Posts Tagged ‘history’

Tuesday August 15, 2017, 1:40pm - by Promo Team

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!

Wednesday November 30, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater
Play

matt-alspaugh-podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Writer, actor, and director, MATT ALSPAUGH, swings by to talk with host Louis Kornfeld about teaching, how he got into the performing arts, and some tasty bits of NYC history. How did this kid who grew up playing baseball in Connecticut fall in love with theater and eventually find himself chasing comedy in New York City? We’ll find out! Matt also provides advice for sketch writers, actors, and show-runners. Plus! We ask Matt to perform a never-before-heard segment called “A Very Kind Scene With A Jar of Pickles.” Huzzah!

We open the episode discussing Matt’s time working at the Drama Book Shop, a local institution for actors, playwrights, and fans of theater alike. His years there allowed Matt to meet many wonderful people, read many great plays, and to be surrounded by theater. It also allowed him to do some couch-crashing, which talks about fondly. While back home after college, Matt was a substitute teacher, and he and Louis find themselves discussing how theater fits into the overall education experience. On the topic of staged pieces, our gents talk about the interplay between the audience and the performer and how performers must allow the audience to fill in some details for themselves. In order to allow yourself to act, you must not worry about convincing the audience of the reality. From all of this, Louis asks Matt about how he got into improv and sketch. Having worn so many different hats within Magnet’s sketch community, Matt provides advice for sketch actors, writers, and show-runners. What’s his favorite role? Find out!

For this episode, we to skip over “Getting To Know Each Other” and instead, Matt tells us about some interesting tidbits of New York City history – after all, he’s a licensed NYC tour guide! Oh baby! And finally, A Very Kind Scene Opposite A Jar Of Pickles, because we all need some kindness after the election.

matt-alspaugh-pickles

Monday April 21, 2014, 8:11am - by Magnet Theater

Magnet Theater is excited to announce The Magnet Podcast! In Episode 1: Host Louis Kornfeld interviews Magnet Theater founders Ed Herbstman, Alex Marino and Armando Diaz about their past, present and future.  They chat about their Chicago beginnings, the creation of The Armando Diaz Experience and the process of starting The Magnet Theater.  Ed tries to explain why he became a cop while Armando makes fun of him.  Don’t miss it.

Huge thanks to our wonderfully talented podcast engineer, Grant Goldberg.

Wednesday November 27, 2013, 10:06am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

large_featherweight2013

“It’s amazing we’re even improvising at all.
So many people wouldn’t be able to be doing what we’re doing.
That in itself is exciting. Embrace that bravery.”

– Joanna Simmons,  Story Pirates

 

The above is an improv mantra held dear by Elana Fishbein, one of the original members of Magnet House Team Featherweight. Hopefully you have seen one of their shows. If not, block off an hour on Wednesday and catch this notable Megawatt team.

 

On November 13th, 2013 I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with 6 of the 8 current members to pick their brains about the team, themselves, and how they play together. For all of you who don’t know, Featherweight is the most veteran Megawatt team at the Magnet. They were formed on late August 28th, 2008 by Peter McNerney, who also served as their first coach for almost a full year (they are now coached by Joe Miles). Their original line-up was Jesse Acini (now on All American), Russ Armstrong (now on Chet Watkins), Noel Dinneen, Elana Fishbein, Jess Lane (now out in Los Angeles), Blake Merriman, Jared McGrail (traveling the country doing a webcast), and Justin Moran. Their first form was The Harold and their name came from a scene that happened at their very first practice: Elana Fishbein had brushed her hand against Jess Lane’s breasts to which Elana exclaimed, “Oh! They’re featherlight!” From Featherlight came Featherweight, also pitched by Elana. Since then, Featherweight has gone on to be one of the most celebrated teams of the Magnet – playing for over 5 years on Wednesday nights, traveling to do the Philly and Boston Improv Festivals, performing at colleges, launching 2 pilots, and competing and losing in the very first Inspirado competition (their challenge, titled Farts! Farts! Farts!, required every scene to have a fart).

