Posts Tagged ‘magnet theater’
“It’s amazing we’re even improvising at all.
So many people wouldn’t be able to be doing what we’re doing.
That in itself is exciting. Embrace that bravery.”
- Joanna Simmons, Story Pirates
The above is an improv mantra held dear by Elana Fishbein, one of the original members of Magnet House Team Featherweight. Hopefully you have seen one of their shows. If not, block off an hour on Wednesday and catch this notable Megawatt team.
On November 13th, 2013 I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with 6 of the 8 current members to pick their brains about the team, themselves, and how they play together. For all of you who don’t know, Featherweight is the most veteran Megawatt team at the Magnet. They were formed on late August 28th, 2008 by Peter McNerney, who also served as their first coach for almost a full year (they are now coached by Joe Miles). Their original line-up was Jesse Acini (now on All American), Russ Armstrong (now on Chet Watkins), Noel Dinneen, Elana Fishbein, Jess Lane (now out in Los Angeles), Blake Merriman, Jared McGrail (traveling the country doing a webcast), and Justin Moran. Their first form was The Harold and their name came from a scene that happened at their very first practice: Elana Fishbein had brushed her hand against Jess Lane’s breasts to which Elana exclaimed, “Oh! They’re featherlight!” From Featherlight came Featherweight, also pitched by Elana. Since then, Featherweight has gone on to be one of the most celebrated teams of the Magnet – playing for over 5 years on Wednesday nights, traveling to do the Philly and Boston Improv Festivals, performing at colleges, launching 2 pilots, and competing and losing in the very first Inspirado competition (their challenge, titled Farts! Farts! Farts!, required every scene to have a fart).
Like every veteran Magnet team, Featherweight since its inception has undergone changes. The line-up that you will see today is almost a totally different set of faces you would have seen a few years ago, or even a couple of years ago. Only 4 of the original members remain. After Russ left, Dave Maulbeck was added and also served as the team’s coach. Featherweight then experienced four more losses including Dave. Willy Appelman was added in late August of 2012, but left shortly after. In April, they welcomed veteran players Frank Bonomo, Matt Shafeek, and Lauren Ashley Smith. Matt and Frank were cast alongside each other on Megawatt team Skosh a few years ago. The two also played with Noel on Oswald prior to Featherweight’s original casting. In addition, Matt and Elana had played together on Flea Flurkus, a 2007 team that performed the Evente. The most recent addition was that of Will Quinn this past August, who had been coached by both Elana and Frank. Collectively, Featherweight has over 50 years of improv experience loaded onto its current roster. Despite the new look and massive transformation (this is the first time in many years that Featherweight is an 8-person troupe), the feel and quality of the team remains the same as it has always been: “The Featherweight I watched is the same team I’m on now. It’s the same energy.” -Lauren Ashley Smith. It’s a testament not only to the casting of the team, but the openness, support, and skill these players bring to the stage of why things have always worked out.
Featherweight, who warms up by hitting a ball up in the air with great effort to not let it hit the ground, improvises a free form, meaning they find the form as they go. “It comes off having a feel of a little town where the characters know each other and other characters branch out of that.” – Will Quinn. Something Featherweight prides themselves on is having a great range with their shows. The spectrum they cover not only in their 25 minute set, but week to week, rivals most sets at the theater. When I asked Noel Dinneen what the most important quality an improviser should possess is, he responded: “The will to improvise, meaning the willingness to actually improvise as opposed to be married to a structure or game.” Some shows might end up being slow mono-scenes and the next week everything blows up. Regardless of what their set calls for, each week Featherweight brings their flexibility, vulnerability, generosity of spirit, and “imperviousness to fear of judgment” (Justin Moran) to create their fun and their funny.
Frank Bonomo has a strong gift at bringing the humanity to Featherweight’s shows. He lets characters be affected; he knows how each character he plays will react emotionally and is still so versatile in his play. He considers the small human moments.. Also, his object work is insane.
Noel Dinneen came to The Magnet to study with Armando. He considers his most influential instructors to be Mick Napier and Del Close. His team celebrates his fearlessness, range, and how he brings zero hesitation to his work. There is nothing Noel can’t yes and. He’s also got a pretty killer attitude.
