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Magnet Theater Blog: News and Ideas about Comedy, Improv Shows & Classes in NYC

Archive for the ‘Improv’ Category

Monday November 2, 2015, 11:00am - by Magnet Theater

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Now this is exciting — Magnet founder and improv mastermind, Armando Diaz, is set to begin teaching four classes in the month of November! If you’ve never had the chance to study with Armando, look no further.

Brand new to Magnet? Take Level 1 For Experienced Improvisers! Looking to sharpen your skills? Instant Brilliance is gonna be perfect for you! Finally fulfilling that “We should do two-prov” comment you made at the bar months ago?? Whoa baby – Dynamic Duos is here for ya!! Don’t even want to do improv??? Then take that Sketch Writing Level One!!! There’s truly something for everyone, all taught by the one (and only) Armando Diaz. Sign up now now now!

Instant Brilliance starting November 14th

Level 1 For Experienced Improvisors starting November 15th

Sketch Writing Level One starting November 16th

Dynamic Duos starting November 21st


Saturday October 31, 2015, 10:00am - by Magnet Theater


We’re so very excited to announce the new Conservatory Circuit Fall 2015 season, debuting Friday, November 6th at 10pm at the Magnet Training Center. Congratulations to everyone!

Grant Goldberg
Rich Rosario
Trixze Smith
Micheil Yohannes
Ed Cara
Ashley Jordan
Sierra Pasquale
Zoe Dennis
Coach: Tim Canty

Lee Rosenberg
Ryan McVerry
Patrick Grizzard
Jamer Bellis
Stacy Dunn
Angela Dohrmann
Irene Lacis
Sarah Brunet
Coach: Collin Batten

Peter Vale
Lorina Ladrillono
Pratima Mani
Brendan Jordan
Jamie Genoa
Kerry Kastin
Jonathan Fuchs
Andrew Joelson
Coach: Eleanor Lewis

Brad Engle
Daniel Buchbinder
Jodie Pfau
Deepak Jayasimha
Annie Howard
Rachel Zeolla
Elias Colombotos
Perri Gross
Coach: Shacottha Fields

Saturday October 17, 2015, 12:00pm - by Magnet Theater


In 2009, musical improv was still a relatively new form. The Magnet had two musical teams performing on every-other Friday – and the weekly Made Up Musical.

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Having been a part of so many improv festivals over the years, I thought the time was right for one that focused just on musical improv. When I pitched the idea of the first annual New York Musical Improv Festival, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I went to the two musical teams and asked if anyone wanted to volunteer. Two hands went up, Robin Rothman and Melanie Girton. We became a producing team (eventually including Mary Archbold, Lisa Flanagan, and Michael Lutton) and organized the first festival in November 2009.

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It was two nights long and featured NYC teams, Broadway performers, and “BASH” from Chicago – Blaine Swen’s incredible one man improvised musical provoked the first spontaneous standing ovation I ever saw at the Magnet. (The photo [to the right] is from the Tara Copeland’s “NYMIF All-Star Show.” Notice the old wooden chairs.)

2010 included performers from Chicago, Minneapolis and Washington DC, and cast members and musicians from Broadway’s “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

We sponsored our first benefit performance for Gilda’s Club New York City – featuring our first Tony Award winner (Cady Huffman from “The Producers”) and Tony nominated guest performers.  This has become an annual event raising money and awareness for Gilda’s Club NYC. We also celebrate the comedic legacy of Gilda Radner with an all-female musical team “Generation G.”

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It also featured over-doing it, forgetting to eat, and not sleeping – as one of our producers was carried from the Magnet office into to a waiting ambulance.

2011 may have over-expanded. It was six nights long and had a producing teams of 16 people. Since then, we have enjoyed a four night festival with three or four people on the producing team and over the years, the festival has featured hundreds of performers from across the U.S. and Canada, and even Australia.

