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Posts Tagged ‘interview’

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

reductress_logo

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-

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Thursday June 28, 2012, 1:25pm - by catherinewing

GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL will be having its final show this Friday night, June 29th at 8:30pm at the Magnet Theater.  Tickets are going fast, so get them now before the show sells out!  Psssst … if you want discount tickets for $7, use the code “POTUS Felching” when you buy your tickets HERE.

Directed by Michael Martin, with music by Frank Spitznagel.  Book and lyrics by Chris Friden and Steve Whyte.

Starring: Andrew Fafoutakis, Dreagn Foltz, Ben Jones, Michael Lutton, Jen Sanders, TJ Mannix, Oscar Montoya, Dave Tomczak and Woody Fu.

In case you’ve missed the earlier installments of the Magnet Blog’s interview with GAY BOMB co-writer, Steve Whyte, here they are: Part 1 and Part 2.  And now, our third and final installment of the interview.

Magnet Blog:  Did you do comedy in college?  What did you study/major in?

Steve Whyte:  I didn’t really do any comedy in college. I emcee’d events which involved a smidgeon of comedy — the cheesy kind that one might have found in a resort in the Poconos in the 1950s.  I majored in Linguistics at UC Berkeley (Go Bears!).  No, I don’t speak any other languages, but I can get around in Mexico, and in Mandarin, I can count to ten and say “I’m a crazy American.”  But really I spent the majority of my time playing in the student Jazz Ensembles where I played drums in various combos and big bands.  And after college I stayed in the music business, playing at clubs, weddings, lounges, etc., until Chris and I started our goofy, college sports TV show, “Out of Bounds” on SportsChannel National (now FoxSports).  We managed to win an Emmy, though Jamie Cummings will point out that it’s a regional Emmy, and that the local weather man probably had a down year.

MB:  Who or what are your comedic influences?

SW:  I’m a sucker for satire.  Bill Maher, The Daily Show, Parker and Stone (South Park, Book of Mormon), Stephen Colbert, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Hicks, the Tea Baggers, and many others.

MB:  You have been very open about your obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  Mike Sacks, author of the book, And Here’s The Kicker, makes the connection between comedy writers and OCD.  Have you found that your OCD kicks in while you’re doing improv, or if it informs how you approach/write comedy?

SW:  For me, when I’m doing improv, or playing drums, I usually get relief from the OCD.  Those are usually the rare times it seems to disappear—only to come roaring back once the show is over. I heard this is sometimes the case for Tourette’s sufferers — their tics stop while they’re involved in their performance. On the other hand, my OCD experiences provide a wealth of material to draw upon. I guess there’s lots of comedy to be found in being totally freaked out and paralyzed by everyday shit.

MB:  Any future projects in the works now?

SW:  Chris and I are working on a couple of other projects.  One takes place in the not-too-distant future, where people have to rent a mechanical penis from the government in order to procreate and/or have sexual experiences that require a phallus.  Males have their biological penises removed at birth.  All seems normal in society until an adult male shows up with a flesh penis.  Wackiness ensues.

Thanks, Steve!  You are all warmly invited to join the cast and crew of GAY BOMB  at the Closing Night party after the show on Friday, at 10pm at Smithfield, 215 W. 28th Street.  See you there!


Friday June 1, 2012, 1:06pm - by admin
Play

susan and christina

In our continuing effort to share great ideas about improvisation, the Q & A series proudly posts this live conversation with Susan Messing and Christina Gausas.  Megan Gray was our host, and the audience at Magnet Theater provided the questions.  This is NSFW because Susan uses the F word a lot.  So put on your headphones.  Unless you’re alone.  Then crank it.

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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)

Showtimes:
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

Friday May 11, 2012, 12:43pm - by catherinewing

GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL opened to a sold-out crowd last Friday, May 4th. The plot was full of twists and turns that we cannot divulge, and the action was so hot that we were unable to obtain pictures of the show from the actual opening night. Instead, an anonymous source supplied us with clandestine photos from a secret GAY BOMB dress rehearsal.

Totally straight baseball players teach us how to slap that ass.

To Gay Bomb, or not to Gay Bomb?

A pivotal and intimate moment

Here is Part 2 of my interview with GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL co-writer, Steve Whyte.

Magnet Blog:  How do you and your co-writer, Chris Friden, know each other?

Steve Whyte:  Chris and I met at UC-Berkeley. A couple of years after we graduated, we started a weekly comedy/sports TV show on Cal Football and Basketball. It ended up getting picked up by SportsChannel (now FoxSports), and going national. We ran for three years and won an Emmy, and since then we’ve both been involved in various aspects of video production.

MB:  Did you find that your musical improv skills came in handy while writing Gay Bomb?

SW:  Absolutely. I think it definitely guided the rewriting of the screenplay to fit the musical format. Additionally, before we started the rewrite, we ran several improv sessions with members of the cast. Almost everybody in the cast has come up through all of the Magnet’s musical improv classes. So improvising both scenes and songs was something that comes naturally to them, and something that they do every week. It was helpful to see what elements might work well by improvising them first, before sitting down to do the rewrite. It also gave the actors time to get familiar with their characters, so that they had a head start in that department when finally getting a chance to work with the book.

MB:  Neither you nor your co-writer, Chris, identify as LGBTQ. As straight allies, what compelled you two to write GAY BOMB?