Elana Fishbein came to The Magnet to study with Armando. She considers her most influential instructor to also be Armando Diaz. With a Featherweight set comes Elana’s ability to play a spectacular and effortless range of strong, intricate, fully-formed characters. She is so specific and grounds the work. Featherweight feels that when Elana is playing, the show is in good hands.
Blake Merriman is described as being incredibly emotionally present. He really lets his characters be affected. He is a reliable player and also a great actor and is emotionally present really lets his characters be affected by what is happening.
Justin Moran came to The Magnet to study with Armando. He considers his most influential instructor James Eason. His team refers to him as an “information robot” who not only brings incredibly smart scene ideas, perfect lines, and smart appropriate punchlines to his work, but amazing characters you could never imagine be a part of the scene but work every single time.
Will Quinn came to The Magnet because of the opportunities the theater would provide. He considers his most influential instructor to be Peter McNerney. Will has a great understanding of game and heightening as well as adding finesse to Featherweight’s sets. When Will plays, his joy as a player shines through. He brings to his characters a level of polish making things very clear and very full.
Matt Shafeek came to The Magnet to study with Armando. He considers his most influential instructor to be Michael Delaney. Featherweight describes Matt as a mature, confident, and joyful player. He’s always thoughtful and takes his time when making choices as opposed to exercising “quick lazy play.” He provides context and knows what a piece needs to create a successful scene.
Lauren Ashley Smith came to The Magnet because of its welcoming atmosphere, energy, and people. She considers her most influential instructor to be Armando Diaz. Her team pegged her as “a sniper” because of her sharp sense of humour, specific moves, and ability to bring to a scene exactly what is needed. Her mind is constantly exercising on how to heighten, instill more life, and bring things together.
Magnet performer Amanda Xeller (The Flood) reached out to one of our performers currently abroad, Ross Taylor (The Wrath, Aquarius). Ross is performing full time on a Second City Cruise Ship. Amanda sent Ross our address and he sent us a lovely update from afar…
Oh how I miss you—your faces and your energy and yes, even you bathroom!
Life at sea is fantastic! Being paid to perform comedy is a gift from Del, and there are so many
ancillary benefits as well.
It all starts with a week of training in Chicago, where the people at Second City treat you like a
real professional and make you feel like a part of the family. All your heroes are on the wall and
you play on the same stage they played upon and the feeling is probably akin to taking batting
practice in Yankee Stadium.
Life on the ship is like living in a luxury bubble, especially compared to the grit and struggle
that NYC requires—food is taken care of, alcohol is ridiculously cheap for crew, and everyone
knows who you are. The sketch shows are usually a packed house of a thousand and the material
works flawlessly. The improv is very different from what we’re used to, of course, but a quick
reminder that it’s providing my livelihood is all I need to sleep well at night. After the first crazy
week on board, rehearsals are few and all in all it’s a pretty light workweek. The passengers are
mainstream America, likely trending a little older, so they aren’t impressed by “improv moves”
but they are pretty good audiences if you give them jokes, which they consume like so much
Aside from work, I get a ton of downtime that I use at the gym, in the sun, reading, writing,
playing music, and hanging out with the rest of the cast and crew. The other performers are great
fun and the crew is pretty friendly. We port every few days and in the first four weeks I’ve gotten
to visit Bermuda, St. Thomas, St. John, Barbados, Caracao, Aruba and Mexico. I’ve zip-lined,
gambled, had beers in the ocean and gotten several layers of sunburn. I’ve chased an iguana and
grabbed a fish and got wifi in the middle of a pack of roosters.
Rooming with Bander is great—I’m somewhat shy at heart, so having a comrade throughout this
experience has made me feel comfortable very quickly. I couldn’t ask for a better cast in that we
all like each other and work well together on and off stage. I’m only a month in, so it’s possible
the turn into cynicism is just around the corner, but thus far I would call it a life-changing
experience and couldn’t be happier to be here.
