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

Saturday January 25, 2014, 1:01pm - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

peter collins

Mail’s here! Peter Collins (All American), who is performing full time on one of the Second City Cruise Ships, just sent a letter to us here at the Magnet to give us a glimpse of his travels:
Ahoy there Magnet,
Greetings from the Norwegian Pearl! (Well actually, I’m in Boston but for the purposes of this postcard it’d be more fun to imagine me sitting next to a porthole in the hull of a ship while men peel potatoes behind me. Right?) I just finished my 9 weeks, 1 in Chicago and 8 on board. It truly was an amazing experience. I worked with a hilarious cast from all around the country, and an incredibly talented director and producer with years of experience working in comedy. Every week we performed two sketch shows, two improv shows and a dinner theater interactive murder mystery. All told you get to perform for thousands of people a week and Second City sets you up to be as funny as possible. All the sketches are proven winners whose scripts were penned by some of the biggest names in comedy  and the improv games are a riot.
     The improv aboard the ship is all short form, something I hadn’t done since middle school. It involves a completely different skill set but once you adjust it can be a lot of fun. Some of the people you get to perform for have never seen improv or even live comedy in their lives and for the most part they get pumped up. The best way I can sum up my interactions with passengers is through this anecdote. One Sunday morning, the final morning of one of the cruises, myself and two cast mates were walking through the ship to get breakfast at a restaurant onboard. As we made our way through a crowd of folks waiting to disembark I made eyes with a man sitting a ways down the hall. He had pulled up his rolling suitcase to sit on and held the handle between his legs like the strap on a saddle. He was large, sporting a salt and pepper chin strap beard an Arkansas razorbacks hat, and a cutoff NASCAR shirt. He never took his eyes off me and as we approached he began to slowly nod his head and just as I was passing he spoke in a gravely voice just above a whisper saying “Y’all done good. Y’all done good”. I felt like an astronaut as I nodded back and touched my finger to the brim of my Red Sox cap.
    I think there’s a good chance that I’ll do this again in the future and I encourage anyone who’s interested to audition next time around. While there was no long form involved in the contract, I can’t stress how valuable our training and performance experience at the Magnet was. A lot of very funny people auditioned for this from around the east coast, and the majority of those selected perform at the Magnet Theater (ie Y’all Done Good). I had the privilege of meeting performers from around the world who are making their way doing what they love. Not everyone becomes a household name, but you can have a happy life in the entertainment industry if you want to work for it. I traveled around the Caribbean, made some great friends and got paid to make people laugh. We ate well, lived well and racked up some great stories. Now that I’m back to this frozen tundra I can’t wait to come back to the Magnet community, do some long form improv and watch my unseasonable tan slowly fade.
See you soon,

Pete Collins

Friday January 24, 2014, 12:51pm - by WillyAppelman

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Armando’s Coaching Class needs volunteer improvisers (PREREQ completion of Magnet Level 1 improv) tomorrow, Saturday, January 25th from 4-6pm. Come in and be coached in practice sessions by the student coaches. Not only do you get FREE practice time, you get to hear the thoughts of the student coaches AND Armando himself.

If interested, email schooldirector[at]magnettheater[dot]com to confirm a spot. Spaces are limited, so first come, first serve.

Tuesday January 21, 2014, 5:23pm - by WillyAppelman

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Due to the snowstorm, The Magnet Training Center will be CLOSED Tuesday, January 21st. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the School Director at schooldirector[at]magnettheater[dot]com. Stay warm and get home safe!

Monday January 20, 2014, 5:05pm - by Magnet Theater

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Magnet Theater recently chatted with Beth Newell, one of the creators of Reductress.com, an online satirical news site that’s been called The Onion for women. Beth is also Managing Director of Magnet Theater’s Sketch Teams and currently performs in the improv duo Sad Kids. The conversation was mostly about shoes and purses, but Magnet managed to shift the conversation to comedy, the transcript of what followed is below.

Photo of Beth Newell at the Reductress Office

Beth Newell seen here at the Reductress headquarters, a giant uterus shaped cave.

MT: Reductress.com is a very smart and funny. I loved the ad for ‘Vagina Whitening Tampons.’ And your coverage of New York Fashion Week.

BN: Thanks. We did some videos that got passed around, which was fun.

ad for vagina whitening tampons

The new dick joke?

MT: And you’ve tapped into a lot of talent in the Magnet community to help, which is great.

BN: Thanks. There are a lot of funny women with good ideas and a lot of sharp comedy skills at Magnet.

MT: Is Reductress.com run by mostly women?

BN: Yes, it is. It’s run by women. There are some men involved, too.  We’re not actively avoiding using men, but since our playground is women’s media, women have a unique perspective that more directly serves our point of view.

