Posts Tagged ‘improvised theater’

Tuesday November 7, 2017, 2:37pm - by Magnet Theater

This month, Magnet is happy to welcome back Space Station Delta for the November Director Series. We sit down with director Sulaiman Beg to talk about the show and how he gets his hair to look so good. We don’t really talk about the last part. Come see this show, from one of you favorite Metal Boys, playing each Thursday in November at 10 pm. TimeOut NY thinks you should!

For those who have not seen Space Station Delta, could you tell us a little bit about the show?

The show is a completely improvised live performance of a classic episode from the long-running and very fictitious sci-fi TV series Space Station Delta.

I’d always wanted to do a serialized improv show where performers are challenged to play the same main characters over a run like on any sitcom or other TV show. Expanding not only their personal world, but the world they exist in.

I’d been watching a lot of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and what I loved about it was that no matter where these characters were (a store, a wedding, a bank, a football game) they always consistently acted like the garbage people they are. And I thought, why not do an improv show like this? And I was naturally attracted to the sci-fi genre because it’s the best genre for an improvisor – you can literally do and justify anything. Someone dies? Well, we’ll just pull the Time Reversal lever? Want to start a montage? Hit “play” on the Montage machine.

You’ve done this show a few times now – what do you love about it so much?

I mean, the cast is so, so great. The guest stars who I try to keep in the dark until the day of the show just fall right into place. There have been a few shows where I forgot I was watching an improvised show and felt like I was legit watching a live performance of a scripted work.

When Elana Fishbein guest starred during the first run, afterwards she told me she couldn’t believe how amazing all the characters were. And that was so great to hear. I mean, it was a compliment more for the cast and less for me, which was hurtful, and she and I never talk anymore even though we are neighbors and friends who are adults. Does that answer your question?

Do you have any specific memories of past shows that you’d like to share?

Oh man, so many. But since I typed it a few minutes ago, the Time Reversal lever comes to mind. Basically, a bunch of characters ended up dying during the course of the show and since the Time Reversal lever was set-up earlier in the show, one character pulled it and it re-started the episode. The last scene was almost a line-by-line version of the scene that began the show. That was very fun to watch.

And just watching how every guest star approaches the show is such a joy.

What can we expect from this series of shows that may be different from how you ran it in the past?

There are some new cast members and there’ll be new guest stars all month, so it’ll be a brand new experience and I’m so excited to see what they all pull off. Please “bold” every time I use the word “new” in the previous sentence. Really need it to stand out.

How did the show’s catchphrase “This really hurts!” come to be?

You know, in the two runs we’ve had, I don’t think anyone has actually used it…

Wednesday September 13, 2017, 7:00am - by evan barden

Matt Koff is a comedian, recovering improviser, and Emmy-award winning writer for his work on The Daily Show. As one of the first Magnet students, Matt brings his comedy back to the theater for a stand-up comedy series. “Matt Koff & Friend” features a half hour of comedy from Koff himself, as well as another half hour from a comedian of his choice.

How long have you been performing stand-up comedy?

For about 7 years now. I had been doing sketch and improv for about 5 years prior to that. I’m old. Older than the Tennessee Valley herself, some might say.

How would you compare the NYC stand-up scene from when you first started to now?

When I started there seemed to be a lot of crazy people at open mics. I do fewer mics now but the ones I go to don’t seem to have people who’ve just wandered in from Times Square talking about how they’d like to rape the Statue of Liberty or whatever.
As far as I can tell it hasn’t really changed. I’ve changed a little bit. In the beginning I was one of the scared newbies at mics who just hoped my 4 minutes of jokes worked. Now I’m less scared and not a newbie. I’m old. So old. Although trying out a new joke will always make me nervous. One day I hope to stop caring, so I can finally start talking about my true passion: sexually assaulting large statues.

Can you tell us about a time that you “bombed” on stage?

Yes. I can tell you about several times. But the worst I’ve ever bombed is when I was at The Comedy Store in LA. It was my first and so far only time performing there, I went up at like 1:30am and there was just silence. I swear I could hear the ghost of David Letterman weeping.

When did you start taking classes at Magnet Theater? Did you learn anything from the classes that you still use in your work today?