From the beginning, the goals of the New York Musical Improv Festival have been clear:

1. Treat the performers like gold.

2. Promote Musical Improv as a form in NYC and across the country.

3. Promote the Magnet Theater.

4. Feature every performer and their home theatre – even if it’s down the street from ours.

As the festival grew, so did the musical improv program at the Magnet – from one level to four, from two musical megawatt teams to as many as nine. Other musical improv programs in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and across the country grew every year. Chicago now has MCL – Music Comedy Live – with musical improv shows seven nights a week.

Performers return to the Magnet year after year for the NYMIF, meeting, performing, watching shows, exchanging ideas, talking theatre upkeep and mortgages, arranging to perform at each others theaters – and relaxing at the annual performers brunch. 

As we head into our 7th annual festival, we can proudly say that the NYMIF and the Magnet are recognized as national leaders in musical improv.

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Thursday October 15, 2015, 1:18pm - by Megan Gray


We’re so excited to announce the brand-new season of Conservatory Circuit is now open for applications! What’s Conservatory Circuit, you say? Why, it’s just like the regular Circuit, except it’s open only to students who have been accepted into Magnet’s Conservatory program (Level 5 and above). It’s a really great way to work consistently with a team and coach as well as get more reps under your belt. We highly recommend it!

Application deadline: Friday, October 23rd at noon
Team announcements: Wednesday, October 28th
Shows: Fridays at 10pm; November 6th, 13th, 20th and December 4th, 11th, 18th

What are you waiting for? Check out the details and apply now!

Questions, thoughts, comments, or concerns can be directed to circuit@magnettheater.com.

Wednesday September 30, 2015, 10:56am - by Megan Gray


The Magnet Theater is thrilled to announce the new teams and additions to its Tuesday night Musical Megawatt lineup. New teams will debut this coming Tuesday, October 6th. Shows start at 7pm!

New Team Captain
Amy Charowsky
Ben Fullon
Damon Ketron
Jesse Kruger
Alisa Ledyard
Kiki Mikkelsen
Zach Myers

New Team Tennille
Chris Bell
Jeremy Chao
Jessica Coyle
Natasha Gleichmann
Brendan Goggins
Randy McKay
Maryann Menzies


Tuesday September 29, 2015, 9:07am - by Magnet Theater

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We’re looking for eager improvisers (prerequisite: completion of Level 1) to participate in warm-ups and exercises run by the students in Armando’s coaching class. All the details are below—but keep in mind that space is limited. Hope to see you there!

When to be available: Saturdays, October 17th-November 21st from 12:00-3:00pm

How to sign up: Simply send an email to schooldirector@magnettheater.com with the subject line: “COACHING CLASS VOLUNTEER.” Please include your full name and phone number.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at (212) 244-2400.

Tuesday July 28, 2015, 1:50pm - by Magnet Theater



Hello friends and family at the Magnet Theater.

August makes the end of summer Megawatt, and with the change of season the time has come for me to step down as Megawatt director. Come September, I’ll be turning the show over to the endlessly amazing Nick Kanellis.

Nick Kanellis, you guys!

To accommodate the transition, we’ve decided to push the next audition back to mid-September. Dates will officially be announced on this blog within the week.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to be a part of this show for the last four years, and have watched it grow in leaps and bounds. Hell, I’ve watched the whole theater grow in leaps and bounds. The work on the Magnet stage has never been funnier, smarter, or more exciting to watch. And there’s no doubt that it will only be getting more exciting as we move forward. The bar just gets higher and higher. Well done, everyone.

It’s truly been an honor to have been a part of all this.

Megawatt is brilliant. Magnet is brilliant. Long live improv!

-Louis Kornfeld

Tuesday July 21, 2015, 6:30am - by Magnet Theater


We’re pleased to announce the newest ensembles for the Summer 2015 round of The Circuit! Shows will be every Friday at 10:30pm, beginning Friday, July 24th at the Magnet Training Center (22 W 32nd St., 10th Floor). Congrats everyone!