That said, I miss NYC and the Magnet terribly. The work we do is incomparable and I miss my
teams enormously. The world has a habit of spinning on without you, so I hope that everyone
still remembers me when I return and I look forward to coming home and resuming God’s work
on that stage of ours. All my love to you Magnet—I’ll see you in February!
The Wrath & Aquarius
On Tuesday, November 19th Magnet will host the first ever Musical Mustachewatt. The night will be the typical Musical Megawatt affair (with Jezebells, Aquarius, Wonderland, and Mint Condition) however throughout the night we’ll be taking donations to go towards the Movember.
Movember is more than just a bad pun putting together November and Mustache. It is a month long movement where men grow mustaches to show support of men’s health. Unfortunately, science has not found a way to turn mustaches into the cure for cancer. In the mean time we are raising money to go towards the Movember Foundation, the Live Strong foundation, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. For more information on what organizations are benefiting from Movember and how you can help out even more, check out the US Movember website.
Movember has grown into a friendly competition between men to see who can grow the best mustache and who can raise the most money. Everyone starts clean shaven on November 1st and does their best to grow a full “Burt Reynolds” and raise a ton of money.
We know it’s hard to just throw your money at something. So in exchange for your donation towards men’s health you can grab some delicious home made treats made by the Musical Megawatt performers! In the lobby there will be a bake sale! From tradtional sweets to mustache inspired munchies, you’re donation will get you some serious goodies.
Come out and support musical improv comedy, men’s health, and those poor souls who can barely grow even a “John Waters” above their lip. Shows at 7, 8 and 9pm. Bake sale all night long.
Time Out NY chatted with Magnet Theater’s Trike (Peter McNerney & Nick Kanellis) for their 2013 Comedy Glossary. The list includes stand-up and improv words you probably didn’t know existed. Trike described the ins and outs of improv and explained some of the forms most confusing terms. Check the Article out HERE!
If you’re interested in catching Trike at Magnet, catch them every Saturday at 10:30pm. Reserve Tickets HERE!
1. The Director’s Series Presents The Wake (improv)- Thursdays at 9pm: Alex Marino directs “The Wake”, an improv show inspired by the name of a recently deceased person.
2. Croft & Pearce (sketch)- Monday, Nov. 11th at 7pm: For one night only, top-rated British sketch comedians Croft & Pearce will be exploring some of life’s enduring mysteries, such as: is it ever too late? (yes), am I worth more than this? (no), should I tweet about this experience? (obviously).
3. Weekend of Regret & Pepita (improv & solo improv)- Monday, Nov. 11th at 8:30pm: 5 of New York’s top improvisers are paired with Pepita, the fictional alter-ego of Magnet Theater performer and instructor, Elana Fishbein.
4. Magnet Sketch Teams (sketch)- Sundays at 7:30pm: Homegrown sketch groups craft some of the most intelligent and hilarious sketch comedy New York, nay The World, has ever seen.
5. Jamaal Sedayao: Born To Karaoke (solo sketch)- Sunday, Nov. 17th at 9pm: In Japanese, “karaoke” means “empty orchestra.” And in Swahili “karaoke” means “having a good time”. Jamaal hopes you have the latter at this show.
6. Legend (musical improv)- Tuesday, Nov. 26th at 9pm: Seasoned Magnet Musical Improv Team, Legend, will blow you away with a completely improvised musical.
7. Kornfeld & Andrews (improv)- Saturday, Nov. 30th at 10:30pm: Magnet Instructors and performers and super cool dudes Louis Kornfeld and Rick Andrews pair together for one night of magical improvisation.
Magnet friends “All of Our Feelings at Once” are doing a sketch show that you should go and see! The Chicago-based sketch group is doing an Off-Broadway run at The American Theatre of Actors this Friday and Saturday (Oct. 25th & 26th) and are offering Magnet students/performers discounted tickets with the code: HAPPY.
The group was selected for participation in The Araca Project, which helps top sketch comedians bring their show to larger audiences. For tickets to Tonight or Tomorrow’s 9pm show, CLICK HERE. For more information on All of Our Feeling at Once, check out their website HERE!