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

Wednesday February 25, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Sean Taylor Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Long-time Magnet performer and all-around swell guy, Sean Taylor, joins host Louis Kornfeld in the studio for an interview. A military brat growing up, Sean has called New York City home longer than anywhere else and, since moving to NYC right out of college in 1999, Sean has watched the improv boom happen first-hand. He’s gone from diehard ASSSSCAT fan to a Harold Night player to an instructor at Magnet. He and Louis discuss the underground nature of those earlier days and how the UCB seemed to bring a sense of positivity, respect, and empathy to the NYC comedy scene. Sean tells us how community plays such an important part in his life, whether it’s comedy, eating pizza, playing softball, or meeting his wife. Louis asks Sean about teaching the weekly Drop-In Class and his upcoming elective course Here, Now, discussing the difference between working with a steady group of students versus one that changes week to week and his love of discovery in two person scenes. As a teacher, he applies the debugging skills from his work as a computer programmer to classes in an effort to guide people away from fear-based choices to joy-based ones. These two vets also discuss the early days of Magnet, the difference between agreement and acceptance, and the privilege of being continually inspired by other improvisers.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #33 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Friday February 20, 2015, 11:04am - by Magnet Theater

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Working on solo characters? Developing a new sketch?

The Magnet Theater is proud to present a new show coming in March, powered by new ideas—The Generator!

Every Sunday at 6pm, Magnet students, writers and performers try out brand-new sketches and solo characters in 5 and 15-minute slots. The Generator will also help writers develop a larger show one piece at a time. It’s never-before-seen comedy for your eyeballs.

See you at the premiere on Sunday, March 1st at 6pm.

Questions? Email themagnetgenerator@gmail.com.

Wednesday February 18, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Brandon Gardner Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this episode of the podcast, we welcome UCBT performer, instructor, and improv nerd Brandon Gardner into the studio to talk about college improv, his class focused on creating improvised plays, and various elements of compelling improv. Our host, Louis Kornfeld, begins the hour getting into Brandon’s vast experiences working with college improv teams and bookends the 60ish minutes by taking it all back to those formative years. In the meantime, Brandon describes why he became interested in bringing elements of theater to the improv stage and how he challenges actors to improvise and improvisers to act. For all our fellow improv nerds out there, you’ll love as Louis and Brandon parse through topics such as displaying emotion versus emoting authentically; playing to the top of your intelligence versus playing to the top of your integrity; story versus plot; and dramatic comedy versus comedic drama. These two veteran teachers trade exercises and generally advise on what is essential to playing satisfying improv scenes. Check it out!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #32 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Monday February 9, 2015, 12:15pm - by Magnet Theater

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Stop by the theater tomorrow night (Tuesday, February 10th) for a very special edition of Musical Megawatt—Musical MS’terpieces! Last year, we raised nearly $400 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Climb to the Top…this year, we hope to do even better and we’d love your help!

In addition to stellar musical improv from some of your favorite house teams (The Stragglers, Aquarius, Goats, Mint Condition and Wonderland), we’ll also be selling baked goods and raffling off prizes to raise donations for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. What can you win? Bottles of wine, Magnet Theater show tickets, a beach towel with the TARDIS on it, scented candles that were made by (and smell like) members of Wonderland, and much much more—all for an important cause.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. The mission of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is to mobilize people and resources to drive research and address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. All donations raised tomorrow night will benefit the 10,000 people living with MS in New York City and its surrounding areas by helping fund comprehensive programs and services for people with MS as well as ongoing efforts towards a cure.

Laugh, sing, and dance in the face of MS with shows at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm. Raffle drawings will be held at the top of the 9 o’clock hour! Baked goods will be sold all night! Plus, we’ll cap off the evening with a Musical Mixer (with special guest Goats) at 10:15pm.

Hope to see you there—but if you can’t make it and you’d like to make a donation, you can do so here. Thank you for your support!