Team: Jerry
Ashley Glicken
Nicholas Piccola
Osvaldo Andreaus
Will Cheng
Melissa Sales
Melissa Welch
Melissa Ragsdale
Peter Edmondson
Coach: Jesse Acini

Team: Elaine
Dennis Feitosa
Noel Hunter
Christopher De La Cruz
Siva shankar pemmasani
Peter Getz
Trixze Smith
Danya Katok
Heather Ross
Coach: Matthew Sellitti

Team: George
Erin Nebel
Johnathan Ross
Kevin Mc Inerney
Chris Lombardi
Adam Gorsline
Nicole Edine
Kayleigh Reichman
Heather Harrison
Charlie Nicholson

Team: Kramer
Amy Charowsky
Andrew Cornelius
Annmarie Cullen
Adam Keller
Jesse Kruger
Alisa Ledyard
Coach: Alex Tracy

This is going to be another great round—come out and enjoy these FREE shows!

Thursday July 16, 2015, 2:08pm - by Megan Gray

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This summer, Magnet will be putting together an exciting new video project entitled “Exquisite Corpse: The Movie.” Performers, video/sound people, and video editors will collaborate to make a short comedy video that will be screened at the theater on Thursday, September 10th, 7pm. The video will be made in pieces, exquisite-corpse-style, with teams filming their pieces in the video one after another.

The first team will create a 2-minute long video (either written or improvised). They then pass that off to the second team who will have a week to continue the narrative of the first team, who will then pass it off to the third team, etc.

All Megawatt, Musical Megawatt, Thursday Night Out, Level 6: Team Performance, Circuit, and Sketch teams are encouraged to apply, as are all members of the community with video editing, filming, and sound recording skills. Teams will be given a week over the summer to film their portion of the project and will be assigned to camera/sound/editing people.


The deadline to apply is Monday, July 20th, 5pm.

Please email: megan@magnettheater.com with any questions!

Thursday July 9, 2015, 10:49am - by Magnet Theater

Christina Gausas Stairs

Our guest on this week’s episode of the Magnet Theater Podcast, Christina Gausas, is well known for her work with a variety of amazing improv duos. As a follow up to her interview, she’s returned to give a shout out to all of her duo collaborators over the years and we’ve given her the keys to the Magnet Blog to do just that. Take it away, Christina!

Ellie Kemper – GENIUS
Ellie is the brightest, most radiant light in life, on and off-stage, and she’s a genius. She has infinite talent and wild, limitless lovability. Ellie is the smartest person I know and she’s a creative genius. Her insights, her sensibilities, her clarity, the characters she creates are so captivating. The gifts that Ellie gives to you in scenes are so specific and brilliant. She’s the most engaging, playful scene partner, and, of course, she’s beautiful and warm and generous, it’s exactly who she is and always has been. (We met in 2000.) I could go on for hours & pages about the talent and joy of Ellie, and the one word to encompass Ellie as an improviser and performer is – genius.

Michael Bertrando – SEXY BEAST
Bertrando is an intense talent with gravity and fun, he’s fucking brilliant, too. Being able to do Come Together with Michael has really been a gift. Michael can get onstage and truly create a one-act play. He creates characters who are complex, complicated MEN, and at the same time, he’s hilarious because he digs into the honesty and the emotion and he is fearless. Capital “F” Fearless. He’s wickedly smart, open-minded, he is pure fire onstage.

Susan Messing – The QUEEN
Kevin Dorff is the King, Susan Messing is the Queen, and I would live in that Kingdom forever. Susan is what we all aspire to be. But I don’t know that anyone can come close. I think, just bow down. Susan is the Goddess. It’s Susan’s world and we’re just living in it.

Becky Drysdale – CREATOR
Becky is the most creative, creating, creator I know. She improvises, writes, sings, dances, animates, makes art, builds things, and she makes spaces for other improvisers. The Clubhouse in LA is amazing and she made that for other people. She did that with her school in New York, too. I was watching a documentary about Orson Welles and someone said, “there was never an Orson before him and there will never be a second,” which made me think of Matt Besser, who I admire very much, and wonder if there will ever be someone like Besser again because Improv is now so big. I don’t know Matt well, but he always seems brave to me, anarchistic, confident (all the UCB 4 do) — what Matt and the UCB created was non-status quo. Becky has a similar spirit. She gives it to the Indie teams.

