heaving I was crying so hard. I definitely gave some tourists a great idea of the dreams that awaited them in NYC.
M: What did you start first: improv or standup? What inspired you to make the leap from one to the other?
G: I started doing stand-up first. I did a lot of open mics my first year when I moved to NYC but was looking for an easier way to meet new people and switched over to improv. I found a great community at the Magnet through the classes I took. I was always was hesitant to try improv initially because I like to plan what I am doing. I also hate playing animals and [am] scared to face my fear.
M: Which comedians/improvisers inspired you when you first started?
G: I didn’t watch much stand-up growing up but was probably inspired by watching The Simpsons and Seinfeld with my parents. I did always like George Carlin a lot and found his dark style inspiring and close to my voice.
M: If you could watch any celebrity or public figure try standup for the first time, who would it be?
G: Daddy Yankee. He has a lot to say and I just want him to come out of the wood work. I’m really happy Despacito has put him back on the map and I hope he gets to do a tight 30 soon.
Don’t miss the next Everyone Is Sad, coming up on Monday, August 14th, at 9 pm!
The Magnet Theater is excited to announce that starting July 14th, we will be accepting applications for the 2017 Fall/Winter Season of MAGNET SKETCH TEAMS, which will run from September 11th, 2017 February 2018! IMPORTANT UPDATE: Applications and reels for actors are due by Wednesday, August 9th, at 12 pm. Writer applications and packets are due by Friday, August 11th, at 5 pm!
Please read the following application instructions and sketch team participant expectations very carefully.
GENERAL SKETCH SHOW EXPECTATIONS
Each team will create one 20-25 minute sketch show every three to four weeks.
All sketch team shows will be on Monday nights at 7:30 pm! Two teams will perform in each show.
All sketch team shows must contain new, original material written specifically for Magnet Sketch Night that has never been previously performed.
Each show will contain the best material created for the team as selected by the director – there is no guarantee that every writer will get a sketch in each show or that every actor will be featured in each show. Funny wins. Thems the breaks.
All sketches will be performed by the teams ensemble cast of sketch actors. If a particular sketch requires it, the team may use outside casting (writers, other actors) at the directors discretion.
GENERAL SKETCH TEAM EXPECTATIONS
Sketch team members are expected to attend all required meetings and shows and arrive fully prepared. Sketch is time intensive – make sure you can commit 100% and make sketch a priority before applying.
Sketch team members must be available 1:30-4:30 pm the Sunday before their show for a mandatory tech rehearsal at the theater.
Sketch team members may not schedule conflicting appointments (work, rehearsals, shows, etc) during scheduled techs, shows, rehearsals, or meetings.
Sketch teams must rehearse with a Magnet-approved director. Each sketch team is responsible for paying their director a flat rate of $110/week; team due collection is left to the discretion of the director and team (as it would be for an improv team or practice group).
Sketch team members are expected to promote their shows at the theater.
For the 2017 Fall/Winter Sketch Season, you must apply as a writer, performer, or a writer/performer. Expectations, prerequisites, and application instructions for each role are below!
Writers must attend one 3 hour writing meeting per week, all performance rehearsals of their sketches, and all tech rehearsals.
Writers must constantly generate new material and are required to bring in a minimum of one new sketch per week, even during show week.
Writers are expected to be respectful and gracious collaborators in writing room. Writers should give and receive feedback to and from their teammates in an open and constructive manner.
Writers will be required to rewrite material and meet deadlines as requested by their director.
Completion of (or current enrollment in) Magnet Sketch Writing Level 2 or previous participation on a Magnet Sketch team (as any role).
- Equivalent sketch writing experience somewhere else with a contactable reference (email address).
WRITER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS:
Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.
- A cover letter detailing relevant sketch experience inside and outside the Magnet community.
- If your comedy experience is mostly outside of the Magnet Theater, you must provide the email address of a reference.
- A single PDF of a sketch writing sample. Your sample should contain at least two sketches and may not exceed 10 pages.
Performers must be available for a regularly scheduled 2-3 hour performance rehearsal the week leading up to the show (ex: Sketch Team Dumb Baby has a performance rehearsal every Tuesday before a show, 7-10 pm)
Performers must be available for techs, table reads, and any additional rehearsals as required by the director.