MT: So basically, ‘no dudes’ is what you’re saying?

BN: No. But because we make fun of the way the media speaks to women and its presumptions about the way women think, it’s natural for women to be more equipped at exposing the comedy targets.

MT: So no dudes. I get it. Moving on-

CLICK TO READ MORE…

Monday January 20, 2014, 12:12am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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On Wednesday, December 18th, I (Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller!) got to interview Magnet’s own Russ Armstrong about growth in improv, understanding the makings of a good team, and how to be a good teacher, director, and improviser. Below is the transcribed interview.

 

Where are you from originally?

I’m from Michigan. I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

How did you get involved in improv?

I started improvising in high school. I was watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? with my friends and started an improv group to play short form games. The Pioneer Comedy Troupe from Pioneer High School. It was my junior year of high school. We thought we were the coolest people in the world and we didn’t know we were actually the lamest people in the world.

 

You went to Northwestern yes? Did you do improv in college? What was the improv there called.

I did. Yep. It was the Mee-ow Show. It was billed as 1/3 improv, 1/3 sketch, 1/3 rock ‘n’ roll. Lots of short form stuff. It was great, super fun. It was a blast.

 

And you studied in Chicago as well? At iO and Second City? How does the training there compare to the training you learned in NYC?

It’s all the same stuff just different approaches to it. I think Chicago tends to nurture you finding your voice a little bit more. They give you a little more time, marinates in a way that Chicago does with everything, with theater and music and food. Because the spotlight isn’t on it as much, there’s less pressure to produce immediately. New York tends to have a little more pressure because it is New York. And it’s more expensive. I think they are both awesome attributes. It’s good to have that pressure. I love that about New York.

CLICK TO READ MORE…

Friday January 17, 2014, 11:35am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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The Magnet Theater not only boasts its current roster of powerful improvisers, writers, and performers, but also celebrates those who have taken on new adventures in their lives and with their comedy.

Charlotte Rabbe, a phenomenal Magnet improviser, previously on The Wrath, is now out in L.A. We wanted to catch up with Charlotte and shine the Magnet Theater Blog Spotlight on her and her journey in comedy. We conducted an email interview with Charlotte. Below are her responses:

 

What’s your home town?

CR: Where I grew up? Most of my family is living in NYC now so I consider that my hometown.

 

What is your comedy history (highlighting improv and sketch especially)? What got you interested and when were you first exposed to improv?

CR: I would watch a lot of stand up/sketch shows growing up (The State, The Upright Citizens Brigade TV show, SNL) and I was obsessed… When I started coming into the city after high school I went to a lot of stand up shows but was too afraid to ever do it. I ended up taking an improv class after college even though I had seen very little and got hooked.

CLICK TO READ MORE…

Monday January 13, 2014, 11:42am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

The Misses

On Friday, January 3rd, I got to sit down with sketch writers and performers Andy Mills and Sebastian Conelli as well as director Matt J. Weir of The Misses to gain insight into some of the Magnet’s leading sketch minds. What surfaced was not just what makes this Veteran Sketch Team special, but also what makes a team click, what makes a show stand out, and what it means to have that comedy drive. Below is a transcript of the interview.

 

When were you formed?

Matt J. Weir (MW): The Misses were formed in September of 2013 and the first show was in October of 2013. The Misses is a collection of some of the best veteran sketch performers at The Magnet.

Andy Mills (AM): One of the interesting things about The Misses being formed is that 85% of the group is former members of the sketch team Fat Kids, which Matt also directed.

MW: Yeah I directed that for a season. Also for the season before that I co-directed it with the other Matt Weir. So our brain lust dripped down on you guys.

CLICK TO READ MORE…

Friday January 10, 2014, 4:47pm - by WillyAppelman

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Greetings Magnet Community!

We’re pleased to announce the Winter 2014 round of The Circuit! Shows start tonight and continue every Friday through February 28, at 10:30PM. Oh yeah and they’re FREE! Introducing our newest teams:

Norm
Justin Anderson
Ted Andricos
Michael Auerbach
Michael Dervin
Chrissie Gruebel
Ginny Humber
Devin O’Neill
Robin Rothman Taylor
Coach: Hannah Chase

Woody
Tessa Borbridge
Adam Buteux
Sean Johnson
Lorina Ladrillono
Mary Regan
Claudia Toth
Jay Weintraub
Coach: Eli Itzkowitz

Carla
Aarabi Bala
Jen Bokoff
Dave Eng
Peter Vale
Matthew Levin
Suzanne Slade
Cynthia Haskins
Paul Zurawski
Coach: Shacottha Fields

Cliff
Emilie Brockmann
Adam Columbia
Michael Delisle
Ally Kornfeld
Lou Lasher
Angela Randazzo
Alex Shifman
Rachel Zeolla
Coach: Dennis Pacheco

All shows are at the Magnet Studio Theater, 259 W 30th St, 2nd Floor. The support of the entire community is important for these shows so come out to see The Circuit! You will love what you see.

