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

Posts Tagged ‘Beth Newell’

Wednesday August 12, 2015, 6:59am - by Magnet Theater

Julia Hynes podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this week’s episode of the podcast, we’ve got Julia Hynes who performs with Junior Varsity, The Stank, and Sad Kids. A founding member of long-running Megawatt team, BRICK, Julia talks to host Louis Kornfeld about her improv development, being “good at school,” and the freedom of improvising with an all-female team. We’re taking next week off, so we’ve made sure this one will tide you over!

Louis begins this interview by asking Julia about what it’s like to go from forming and being on BRICK for four years to joining a very established team in Junior Varsity (JV). One of the amusing things, she notes, is stepping into JV’s established ways of communicating with each other. Group email threads aside, Louis wants to know about Julia’s own differences in play between the two teams. She says that on BRICK she was a big editor and now with JV, she’s not as concerned with that task. Julia also describes a big improv lesson that came during her early days of BRICK which she has always kept in mind: Remember to make it feel honest and real.

Between the end of BRICK and when she joined JV, Julia was able to take some time off from performing on a weekly show. Louis talks to her about how nice it was to have the chance to get away from the theater for a bit. She’s a full time school teacher, so the additional time in her evening schedule was appreciated, as was the ability to step away from the pressures that can exist at a theater. Between her own shows and those of her husband, Nick Kanellis, it was starting to feel like she had to be at the theater all of the time. Since coming back to a weekly show,  she says that it’s really on her terms that she’s there and, of course, it helps to be doing a show that she’s proud of.

Julia’s interest in improv began in college at Penn State, but she initially pursued academia after graduating. Eventually, she moved to NYC because a lot of her Penn State comedy friends were living there and doing improv at UCB. On a recommendation from a friend, she ended up taking Level 1 at Magnet with Tara Copeland and loved it. As a student, Julia says that she didn’t go to many shows initially because she was intimidated. It wasn’t until around Level 4, when she met some future members of BRICK, that she began to get more fully involved in the community. To that end, Louis asks her about how long it took to settle into “being an improviser” and declaring that as an identity. Though she said that was tough at first, because she knew other improvisers who had been doing it longer and perhaps took it more seriously, she eventually got over that fear of judgement.

Julia says she’s at a stage in her life where she’s evaluating, “What do I actually want and why do I want it?” This leads Louis to discuss finally facing our mortality after the age of 30 and how that change from “I’ve got plenty of time” to “time is running out” feels. Life is already happening, he says, which seems to cause him alternating feelings of crippling anxiety and a cool calm sense of acceptance.

Speaking of “who she is,” Julia is a full-time English as a Second Language 5th Grade Specialist in New York City who just finished her 8th year of teaching. Since high school, she was someone who wanted to make a difference in some way. Initially, went into Women’s Studies and felt she could make a difference through that field in the world of academia, but then found the cracks in that plan and decided to be a teacher in NYC. Since making the change, Julia feels like she’s making a bigger difference, especially in the last year, during which she feels she really started to come into her own as a teacher. Louis nearly shares the zen parable of the empty cup and also horribly misquotes Joe Bill, saying, in improv any class “…there are givers, takers, and prove-ers.” Everyone agrees that it much more difficult to teach the prove-ers.

Speaking more about teaching and class, Julia claims that she’s always been “good at school,” which is something that Louis has never really heard. For Louis, in adolescence, school became the straight man that he played against and he found it difficult to excel. As opposed to Louis’ oppositional experience, Julia says she had a good rapport with teachers and a family who encouraged her to take school seriously. And though she admits that she was not good at science, which she avoided, the rest just came easy to her. Louis goes further, saying that he had an aggressively contrarian approach to school, but Julia didn’t start feeling like that at all until college. They discuss the importance of having teachers that check in with you and care about teaching. They then talk about Julia’s own teaching methods and how she’s had to add more structure to her practices over the years and be “less chilled-out” than when she first started. What does it take to control a room of 5th graders? She enjoys finding the balance between making the kids laugh and having them get down to business.

Louis just has to ask, do Julia and Nick go to the zoo and look at animals together? For those of you who don’t watch Trike frequently, Nick Kanellis is really into animals and animal behavior.

Circling back to this idea of being surrounded by guys who quickly identified as comedians, Louis wants to know how that has influenced her, especially in an improv world that still has a male majority? While she was comfortable always being the one girl hanging out with the comedy guys in college, she says that it felt good having female teachers at Magnet and then being put on BRICK with strong female players Amie Roe and Fiona Bradford. Many of the improv moments that have felt the best, she says, have been a lot of the all-female shows that she’s gotten to do, like We Might Just Kiss, which brings together women of all skill levels to play with each other. Julia finds it very hard to explain the feeling when, on a nearly all-male cast, something she says isn’t given the space she hopes for. The feeling of ownership of the stage is just very different with gender taken out of the equation. Louis admits that maybe cast diversity can hamper group mind.