Performers must learn all show material in a timely manner.
Performers may collaborate with writers outside of rehearsals to help create characters and sketches, but performers should not be writing material on their own for shows.
Performers must perform sketches as they are written – ad libbing is good in a pinch, but be prepared and dont put yourself in positions where you must resort to improvisation. Be polished and professional in all shows.
Completion of or current enrollment in Level 6 team performance workshop, participation in a past or current Megawatt team, or previous participation in a Magnet Sketch Team (as any role).
- If your comedy experience is mostly outside of the Magnet Theater, you must provide the email address of a reference.
PERFORMER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS:
Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.
2017 FALL/WINTER MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION// PERFORMER // <YOUR NAME>
A cover letter detailing relevant performance experience inside and outside the Magnet community.
A PDF of your acting resume
A SINGLE link to a 3-5 minute sample of your work as a performer. This can be a reel, a recording of a stage sketch, a video sketch, a monologue directed at a webcam, anything you feel showcases you as a comedic performer. Youtube or Vimeo preferred. The link can be public or unlisted – please no private links. You may only send one link and the link itself may be no longer than 5 minutes.
You will be informed at least five days prior if you have been selected to audition in person.
In-person auditions will be held on August 11th, 12th, and 13th at the Magnet Training Center. Unfortunately, if you are not available for the above callback dates, you cannot be considered as a performer for the 2017 Fall/Winter Sketch Season.
For the in-person audition, you will perform two contrasting sketches that will be assigned to you and another applicant a couple days prior to the audition. You must be completely off-book and you may rehearse beforehand with your scene partner, at your discretion. You will also be asked to cold read sketches in the room.
WRITER/ PERFORMER EXPECTATIONS
Writer/performers must meet all writer expectations AND performer expectations.
Writer/performers are expected to write for other performers as well as for themselves. There is no guarantee that a writer/performer will perform in all of their own work.
Writer/performers must meet all writer AND performer prerequisites or previous participation on a Magnet Sketch team (as any role).
WRITER/PERFORMER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS
Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.
2017 FALL/WINTER MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION// WRITER/PERFORMER // <YOUR NAME>
All materials detailed in writer application instructions.
All materials detailed in performer application instructions.
Also, please indicate if you are willing to be considered as a writer or actor ONLY if you are not selected for a writer/performer position. Be completely honest – your preferences will not be held against you!
You will be informed at least five days prior if you have been selected to audition in person. See performer application instructions above for more info about the audition.
Failure to follow application instructions will keep you from being considered for a sketch team. Double check your application!
Applications and reels for actors are due by Wednesday, August 9th, at 12 pm. Writer applications and Packets must be received by 5 pm on Friday, August 11th!
Actor and comedian, KEISHA ZOLLAR, joins host Louis Kornfeld to discuss the role of comedians in society, why she hates revenge stories, and the issue with overly dramatic art. Not only that, but they get to talking about how we give too much energy to our lizard brains and urge everyone out there to show your weird! This is our final episode of the season, but we’ll see you again in September. From all of us to all of you, thanks so much for listening and huzzah!
Our fabulous guest and intrepid host begin this episode laying out the three or four types of bad, real-world comedy and note that the bully flavor of funny still persists, despite how god-awful it is. Keisha posits that perhaps we, as comedians, need to rally a bit more against bullies and the behavior they propagate. She also says that Louis has an intense face and Louis seems to agree. They talk about being on all the time and how common folks expect comedians to behave day-to-day. They get into the role of comedians in society and the responsibilities that comedians and other creators take on by assuming the mantel. Such a conversation would be incomplete without mentioning identity politics and how the comedians ultimate job is to disrupt norms.
Pivoting like a member of Trump’s cabinet, Louis attempts to take a positive lesson away from the current hot mess that is the world around us. Keisha wisely points out that, growing up, no one ever told us why democracy could be bad, reminding us that every tool is also a weapon. She relates that she often feels we give too much energy to our lizard brain and not enough to our frontal lobe, which allows us to reason.