I started taking classes here when it first opened. Before that I’d been studying with Armando when he taught classes independently. That’s right, PRE-Magnet. Which makes me a pretty cool guy.
One thing I learned that I still use today, mainly in writing, is to patiently explore an idea and don’t be afraid of letting it form organically. Armando also stressed the importance of being a philosopher and constantly asking why things are the way they are in every day life, which is hugely important in every form of comedy, especially stand-up.

What does stand-up comedy bring to you that improv does not?

With stand-up, you don’t have to wait for anyone. You can go and do 3 sets a night and develop as fast as you want to develop. It also gives you an opportunity to hone and workshop an act again and again which I find really fulfilling.
But every so often I will do improv with the other Daily Show writers, and I find that fun in a completely different way, because obviously there’s no real plan and you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
In hindsight, I think I have more fun doing improv. But I didn’t start doing comedy to have “fun.” I did it to suffer. And for the free drink tickets. 😉

Who would be your ideal guest to perform the 2nd half hour on Matt Koff & Friend?

Adam Wade. And I was lucky enough to get him!

How do you like performing stand-up in an improv theater setting?

I like it a lot. The audiences are really smart, and there are very few drunk bachelorette parties in the audience who interrupt my set and laugh at the wrong parts of the joke. Quiet, ladies! “So I just had arm surgery” is not a punchline!

Come see Matt Koff & Friend Monday September 18th at 9pm with special guest Adam Wade! 

 

Tuesday September 12, 2017, 5:42pm - by Promo Team

Musical Megawatt performer Chris Bell bares all about his his upcoming show Comic Strips. With the help of his friends, Chris combines the styles of burlesque and game shows into a night of fun and laughter. This comedy boylesque show will make its Magnet Theater premiere Friday, September 15th, at 11:15pm.

What is Comic Strips and when did it become a show at the Magnet Theater?

Comic Strips is a comedy boylesque & game show. It’ll be a night of odd character stripteases and bawdy games hosted by the fabulous Madame Jiji. The night will really be an experiment of an idea I had years ago (more on this to come later) and is the show’s birthday so if you want to see how babies are made, come to the show!

 

Disclaimer: Actual babies will not be made at this show.

 

What kind of games will you be playing during Comic Strips?

There will be games of mystery and intrigue, exocitc games from the ancient tribes of South East Africa, but most importantly, there will be games that aren’t any of those just mentioned. The games we’ll play will be dumb, fun, and sexualy suggestive cause, hey, this is partly a burlesque show after all!

 

What inspired you to combine boylesque with comedy?

The idea came to me maybe 10 years ago when a good friend called me up and asked if I knew someone who would strip for her best friend’s birthday party…but dressed as a Hasidic Jew. I thought this was hilarious so naturally I had to do it. We all ended up having a blast and I wondered how it was possible that there wasn’t a NYC company out there offering this service. Funny character stripteases that is. Fast forward 10 years later; I’ve quit my job and I’m putting together a prototype of that company to see if the idea has legs. Comic Strips (this Friday night @ 11:15pm, be there) is the beginning of my frankenstein monster. Will it break loose and wreak havoc on the streets of New York? I hope so!

 

But you know, like a positive havoc.

 

Who would be your ideal guest for Comic Strips?

Darth Vader hands down, because wouldn’t it be fun to take a ride on the Dark side?

 

What does it mean for you to have a Friday night spot at the Magnet Theater?

It means a lot of work! #JesusBeAXanax

 

No, I’m very excited to be able to do this show at the Magnet. It’s a great community to be a part of and what better place to do an experimental show than at my favorite comedy safe space and no, I am not getting paid to say that.

 

(‘ll-Iay ick-pay p-uay he-tay eck-chay omorrow-tay.)

 

Besides boylesque and improv, have you performed in other types of shows?

My educational background is theater so in college I performed in several types of shows from dance shows to musicals to plays. I’ve done a few summer stock seasons of musicals as well as a year of children’s theater in Lexington Kentucky before I moved to NYC. I’ve been in New York for 10 years now and have produced, directed, and acted in various projects both for the stage and screen. A couple of random voiceover gigs too which were a blast including a recent video game you can find on Steam called The Low Road.

