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

Posts Tagged ‘film’

Wednesday July 20, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

SVB & Charles Rogers [small] Subscribe with iTunes

Filmmakers and co-creators of the upcoming series Search Party, SARAH-VIOLET BLISS & CHARLES ROGERS, join special guest host Rebecca Robles to talk about about their big projects, the formation of their partnership, and of course, showbiz. Their 2014 film, Fort Tilden, was completed in a single summer and won that year’s SXSW Grand Jury Award. Since then, the duo has written for Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Mozart In The Jungle, and their upcoming TBS series Search Party, which they also directed. Join Rebecca as she talks with SV and Charles about their comedy careers, the ethics of media, and much much more.

We kick off this episode with the thrilling reveal that Charles has known our engineer, Grant, since high school and that everyone has been in HAIR. Rebecca introduces us to her very smart and cool friends, Charles and Sarah-Violet. She asks them about what it was like to have their families experience Fort Tilden for the first time and, in general, the feelings that arise when having their work screened. Hear SV and Charles discuss the stress of such situations, and how to celebrate success and vent frustrations in the strange and competitive world of showbiz.

Our guests answer hard-hitting questions like: “Has SV ever done improv???” and “What is Twitter for???” They comment on working with improvisers on set and we hear this dynamic duo’s origin story, which began in a grad program at NYU. Though Rebecca may know something about it already, for our sake, she asks SV and Charles about the magical process of making Fort Tilden and what it was like to move quickly on such a large project. She also wonders how much of  Search Party is influenced by Fort Tilden? Our two visitors talk about addressing ethics and gray areas in their work and how wanting to be seen as “good” is a major theme of Search Party. Plus, they offer thoughts on how social media is best utilized and how people should go about asking for help. It’s all about looking to give and receive love, rather than asking what someone can do for you. That, my friends, is some damn good advice.

Watch Search Party on TBS later this year, ya cuties!! We guarantee you’ll see some familiar Magnet faces. 🙂

Wednesday March 9, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Nikita Burdein Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Singing, improvising, and teaching fool, NIKITA BURDEIN, joins us to talk about emigrating from Soviet Russia, discovering improv in NYC, and how to approach auditions. Amidst all of that, he and host Louis Kornfeld discuss religion, what makes theater so special, and finding comfort in declaring who you are. Recorded yesterday, released today – this is a fresh, hot ‘cast!!!

First thing’s first: Louis wants to know how the incredibly busy Nikita Burdein is able to do everything he does! Nikita performs Tuesday through Friday at Magnet and spends many other days coaching, teaching, practicing, or playing elsewhere. We got tired just writing that! [See him on Musical Megawatt, Megawatt, The Directors Series (April & May), and Premiere.] Given his jigsaw puzzle schedule, Louis wonders if Nikita is a very disciplined person. Well, he was born in Soviet Russia, a fact which might give you a hint.

Nikita and his family came to America (Chicago) when he was four years old with the help of the Jewish Federation by way of Italy. It’s a very fun story, so we do hope you listen. He tells us how his immigrant background influences his improv and Louis suggests that his own brain is beginning to fail him. The two discuss puberty hair before seamlessly segueing into a discussion on Judaism. Though culturally and ethnically Jewish, Nikita was raised a devout Atheist who eventually went on Birthright at the age of 26. Louis shares with us his frustrating feelings regarding Israel and they both try to figure out what the connection is between Jews and their prominence on Broadway.

Having spent time exploring how Nikita arrived in this country, Louis asks about his journey from Chicago to New York. Nikita talks about getting into theater during high school because of his brother and getting into film in college, again, because of his brother. He went to NYU and graduated an editor, which is something he still does to this day. Along the way, Nikita finally began improvising at the age of 28 and totally fell in love with it. He and Louis chat about the connection with the audience that live theater provides and how improv has a built-in benefit of knowing that the people out there with you love what they do. There’s a lot of love going around the improv community, Nikita reports. Though very active and quite visible as an improviser today, Nikita says he was in the closet about being an improviser initially. On a related note, Louis asks Nikita how much energy he gives to other people’s thoughts of him, which morphs into a discussion about coming out and sexuality. Nikita came out to his parents at age 23 and tells us that it made him a more honest person all around. And he hasn’t looked back since!

Louis takes the opportunity, with both Megawatt and Musical Megawatt auditions right around the corner, to discuss auditioning and to ask Nikita for advice on the matter. He also asks Nikita about the end of his run with Deep Queens on Megawatt and the somewhat recent start of his time teaching Musical Improv Level 1 at the Training Center. Has he discovered anything since he began teaching? You betcha. But you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out. (And no skipping to the end!)

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

Armando Diaz Podcast 66 Subscribe with iTunes

Magnet Theater co-founder and all around improv know-it-all, ARMANDO DIAZ, sits down with us to talk about film, improvisation, and what he thinks of the “guru” label. It’s not everyday we get to hear so intimately from one of the greats of improvisation, but Armando stopped by to chat with host Louis Kornfeld and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Who knows – maybe this will be one of many? What we do know for sure is that this episode is not one to be missed.

Our conversation with Armando Diaz begins with the moment he gave up on the film industry. Both he and Louis had forays into the film industry and neither of them particularly liked it. However, it was this rejection of film that steered Armando toward improv. These two encyclopedias of improv and film discuss how improv keeps people more honest than film, how it strips away pretentious defense of art, and how Louis learned more about scene structure and motivation through improvising than attending film school. You need the laboratory of improvisation to learn and grow, says Armando.