Scott Adsit – CHARMING
I think Scott is one of the most charming improvisers in the country. I loved all of our shows.

I add the “e”s for how exciting Kay is onstage. Kay has the most “come run away and play with me” look in her eyes when you are onstage with her. We were only able to do one show as Cannon & Gausas and it was at a DCM and it was a delight. Kay keeps the energy, and the positivity, and the play, and the smart silliness going. You just feel so happy when you see her big eyes and her big smile. And she’s that way as a friend, too. She always lifts you up.

Armando Diaz – EMPEROR
If you’re reading this right now, please ask Armando to improvise more. No one else can as quickly and completely become a character the way Armando Diaz can. And I feel like he understands Comedy better than all of us. And, by “all of us”, I mean, the whole, entire world. We have this treasure, this wealth of insight and improv and comedy intelligence right here in New York City and I feel like we should be seeing and using him all the time. For the sake of the future! (Sorry, Armando, no sleep for you.)

Megan Gray – The GIFT
Megan has that natural grace and comfort onstage that comes from a place of love. Much like Ellie, that light and radiance. She’s a very strong and also giving improviser. I love being onstage with Megan but I also love watching her because I always feel secure. She’s funny and talented and also commanding onstage. My eyes go right to her. I always want to know what her characters are going to say. Also, when you watch her in a group, she’s the first one to “throw herself on the grenade.” She gives unbridled support without worrying about herself. Plus, as an AD, she gives so much to the community, she really diversifies and shares, and opens doors to performers and provides opportunities to shows.

Louis Kornfeld – the ORIGINAL
I think Louis has one of the most original stage personas and it comes completely from being who he is. I think a lot of people want to play to be perceived as “smart” or “intelligent” or “understanding something you don’t” but it’s always bullshit. Louis is the most NO BULLSHIT player there is. And because of that, we get to see this smart, intelligent improviser, who’s comfortable JUST FUCKING BEING. (As far as we can see.) And he’ll create a scene that might have a central, long discussion and it’s interesting as hell because it’s authentic and it isn’t full of self-aware bullshit, it’s just honest. I hear him refer to himself as a “straight man.” I have to say, I’ve never thought that. He’s always anchoring to me. Playing with MegaLou was great.

Michael Delaney – GOLOVKIN
Boxing fans will understand. Gennady Golovkin is a boxer with every weapon in a full arsenal and he has precision. He doesn’t remind you of anyone else because there’s never been anyone else like him. That’s Michael Delaney to me. He has every talent an improviser could hope for and he has precision. When you’re watching Michael Delaney or you’re onstage with Michael Delaney, you’re experiencing the best of what the work can be, at all times. He’s a true Master of Improvisation. We are lucky to have him. It’s another “bow down” situation.

Billy Merritt – JOY
Billy and I did one show in Dave Furfero’s Ampersand at the Magnet. When I think of Billy, I just think Joy. He welcomes you onstage and it’s fun and easy and unquestioned for the whole show. We did Kevin Mullaney’s Mullaney Chain at DCM 17. It was Kevin, Ellie, Sean Conroy, Billy, and me. I was in a scene with Billy where we were husband & wife talking to Sean’s character (who was off-stage) over the phone. I said, “check the caller ID” and Billy said, out loud, to the phone, “Check Caller ID”, while we were in the middle of the conversation. It was hilarious and a moment where we could get into a fun “not that way, look at the phone,” “what? why?” and those ideas and that kind of play can only come from the joyous, incredibly fun, smart mind of Billy Merritt.

Kevin Dorff – KING
Kevn Dorff is the King and that’s really all I have to say. He’s so incredibly talented, strong, intelligent, striking, commanding, and fun. He can say more with one look or one word than anyone else onstage. Which is why I should simply say – KING.

All words not in italics written by the wonderful Christina Gausas.