Speaking of lizard brains, Keisha tells us why revenge stories dont entertain her and why one of her favorites movies is Requiem For A Dream. She and Louis show appreciation for feeling your feelings in-the-moment, including the negative feelings like anger and sadness. Speaking further on this, Keisha shares a bit about her lifelong experience of recurring illness and living with an invisible disability, something she brings up to highlight the fact that it’s not all negative there are positives of that life experience and the perspective it gives her is invaluable. This sparks their both Louis and Keisha’s qualms with art that is overly dramatic, art that lacks the light we know to be present. As our episode comes to an end, we are reminded that the beauty of improv is that we are encouraged to show our weird, to show our uniqueness. Everyone has something. Accept your weird.
And finally, our host and guest share this special message with us, as we say goodbye to Season 3 of the Magnet Theater Podcast:
Go stare at a tree!
Junior Varsity’s Jarret Berenstein is releasing his first book, The Kellyanne Conway Technique: Perfecting the Ancient Art of Delivering Half-Truths, Fake News, and Obfuscation– With A Smile, this August from Racehorse Publishing. He’s celebrating its launch with a show at Magnet and some of his favorite stand-up comedians. We sat down with Jarret to talk about his Kellyanne, his book, and the upcoming release show August 7th.
JB: Before writing this book I assumed that people needed at least some integrity to survive. I thought it was like food or oxygen, and that a person with zero integrity would shrivel up and dry out like a desert grape. Kellyanne appears to be living sans integrity though, and that’s pretty interesting. And worrisome!
M: Which part of the process in making this book was the most fun?
JB: Definitely writing the “everyday life” examples. In the book, I talk about how we can use Kellyanne’s brand of spin get out of tight spots in our everyday life, so coming up with those types of problems (speeding ticket, late for work, double murder, etc) and then translating a Kellyanne move to fit that situation was really fun.
M: Why do you think a book, in particular, is a great medium for this kind of humor?
JB: I’ve seen a lot of articles and videos online about what Kellyanne does and why it’s effective, but they mostly just scratch the surface. You need to have the full length of a book to go through all the different types of Conway nonsense and also have the space to thoroughly make fun of each of them.
M: If you had to boil down the essence of Kellyanne and her technique down to 3 words, what would they be?
JB: Overflowing with bullshit.
M: Who is this book perfect for? Who is this book totally NOT for?
JB: I think the book is perfect for everyone! Even if you’re more conservative, I think anyone can appreciate what’s silly about Kellyanne.
M: Tell us a little about your book release show!
JB: The show is on Monday, August 7th at 7:30 pm at the Magnet. It’s gonna feature some great standups like Seaton Smith (from Fox’s Mulaney) and Liza Treyger (incredible comic with one of the best Comedy Central Half Hour specials I’ve ever seen), and possibly a short reading from the book! There’s talk of the publisher bringing free beer and a copy of the book for people in the audience (while supplies last) but don’t hold me to that.
Sign up for Level One and get $50 off!
It’s the classic 12th Anniversary gift – $50 bucks off.
This sale is for all Level One classes. That includes Improv, Musical Improv, and Sketch Writing. Sign up for all three and save $150. Or sign up for 10 of them and save $500. Unreasonable? Hell yes. But signing up for one is not only not unreasonable it’s smart! Save money while falling in love with the most inspiring creative pursuit you can imagine. And while gaining skills that just might change your life.
When we began our theater in 2005, we never knew we’d grow into an organization with 250 performers, 22 teachers, and 80 million students annually. We tried not to, but it happened anyway. We started with Armando Diaz teaching one improv workshop and now we offer comprehensive training in improv, musical improv, sketch writing, storytelling and more. We think that studying with Magnet instructors is simply one of the best ways to improve your comedy, your art, your relationships, and your life.
That’s why we’re offering $50 off any Level One class (improv, musical improv, sketch comedy) when you register now. Our normally priced $399 classes are now $349. We’ve the same sale all summer and so many people took advantage of it, that we wanted to keep the good times rolling. We know that our entire community benefits from more people improvising and we want to make it as easy as possible to get started.
To view classes currently enrolling, click on the appropriate link below:
Our Level One Improv and Musical Improv classes are eight sessions with an additional graduation show at the end (no grad show for the sketch class, but it’s still amazing). And as always, free Intro to Improv classes are also available on a regular basis. Click here for details.