Friday February 6, 2015, 11:45am - by Magnet Theater

NWAF Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

**SPECIAL RELEASE**

Gather around, friends! For this episode, we’ve got Carly and Justin from Now We Are Friends, a monthly variety show in New York City that features improv, sketch, and live music. They sit down with our host Louis Kornfeld to talk about their show, which is celebrating its second anniversary this Sunday, February 8th. The show’s host, Justin Morgan, and show creator/performer/producer, Carly Monardo, get into what the show means to them and we all learn the value of friendship in the arts. They discuss the long history of comedy and music sharing performance spaces, plus, Louis endorses NWAF as a refreshingly douche-free show! Huzzah!

Catch their 2nd Anniversary Show this Sunday, February 8th, at The Parkside Lounge at 9PM!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #31 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Thursday February 5, 2015, 3:00pm - by Magnet Theater

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Magnet Theater is now accepting applications for the 2015 spring season of Megawatt. Please fill out THIS FORM no later than FEBRUARY 21st to apply for an audition slot.

Anyone who has completed Magnet Level 6 is eligible to apply, though please note that a completed form does not guarantee an audition slot. Due to the high volume of eligible improvisers and a limited number of slots, priority will be given to students and performers who have finished the class or performed on a Megawatt team within the last year.

Confirmations will be sent out by SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22nd.

CLICK HERE to apply.

Wednesday February 4, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Poss Taylor Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Our host Louis Kornfeld sits down with Ross Taylor, director of February’s Directors Series: Shlongform, to chat about growing up in Missouri, touring with Second City, and doing comedy in NYC.  Having somewhat recently celebrated his five year anniversary of NYC and improv, Ross tells Louis about getting his start in hometown Missouri with speech and debate before moving on to do theater at Mizzou and later getting into comedy. Regarding his show Shlongform, Ross talks about why he’s marrying short form with long form and our duo discusses the historic attitudes towards short form in NYC. Having both done tours with Second City’s cruise ship ensembles, Louis and Ross dive into their experiences entertaining folks on Norwegian Cruise Line boats and how those experiences translate back to their work in New York. Ross also chats about working with his long-running team The Wrath and divulges how to keep a team strong and inspiring. Plus, Louis asks Ross about The Oakwood Boys, his religious country music duo, and the guys talk about the collegiate feel of the improv community. Tune in!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #30 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday January 28, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

J&L Podcast Updated Subscribe with iTunes

Hosts of Magnet Theater’s monthly character show, Jana & Lauren Presents, Jana Schmieding and Lauren Olson have a long history of collaboration, dating back to their days at University of Oregon all the way to today. Our two guests sit down with host Louis Kornfeld to discuss improvising from their guts, their creative processes, and what they think makes for the best kind of comedy. They walk us through the genesis of Jana & Lauren Presents as a place to hone and showcase their character skills and how they encourage everyone to create and perform characters that push the risk factor onstage. Louis asks Jana & Lauren about their respective solo shows and they chat about finding your karass. Jana has invented a made-up word and Louis reveals his only successful character to date! Tune in to find out both!!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #29 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Monday January 26, 2015, 2:06pm - by Magnet Theater

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Due to the weather, ALL MAGNET CLASSES AND SHOWS have been CANCELED for tonight, Monday, January 26th. We’re not sure about Tuesday yet, but stay tuned and we’ll have an update for you by tomorrow (January 27th) at 2pm.

If you had a class today, don’t worry! We’ll reschedule! Our School Director will email you with all the details as soon as we have them worked out. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to reach out: schooldirector[at]magnettheater[dot]com.

Stay warm and stay safe, everyone!

Friday January 23, 2015, 10:59am - by Magnet Theater

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Magnet Video Lab premieres its third season on Sunday at 6pm, so we thought we’d catch up with Annie Quick, one of the driving forces behind the entire operation (along with Jim Turner and everyone’s favorite friend, Armando Diaz). We asked her a few questions over email and she was kind enough to give her insights on what makes a great video, how MVL has grown, and how important deadlines are to the process (spoiler alert: very important). Check it out!