Sunday January 5, 2014, 11:07pm - by WillyAppelman

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Congratulations to the newest Magnet Sketch Team and the newest additions to Cash and Baby Shoes:

NEW TEAM HIGHLANDER
Kim Ferguson
Michael Delisle
Dmitry Shein
Melissa Caminneci
Dennis Pacheco
Dan Dobransky
Geri Cole
Hannah Wright
Sierra Pasquale

Newest Member of CA$H:
Matt Antonucci

Newest Member of BABY SHOES:
Roger Ainslie

Starting on February 9th, Magnet Sketch Shows will run at 7:30 PM on Sundays. See you there!

Also, be sure to check out the Best of Shows for Party., American Wormholes, and Baby Shoes at 7:30 on January 12th as well as CA$H’s “Black Tie” and “The Misses Present the Hits” on January 17th, 24th, and 31st at 7 PM.

Tuesday December 31, 2013, 8:48am - by catherinewing

With 2013 coming to a close, we here at the Magnet blog would like to revisit some of the high points of the year, at the Magnet Theater and beyond.

The 2nd Annual Maggie Awards

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Maggies!

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Maggies!

On April 26, 2013, the Magnet community came together for the 2nd Annual Maggies, celebrating the 8th Anniversary of the Magnet Theater. The big winner of the night? You, as you posed for innumerable photos in the photo booth corner and got to take home actual photographs for your scrapbook. Thank you, anonymous bearded man who snuck up from behind and photobombed our very serious drunken group picture. I still don’t know your name.

Trike Wins Inspirado – OH SHIT!

OH SHIT!

OH SHIT!

In their final challenge, the TimeOut Critics’ Pick duo, Trike, had to perform a monoscene in an NYC subway car. Performers and audience piled into a downtown 1 train car for the epic end of Trike’s glorious Inspirado journey.

The excitement is palpable. (Video by Woody Fu and Bill Scurry.)

Teacher Pride

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Magnet instructor and performer Russ Armstrong was selected as a 2013 New Face of Comedy for the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival.

Magnet instructor and performer Rick Andrews appeared on CBS radio station 92.3 to introduce listeners to the concepts of improv.

Rick and his class also appeared in a NY1 feature on the Magnet Theater.

Festival Fever
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Magnet house teams and indie groups proudly represented their home theater in festivals across the country and Canada, including The Baltimore Improv Festival, Boston Comedy Arts Festival, Twin City Improv Festival, Chicago Improv Festival, Big City Improv Festival, NYC Improv Fest, Vancouver International Improv festival, Detroit Improv Festival, Omaha Improv Festival, NC Comedy Arts Festival, Del Close Marathon, and beyond.

The 5th Annual New York Musical Improv Festival

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The Magnet Theater hosted the 5th Annual New York Musical Improv Festival. Receiving applications from groups around the world, NYMIF brought the international musical improv community onto the Magnet stage, over four days in October. Over 100 performers were featured, including the Magnet’s own Musical Megawatt house teams, Baby Wants Candy, The Improvised Sondheim Project, and musical house teams from theaters across the country and Canada. The weekend culminated in the closing night Gilda’s Club benefit, to raise money and awareness for an amazing organization that provides resources and support to cancer patients and their families. Headliners for the benefit included the all-female musical improv troupe, “Generation G”, internationally renowned jazz and soul singer, Sharón Clark, as well as musical performances from improvisational singer/songwriter, Mikki Hommel, composer, lyricist and singer, James D Sasser and critically acclaimed actor, Sam Underwood of Showtime’s Dexter, HBO’s Homeland and FOX’s The Following.

Mike Myers = Third Mantzoukas Brother

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The actor Mike Myers made an unannounced surprise appearance at the Magnet in the Mantzoukas Brothers show in October. Jason Mantzoukas was unable to attend, so Mike Myers graciously stepped in to perform duo improv with fellow Mantzoukas brother (and Magnet co-founder) Ed Herbstman.

Magnet TourCo Improvises Lexus Live Commercial

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Four NYC improv groups were selected to perform late-night live improvised commercial spots for Lexus during Late night with Jimmy Fallon. Magnet Theater Touring Company kicked off the four-week ad campaign.

YOU

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Whether you are an audience member, fan, student, or performer (or all of the above), you are an integral part of the Magnet Theater community.  Thank you for your support, your energy, and your enthusiasm.  8 More Years!  See you in 2014!