SW:  Being a white, straight male, try as I may, I have no idea what it’s like to deal with the injustices that others go through on a daily basis. While both Chris and I have close family members and friends who are LGBTQ, and we try our best to empathize, we don’t truly know what it’s like to experience life as an oppressed minority in a prejudiced society. However, I don’t think that should stop one from trying, and I certainly don’t think it should stop one from speaking out and doing what they can to address these faults in society.

With regards to casting, I cast the people that I thought would fit the roles best, and who were exceptionally funny and talented. There was no thought put into trying to cast all straight or all gay or a certain percentage mix of cast members. As it turns out, I think our cast is close to 50/50. I think it has been nice to have this mix of performers, as it provides helpful feedback and input for the piece from various viewpoints. Interestingly, four of our gay actors play straight characters, and at least two of our straight actors play gay characters. At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of funny, talented improvisers who have been performing together at the Magnet for years, and who are just looking to put on a fun, funny, entertaining, and perhaps even meaningful show.

Thanks, Steve!  We’d like to think that GAY BOMB was one reason why President Obama finally decided to support marriage equality. Go, President Obama!

Catch GAY BOMB on select Mondays and Fridays in May and June at 8:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here. Use the code “POTUS Felching” to get half off the regular ticket price, for all shows, including tonight’s! The code is only good for today, so buy those cheap tickets now!

Fridays: 5/11, 5/18, 5/25, 6/15, 6/22, 6/29
Mondays: 5/21, 6/11, 6/18

Directed by Michael Martin, with music by Frank Spitznagel, and book and lyrics by Chris Friden and Steve Whyte. Starring Andrew Fafoutakis, Dreagn Foltz, Ben Jones, Michael Lutton, Jen Sanders, T.J. Mannix, Oscar Montoya, Dave Tomczak and Woody Fu.

If you are unable to attend the show, or wish to offer continued support, please consider donating to the GAY BOMB kickstarter fundraiser. The creators of the show have accrued significant debt to put this show together, for set design, costumes, rehearsal space, and many other necessities that arise as the show continues its run. The hope is to raise $2,000 more dollars in a week, for a total of $7,000. Please go to the GAY BOMB kickstarter page for more information on the excellent pledge perks.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my interview with Steve Whyte!

Photo credits: Steve Whyte and Woody Fu

Friday May 4, 2012, 11:22am - by catherinewing

 

GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL is landing on the Magnet Theater, with only a few seats left for this highly anticipated opening night tonight! Directed by Michael Martin, with music by Frank Spitznagel, and book and lyrics by Chris Friden and Steve Whyte, this musical comedy is inspired by an actual proposal by the U.S. military (in 1994!) to build a bomb that would make America’s enemies gay.

Starring Andrew Fafoutakis, Dreagn Foltz, Ben Jones, Michael Lutton, Jen Sanders, T.J. Mannix, Oscar Montoya, Dave Tomczak and Woody Fu, the show premieres tonight, and will run on select Mondays and Fridays in May and June at 8:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

Fridays: 5/4, 5/11, 5/18, 5/25, 6/15, 6/22, 6/29
Mondays: 5/21, 6/11, 6/18

Here is Part 1 of my interview with GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL co-writer, Steve Whyte.

Magnet Blog:  What motivated you and your co-writer, Chris Friden, to create GAY BOMB?

Steve Whyte:  We often hear of absurd policies from our government, but this one really seemed special. It’s simultaneously hilarious and sad. Sad that a room full of educated, grown men (no one knows who was in the room, but I would wager that, yes, they were probably all men) would have a set of values and beliefs that could allow the serious consideration of a “Gay Bomb.” This didn’t happen in the 1950s; this was 1994. Hilarious, I suppose, for the same reasons. It’s low hanging fruit – easy to make fun of.  At the same time, it’s an opportunity for some commentary about stereotyping, prejudice, politics, and power.

MB:  Have you and Chris ever written a musical before?

SW:  Neither of us have ever written a musical. We actually wrote a screenplay of GAY BOMB about a year ago, and then figured it would make a fun musical. I learned a lot about musicals and what makes them tick from the musical improv classes at the Magnet. Then, when we decided to do this, I read a shitload of books on the subject, took a “musical writers bootcamp” workshop at Davenport Theatrical, and bent the ear of fellow Magnet improviser and librettist Justin Moran (POPE!, Nightfall on Miranga Island).

MB:  Any advice for folks who might want to write their own musical, but don’t know how to start?

SW:  My number one suggestion would be: Get help. Surround yourself with talented people. Be willing to give up control and have others help.

There are several books on the subject, a couple of which lay out the fundamentals pretty well. I found The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide by David Spencer and Writing the Broadway Musical by Aaron Frankel to be particularly helpful. Watching and re-watching a lot of musicals helps, especially ones that resonate with you. For me, that’s anything by Parker and Stone—Team America, Book of Mormon, the South Park movie (there are also several South Park episodes that are mini-musicals). And again, the musical improv classes also provide a great foundation in what moves a musical forward.

MB:  Any last words to end Part 1 of this interview, Steve?

SW:  We’re honored that the Magnet has included us in their effort to showcase more scripted material at the theater. This production draws very heavily on the Magnet community. Everyone in the cast and crew has taken many classes here, and has been in many shows. Our director, Michael Martin, is the director of the musical improv program here along with Frank Spitznagel, who is our musical director and composer.

Please stay tuned to the Magnet blog for future installments of my interview with Steve. See you at Opening Night of GAY BOMB!  Stay for the after-party at Smithfield, the new bar at 215 West 28th Street!

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