 

And now for the biggest confession of all, I’ve never actually performed burlesque so (prepare yourself for another shameless plug) come this Friday at 11:15 pm to see if I succeed or fail. Either way, it should be entertaining!

 

What do you want audience members to take away from the show – that they wouldn’t normally from a traditional improv/ sketch show?

I guess Comic Strips is celebration of the human body and sexuality. But most importantly, I want it to be a shit ton of fun. Not too different from any other comedy show right?

 

Comic Strips debuts at the Magnet Theater on Friday September 15 at 11:15pm. Don’t miss it! 

 

 

Tuesday September 5, 2017, 2:53pm - by evan barden

This month’s Director Series, “The Setup,” comes to us from the brilliant mind of Eleanor Lewis. Eleanor is most often seen on stage with Megawatt team Sexy Baby, but for the month of September, she’s sitting in the director’s chair, working with a special cast on a show of her own creation. We’ve interviewed her to find out more about the show and where her compass is pointing!

Tell us about the concept of The Setup. How did you come up with this idea?

First of all, thanks for having me. This studio is very comfortable and expensive-looking!

The Setup is an improvised one-act play where the audience designs the set – so, basically a monoscene with a theatrical style. A few months ago I was thinking a lot about my favorite improv shows and realized that the ones that stuck with me were always the ones that were either so funny they were unforgettable, or ones where the actors took their scenes seriously and took the time to explore the subtleties of their characters and relationships. The ones I still think about all the time have both – it’s something that a lot of really good duos have because they’re so patient and trusting with each other. They can be so silly and dumb, and then in the next breath extremely human and touching.I started thinking of ways to set up a show that encouraged this kind of improv, and the idea of giving the actors a designed set, just like in a real play, was the one that was the most interesting to me. I thought it would give the performers the sense that they could take their time and explore their world without giving them an explicit directive to form a narrative, or forcing them into being artificially dramatic.

Then I just had to pick a cast of strong actors who are also – and I hope they’re cool with me saying this – incredible weirdos. People who can do complete nonsense with gravity and a straight face, and love doing it.

How does the audience get to design the set for the show?

I wrote a web app. It’s very buggy, but the audience can use the app on a tablet out in the lobby to design the set. We take the tablet into the theater, set the stage, and nobody has to go through the awkwardness of dragging chairs around while everyone watches them. Technology can be isolating, and sometimes that’s a good thing!

How is improvising with a set different than working without one?

There’s a sense that everything is intentional, which is basically a trick, but a good trick. It puts you in the mindset of being in a play where everything exists on purpose. But, you still have the spontaneity of improv where the cast can surprise each other and themselves. Also, improv scenes demand that you answer a lot of questions – who are we? What are we doing together? Answering the question “what does this space look like, physically?” is unusual as the very first thing that happens.

Your show is an improvised one act play. What plays inspire you as an improv director?

I’m actually extremely ignorant and poorly-read when it comes to scripted theater, so my references are kind of limited. I think 12 Angry Men is a great play for clear and believable character behavior because each juror has such a clear perspective. I think it’s also a strong lesson for improvisers because the show wouldn’t work unless the jurors let themselves be convinced one by one. Even juror #3, who is never actually convinced, eventually goes along with a not-guilty verdict because he gets so worn down and upset. From an improv perspective, he follows the logic of his character all the way to the end but ultimately accepts the offer given to him even though it hurts and feels like a loss.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (the musical!!!!!) is great because the characters are all super smart and capable, but get into extremely stupid and absurd situations anyway. The show is so good because nobody seems to know that what they’re doing is funny or that they’re in a comedy at all, so you have things like a guy singing “love is my legs/ and you are my love/ so you are my legs/ my love” from the bottom of his heart while a woman holds back tears.

These are two of the three shows I know well and the third one is irrelevant to improv.

If you could do improv on the set of any play you’ve ever seen, what would it be and why?

I’d love to improvise on the set of Hamilton because that means I get to be all smug right now and say I saw Hamilton. You guys, it’s good! Also the set of Clybourne Park because there are so many sub-spaces to explore within it (the garden, all the upstairs rooms, the main foyer, etc) and because the set itself had so much personality.

The Setup is playing every Thursday night in September at 10 pm, as a part of Thursday Night Out. Don’t miss it!