 

Like every veteran Magnet team, Featherweight since its inception has undergone changes. The line-up that you will see today is almost a totally different set of faces you would have seen a few years ago, or even a couple of years ago. Only 4 of the original members remain. After Russ left, Dave Maulbeck was added and also served as the team’s coach. Featherweight then experienced four more losses including Dave. Willy Appelman was added in late August of 2012, but left shortly after. In April, they welcomed veteran players Frank Bonomo, Matt Shafeek, and Lauren Ashley Smith. Matt and Frank were cast alongside each other on Megawatt team Skosh a few years ago. The two also played with Noel on Oswald prior to Featherweight’s original casting. In addition, Matt and Elana had played together on Flea Flurkus, a 2007 team that performed the Evente. The most recent addition was that of Will Quinn this past August, who had been coached by both Elana and Frank. Collectively, Featherweight has over 50 years of improv experience loaded onto its current roster. Despite the new look and massive transformation (this is the first time in many years that Featherweight is an 8-person troupe), the feel and quality of the team remains the same as it has always been: “The Featherweight I watched is the same team I’m on now. It’s the same energy.” -Lauren Ashley Smith. It’s a testament not only to the casting of the team, but the openness, support, and skill these players bring to the stage of why things have always worked out.

 

Featherweight, who warms up by hitting a ball up in the air with great effort to not let it hit the ground, improvises a free form, meaning they find the form as they go. “It comes off having a feel of a little town where the characters know each other and other characters branch out of that.” – Will Quinn. Something Featherweight prides themselves on is having a great range with their shows. The spectrum they cover not only in their 25 minute set, but week to week, rivals most sets at the theater. When I asked Noel Dinneen what the most important quality an improviser should possess is, he responded: “The will to improvise, meaning the willingness to actually improvise as opposed to be married to a structure or game.” Some shows might end up being slow mono-scenes and the next week everything blows up. Regardless of what their set calls for, each week Featherweight brings their flexibility, vulnerability, generosity of spirit, and “imperviousness to fear of judgment” (Justin Moran) to create their fun and their funny.

 

Frank Bonomo has a strong gift at bringing the humanity to Featherweight’s shows. He lets characters be affected; he knows how each character he plays will react emotionally and is still so versatile in his play. He considers the small human moments.. Also, his object work is insane.

 

Noel Dinneen came to The Magnet to study with Armando. He considers his most influential instructors to be Mick Napier and Del Close. His team celebrates his fearlessness, range, and how he brings zero hesitation to his work. There is nothing Noel can’t yes and. He’s also got a pretty killer attitude.

 

Elana Fishbein came to The Magnet to study with Armando. She considers her most influential instructor to also be Armando Diaz. With a Featherweight set comes Elana’s ability to play a spectacular and  effortless range of strong, intricate, fully-formed characters. She is so specific and grounds the work. Featherweight feels that when Elana is playing, the show is in good hands.

 

Blake Merriman is described as being incredibly emotionally present. He really lets his characters be affected. He is a reliable player and also a great actor and is emotionally present really lets his characters be affected by what is happening.

 

Justin Moran came to The Magnet to study with Armando. He considers his most influential instructor James Eason. His team refers to him as an “information robot” who not only brings incredibly smart scene ideas, perfect lines, and smart appropriate punchlines to his work, but amazing characters you could never imagine be a part of the scene but work every single time.

 

Will Quinn came to The Magnet because of the opportunities the theater would provide. He considers his most influential instructor to be Peter McNerney. Will has a great understanding of game and heightening as well as adding finesse to Featherweight’s sets. When Will plays, his joy as a player shines through. He brings to his characters a level of polish making things very clear and very full.

 

Matt Shafeek came to The Magnet to study with Armando. He considers his most influential instructor to be Michael Delaney. Featherweight describes Matt as a mature, confident, and joyful player. He’s always thoughtful and takes his time when making choices as opposed to exercising “quick lazy play.” He provides context and knows what a piece needs to create a successful scene.

 

Lauren Ashley Smith came to The Magnet because of its welcoming atmosphere, energy, and people. She considers her most influential instructor to be Armando Diaz. Her team pegged her as “a sniper” because of her sharp sense of humour, specific moves, and ability to bring to a scene exactly what is needed. Her mind is constantly exercising on how to heighten, instill more life, and bring things together.