Louis tries to avoid asking about the difference between playing with an all-female show versus a mixed-cast show, but he asks anyway! Julia says that the biggest difference is, “Whatever I say is going to be just embraced…” in a way that is beyond what happens normally. She also credits the women she plays with. On her duo Sad Kids, she notes that partner Beth Newell has a way of molding whatever Julia says into a beautiful game. On The Stank, they’re all seasoned improvisers, strong players, positively minded, and nonjudgemental — all of which goes a long ways. Julia goes further to says that, even when the men on a team are great, there’s just something there that doesn’t quite feel the same. There’s a added sense of pressure to be the token female, which then can inhibit how she plays. There’s a feeling as if she has to represent for all women. Relieving that pressure opens up more freedom of play.

Finally, Louis and Julia discuss playing real people from their lives and pantomiming objects that they actually own in order to make scenes feel more real to them. Louis is really taken with the idea of the original improvised theater companies, which viewed improv as an opportunity to show people what we know and who we are. The people performing are the people creating the art, so it showcases them in a way that other formats maybe can’t. He finds it exhausting simply to engineer comedy night in and night out without getting to be himself.

But really, finally, Louis asks the hard-hitting question: How cuddly is Nick Kanellis???


Monday July 14, 2014, 3:45pm - by Magnet Theater

Reductress_Beth_SarahPodcast magnetituneslogo-PODCASTmediumReductress fans will love this interview of Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo, the news satire site’s co-founders.

Reductress.com is the first and only fake women’s news magazine. They parody the entertainment, advertising, and other media sources that women consume daily. Forbes named it one of the top 100 websites for women last year.  And it’s super funny.

The Magnet Blog interviewed them back in January – Check out out :

REPORT: Women Officially As Funny As Men, Still Bitches

Now you can listen as Magnet’s Alex Marino interviews these smart and funny writers on the nuts and bolts of creating a comedy platform, their process, how you can submit your writing, and where they are headed.  This episode was recorded earlier this year at Magnet Training Center.

Enjoy Episode #8 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Learn more about Beth and Sarah after the jump!


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


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-


Thursday May 17, 2012, 12:33pm - by catherinewing

The second show of the Magnet Theater’s sketch company-in-residence, “America!” will introduce you to characters that will take you on a journey through our national psyche, and explore the people and things that define and inform our American-ness.  Like baseball.  And Ira Glass.  And immigrants.

So unfurl your flags and crack open a cold Sixpoint beer: opening night of “Company 29: America!” is coming your way this Friday, May 18th, at 7pm at the Magnet Theater.

Dedicated to producing new and original sketch comedy shows on a continual basis, Company 29 consists of the Magnet’s strongest writers, performers and directors. The goal of Company 29 is to create character-driven, thematically cohesive sketch shows with a unique voice.

Sponsored by: Sixpoint Brewery

These are the writers and performers of America!:

Written By: Paul Barker (Horses, Dumbkowsky), Kevin Cobbs (Listen, Kid!), Tim Eberle (Brick, Alchemy), Amanda Hirsch (Think Improv), Beth Newell (Kiss*Punch*Poem, Dumbkowsky), and Jamaal Sedayao (Brick, Turboner Bigote).

Featuring: Mike Barry (Lead McEnroe), Kevin Cobbs (Listen, Kid!), Ruby Marez (Aquarius), Lauren Olson (Chet Watkins), Christian Paluck (Chet Watkins), Justin Peters (Chet Watkins), Rachel Rauch (Leviathan), Jamaal Sedayao (Brick), Jason Scott Quinn (Silver Fox), and Ross Taylor (Aquarius, The Wrath).

Directed By: Nick Benaquista (Lead McEnroe)

Fri May 18th, 2012, 7:00pm
Sat May 19th, 2012, 9:00pm
Sun May 20th, 2012, 8:00pm

The Magnet Blog interviewed Company 29 Head Writer, Tim Eberle, to get the inside scoop on Company 29 and how the group prepares for their shows.

Head Writer Tim Eberle with the cast of Company 29

Magnet Blog:  How is Company 29 structured differently from how sketch groups are usually structured?

Tim Eberle:  Company 29 is really structured more like a resident theater company than a sketch group; we’re made up of a writing team, performance, troupe, lighting/sound designer, and directing team. The idea behind the group has always been to bring all of these different aspects together to create full, unique, and cohesive sketch shows, based around a single idea or theme. The scripts are generally character-based and written for specific performers, who work with our director and tech team throughout the rehearsal process to bring the scenes to life in the most engaging way possible. It leads to a “the whole is greater than the total sum of its parts” situation, and really showcases the different talents floating around the Magnet.