1. Why did you start the Magnet Video Lab?
I took Sketch Level 1 & 2 at Magnet and loved the structure of it—it’s a great way to get feedback and have writing deadlines. At some point I realized that’s what I needed for a few video projects I was working on—the self-generated films that were suffering from lack of a formal work structure.

Since Jim Turner and I both work in production and he’s also at Magnet, we thought it might make sense to start a group in the style of Magnet’s sketch writing classes. Our main goal was to have each participant come out of the ten-week session with a completed video.

2. What’s a Video Lab?
At one point, Jim had pointed out we were essentially creating a salon where creators come for mutual support, but in the end we decided that lab is a better handle—it involves assignments and deadlines and an expectation that you’re obliged to show up because your lab partners are counting on you.

Jim and I spent a lot of time talking about the roadblocks we encounter when we’re working on our own films. All steps of the process are challenging. At any stage a project can flounder from lack of labor, feedback, gear, time, etc. The thing that sinks most film projects, though, is the lack of a real deadline. That’s the main thing we wanted to give everyone.

We also thought about how a beginner might dip their toes into the water and gain knowledge and confidence in the process. The Video Lab is a place where beginners and experts help each other bring their projects to life. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and pitches in.

3. What’s your favorite thing about the Magnet Video Lab?
I love that we are all working on our own things.  I know that other groups exist where everyone works on the same video together, and that’s cool too, but I think the Magnet’s program is unique because we support the individual filmmaker and help them to bring their own ideas into the world.

For me, that’s been educational because I’ve had to wear so many hats that wouldn’t if we were all working on one film. So, for instance, this session I helped one of my labmates with costuming and another session I was a DP, and for others I’ve helped out in audio.

I also take a lot away from watching other people go from blank page to done. Films are so time consuming to make, and so it’s really inspiring to be around a group of people who are finishing their stuff, and making great stuff!

4. How has MVL grown?
It’s been a trial and error process, taking a group of strangers and making them into a video-making team. At the beginning I thought of it as mostly a creative project, but it quickly turned into a lesson in group management. Jim and I have spent a lot of time tweaking the process and getting feedback from the Lab members so that each session is a bit smoother than the last. There are a crazy amount of details to handle when you have ten weeks and seven films to make.

In the first two sessions we kept it very small—only seven participants, so that we could beta test the process and figure out what we were doing. That first session Armando helped us to sort out a structure and also came to our table reads for feedback on our scripts.

In the third session our goal was to scale up a bit. We wanted to see if we could keep the level of engagement with a bigger group. We also wanted to add new people with different skill sets and experience levels. So far it’s been working great! It’s been both productive and friendly, and a great stretch for all of us.

The great thing about Magnet is that people come with comedy and story skills so even if someone doesn’t have any production knowledge, they still have a lot of useful feedback to give and a lot of talent to draw on.

5. What is your role?
I am part teacher, part student, part manager, part strategizer, part director, part production assistant. The first two sessions I did a lot of  teaching about editing and post production, while Jim handled a lot of the shooting guidance. In our third session, people are more up to speed in those areas and we can be a little more hands off.

6. What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to comedians creating their own videos?
Is it okay if I have three? I can’t pick just one.

First, learn to edit. It’s the most time-consuming part of filmmaking and the hardest to get someone else to do well. If you learn to edit you can control the pacing and, essentially, how funny something is. It’s also the point where a lot of projects get derailed. If you’re controlling that step you can make sure it gets out there.

Second, I’d say pay attention to capturing good audio. If, as a beginner, you learn that well, your videos will be 30% more credible right out of the gate.

Third, remember film is different than live. It’s pretty hard to retrofit stage pieces or improv into a watchable video. So start from scratch and write for film, at least while you’re in the beginning stages.

7. What’s your favorite internet video of all time?
Maybe this is cliché, but I’m standing by Dramatic Chipmunk. Love that guy.

Once again, thanks to Annie for all this awesome info! Don’t miss the screening of Magnet Video Lab’s third season this Sunday at 6pm. Did we mention it’s free? Because it is. See you there!