Louis notes that, when teaching, Armando talks a lot about culture and art, so he asks Armando where he finds inspiration these days. In giving his answer, Armando opines on the need for art and culture to become local again. They talk about the dual importance of experiencing something together with a group of people, as well as the value of truly having time alone with your own thoughts – time devoid of entertainment and third party interference. In this part of the interview, we find out how many children Armando has! You’ll be surprised.

Tying in Armando’s notion of communal art with David Shepard’s goal of The Compass to be a popular theater, Louis asks how those ideas can be transposed into the improv of today. Armando tries to recall the first improv he saw that set the bar or made a big impression on him. For him, it’s always been about exploring the unknown. If for a period of time you can transcend yourself, those are the best moments. Where does such deep water lie for improv these days? Louis and Armando talk about challenging audiences in a helpful way and how we need imperfections and flaws.

If you came for the good stuff, look no further than Louis asking Armando about the status of his name. He talks about what it means to him to be “Armando.” People will think whatever they want, so he keeps himself grounded in real interactions with other people. He also tells use why he doesn’t love the idea of gurus and relates how the burden of experience can get in the way of trying to learn something new. Not wanting to watch people who have a list of rules in their head, Armando has developed his teaching methods to focus on inspiring students rather than correcting them.

Among a bevy of talk on improvisation, Louis asks Armando why he’s such a reluctant improviser and Armando talks about what it’s like to play with his frequent duo partner, Christina Gausas. Finally, Louis reminds us of this wonderful quote from Elaine May: “The only safe bet is to take a risk.” Amen.

Wednesday August 26, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jamie Rivera Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Back from our one-week summer vacation, we have longtime Magnet performer JAMIE RIVERA on the show us to talk about science fiction, having fun on stage, and how improv can help us through difficult times. Along the way, host Louis Kornfeld talks to Jamie about playing characters, performing for various audiences, and The Little Rascals. We love Jamie and we’re sure that you’ll love this episode.

To start things off, Louis asks Jamie about his interest in science fiction, which is something he inherited from his father. Jamie shares a funny story about going to see Star Wars for the first time as a kid, which gets Louis talking about how children make curious assumptions. Jamie claims that Inside Out might be Pixar’s best film and admits that it had him crying. What a softy! This gets the two of them discussing the power of film to move us, even if it’s not very good. Also, Louis loves Teen Wolf.

Continuing with this train of thought, Louis suggests that television and film allow us to give structure and resonance to our lives by framing them as narratives. Jamie relates this to religion, saying that even though he’s not a religious guy, there does seem to be a guiding force that many of us seek out. People similarly interpret dreams to have meaning, when perhaps there is none. All of this is done in an effort to give more meaning to our lives, he says.

Admitting that tropes from popular media often creep into improv shows, Louis asks Jamie how he feels about stealing moves from tv and film while improvising. Jamie wants everyone to know that he has ditched his gremlin on the airplane wing move and also, that engaging in tropes feels like pretending they way you pretended as a kid. As expected, Louis sometimes thinks he’s McNulty from The Wire and the two talk about archetypes versus specific characters. Louis wants to know: Is playing characters something that increases or decreases with age? He also talks about Shakespeare. Big episode for Louis.

Onto the topic of improv fuckery, Jamie and Louis talk about how Junior Varsity is a team that really indulges in having fun with each other and we get to hear a bit about how they approach their shows. Known as a fast-playing team, Jamie chalks much of their speed up to something akin to muscle memory – a result of being together for eight years. Their longevity has also created a great deal of trust amongst the members, which Louis thinks is the hallmark of a really good team.

After a bit about how to access your subconscious, Louis talks about showering. Really! This gets them chatting about entertaining yourself as a child. Jamie was a quasi-only child, and a latchkey kid, so he didn’t have a lot of friends very early in childhood. Jamie would simply make stuff up on his own and Louis notes how often children ostensibly put on shows for no audience. The theme of childhood carries through to a description of The Little Rascals as a proxy for the improv community and Louis tries to figure out when he stopped being mortified by being on stage.

Along with JV and The Friday Night Sh*w, Jamie has also been a part of UCB Harold Night and the Second City Cruise Lines. So, Louis wants to know: “How do all the different audiences influence being on stage? “Jamie breaks down his time at UCB with Trillion, noting a high level of of pressure, and talks about how ”muggle” audiences don’t see the same connections as other improvisers do. He even shares one particular experience on the cruise ship where his heart was melted by a very special audience member.

Jamie continues the heartfelt sentiment saying that hopefully, even if we are doing fart jokes, we are exploring the human condition. What he’s really getting at is comedy’s ability to have meaning, even in its silliest moments. Jamie concludes this episode for us by speaking candidly about death and how improv has helped him through tragedy.


Wednesday February 22, 2012, 3:39pm - by WillyAppelman

No screenplay.  No budget. Yet  it’s a film worthy of an oscar nomination.

But if you’re not there you’ll never get a chance to see it ever again.  On Thursday Feb. 23rd at 10pm, The Movie will have it’s last show as part of the new ‘Director Series’ at The Magnet Theater.  A stacked team of seasoned Magnet performers fill the stage to create a filmic masterpiece. Spielberg can suck it.

Directed by Ed Herbstman, this improvised movie is better and cheaper than anything out right now and it’s actually in 3-D for real!  Make a reservation, turn your cell phones off and please don’t talk back at the screen. Because there is no screen. They are real people. Why is this so hard for you to understand?