MB:  Do the actors write, or the writers act?  Are directors part of the group, or do they rotate/change for each show?

TE:  We definitely have a couple of writer/performers in the group, especially Jamaal Sedayao and Kevin Cobbs. They’re great because they know how to write so well for themselves as well as the other actors in the group. And Jamaal can pull from his Brazilian (I think?) background to give the show some diversity. We have one director (Nick Benaquista) who directs all the Company 29 shows. It’s a big asset having Nick direct multiple shows because he’s developed a great sense for the different writing and performance styles we have, and he can use that when he’s working to build beats and work on characters in rehearsals.

MB:  What is the writing process?

TE:  When we first start working on a new show, the writers will get together to pitch ideas for a theme or structure to the show (like setting the whole show in the world of a public school, as we did with PS2012). Once we’ve settled on the theme, we’ll starting pitching sketch ideas or looking at sketches that people have that could potentially work for the show, and discuss which actors would be the best to play which parts. Over the next few we’ll work as a group pitching jokes, editing the sketches, and tweaking the material to make it work for the actors. So it’s collaborative in that sense, but the onus is really on the individual writers to own their material. We don’t write too many sketches together as a group, but we all work together to make sure the sketches work for the show we want to put on. Once we have enough material, we’ll choose the sketches we want to use in the show, put together the running order, and all that good stuff.

MB:  What’s the timeline of putting a show together, from conception to show time?

TE:  Usually about 2 months. We like to have about three weeks to write and edit and then a little over a month for rehearsals, since scheduling rehearsals for a cast this big and this busy is obviously difficult, and we want to have enough rehearsals for each sketch.

MB:  Was there anything you learned In the process of putting together the first Company 29 show, that you decided to do differently for this upcoming show?

TE:  We’re not going to do the character bits that we did with PS2012 this time around.  They were funny as character pieces in the last show, but they disrupted the flow of the whole piece.  This time, we’re following a more standard sketch revue structure.

MB:  Will there be rolling auditions/submission invitations for folks who are interested in joining Company 29?

TE:  We’ve had the same cast for the last two shows, and they’re fantastic.  We don’t have any plans to hold big auditions in the near future, but we’re always looking to add people here and there. We brought Justin Peters on for this show because we needed someone to play a racist ex-minor-league baseball player, which seemed right in his wheelhouse. We’re bringing on a couple of new writers for the next show as well, and are always looking for more sketch-writers who like the style of sketch that we do.

MB:  Why “America!”?

TE:  The idea really came from the fact that for a little while we thought about doing a political theme for the next show. The more we batted the idea around, the more sketch ideas came up that centered on general Americana, beyond just politics. It seemed like a really fun and relatable theme to play with, so that’s where we went. We ended up with sketches about Ellis Island, Johnny Appleseed, Ira Glass, Kenyan marathon runners, and, interestingly enough, nothing about politics. Which is probably for the best. I don’t think anyone really likes political sketch comedy. Not enough silly voices.

Thanks, Tim!

The audience enjoying the show and the Sixpoint brews.

Company 29 is proud to be sponsored by Sixpoint Craft Ales. Based in Brooklyn, Sixpoint is an innovative craft brewery that makes bold and delicious beers. It is also committed to supporting local creative endeavors, and Company 29 is thrilled to have them as a sponsor. For all you craft beer lovers, Sixpoint is having beer specials at the Magnet for opening night on Friday. Drink up and enjoy the show!

Photos: M.Woody Fu

Saturday March 3, 2012, 5:12pm - by catherinewing

The opening night of Company 29’s show, PS 2012, played to a sold-out crowd last night. Under the directon of Nick Benaquista, the show ran smoothly, with top-notch performances by some of the best performers at the Magnet, and effortless transitions between sketches. This was a great start for Company 29, the Magnet Theater’s very first sketch company-in-residence. more

Wednesday February 29, 2012, 5:03pm - by catherinewing

This Friday, 3/2 at 8:30pm marks a historic occasion at the Magnet Theater. It is the opening night of “PS 2012,” the inaugural show of the Magnet Theater’s very first sketch company-in-residence, Company 29. Set in and around a public school, PS 2012 will introduce you to characters from the school bus to the schoolyard and the academic beyond.

Dedicated to producing new and original sketch comedy shows on a continual basis, Company 29 consists of the Magnet’s strongest writers, performers and directors. The goal of Company 29 is to create character-driven, thematically cohesive sketch shows with a uniquely Magnet voice. more