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

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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 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.

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Monday December 30, 2013, 11:00am - by WillyAppelman

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The Director Series is a monthly improv installation wherein a director picks a new form and sets it on a new cast. This month, Michael Lutton is directing “One Hit Wonder”. We chatted with Michael via email to discuss the form.

1. What is ‘One Hit Wonder’?
One-Hit Wonder is a new form that Jon Bander and I came up with. It’s a narrative that follows the story of a band: how it was created, how the group became famous with their number-one hit, the band’s downfall and where the band members are now. I wanted to direct it because I think it has a lot of fun possibilities. Everyone is familiar with “Behind the Music” and biopics about recording artists, so there is a lot to play with, and with that simple story arc the improvisers will have a lot of room to find patterns and develop characters.

2. How does this differ from normal Musical Improv?
This form uses documentary-style interviews to bookend scenes, and since the story arc is one that is already familiar, the cast members are free to focus more on character dynamics.

3. What is your favorite one hit wonder?
The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia by Vicki Lawrence is one of the best story songs of all time, and I will fight anyone who says different. Physically fight them.

4. What is the future of musical improv?
Musical improv is usually narrative, which is a lot of fun but also very challenging. Moving ahead, I think groups will find new ways to tell stories. Our musical program is relatively new and still growing, but we a have a few veteran groups that are doing interesting things with form and genre, and starting to test the limits of what you can do with a musical. I’m very excited to see what happens next!

‘One Hit Wonder’ premiers Thursday, January 2nd at 9pm and continues Thursdays at 9pm in January!

Friday December 6, 2013, 12:38pm - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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

George Basil (The Pete Holmes Show, College Humor), a Magnet performer known for his epic improv with 4Track, is now out in L.A.  You probably have seen him in a Vonage commercial or maybe even a bunch of CollegeHumor Originals. We wanted to catch up with George and shine the Magnet Theater Blog spotlight on him and his work. We conducted an email interview with George Basil. Below are his responses:

What is your improv and comedy history? What got you interested and when were you first exposed to improv?

GB: I didn’t learn about improv in high school or college. The first time I’d ever seen improv was on “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” Watching those performers fly around looked so fun. Then I researched it a little and came across something called the “Big Stinking Comedy Festival” in Austin, TX. It boasted amazing improv groups, and it got me hard, so I went down. Eventually I took a class at the Hideout Theater and from then on I was totally hooked. I’ve always kind of known that my only redeeming quality is finding the keys to a person’s laughter lock, it was just hard to find the confidence to pursue it. When I got to NY I took classes all over and then found a home at the Magnet.

 

 

What initially attracted you to the Magnet?

GB: All the misfits. There were no preconceived notions about the comedy we wanted to explore. We were all making mistakes and figuring it out and loving the process of learning about people through improv.

 

What teams, shows, and projects were you a part of while at the Magnet?

GB: A ton of different teams and shows. The first I think was “Munchaüsan” then “El Partido”? I was at the Magnet every night until their doors were locked. I was also in 4-Track which was one of the most fun experiences of my life. Really proud of all the teams I was on and every performer I got to play with.

 

What were some of your favourite shows and performers while here?

GB: I loved watching “Pax Romana” a lot. They always had so much fun, it was contagious. I can’t name just a few performers I liked to watch. It was literally every last one. Aside from being my friends, they were all so fucking funny.

 

Who were or are your favourite improv instructors? Who do you attribute to your growth as an improviser and comedian? Who influences/had influenced you as an improviser?

GB: Obviously Armando had a lot to do with how I approached comedy and improv. His patience and insight into the reality of character was huge. He’s been my biggest influence to date, for sure.

I got to work with Mark Sutton in Vancouver once, he was awesome. Mick Napier was great too.

Dan Bakkedahl is still the improviser that knocks me out anytime he’s on stage. I love that dude’s work, always have.

 

What did you learn at the Magnet that helps you now?

GB: Patience. Laying in the cut. Screaming doesn’t get you food. Cool doesn’t mean shit. Any and all confidence I have as a performer I attribute to the Magnet. I feel like I grew up on that stage, having never done any other theater training.

 

Why did you leave NYC?

GB: I had some work in LA and everyone encouraged me to make the move for professional reasons. And I owed the Italians money.

 

Are you still improvising?

GB: I am but not as much as I’d like to.

 

What projects have you taken on since your departure from the Magnet?

GB: A lot of web shorts and indie films. Anything and everything. Always saying yes.

 

What are you currently involved in?

GB: I’m co-writing a web series that’s loosely based on my life as a weird stonerish dad. It’ll hopefully show the ups and downs of alternative style parenting.

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What excites you and inspires you?

GB: Watching youngins do improv. This art form is still in its infancy. 4-track toured Canada a bunch and watching kids that have been doing improv since high school and in some cases even earlier was fucking rad. Game didn’t matter, character didn’t matter, they just knew. They were so good at emoting and everything

 

What are the differences between the New York scene and the scene of Los Angeles?

GB: The biggest difference for me is that in LA you can’t walk from one theater to another the way you can in NY. Aside from that, great stuff is happening in both cities. The weirdest thing about LA is that instead of rehearsing in a studio, you go to someone’s house.

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What shows and performers should us New Yorkers totally take note of in case we take a trip out West?

GB: The main thing I would suggest is to check out every venue- there’s good shows and performers scattered across LA. The Clubhouse, Second City, UCB, I.O.West- try not to limit your perspective on style, go tons of places, and don’t be too stuck up to laugh.
 

Thanks George! When in New York, George has been known to drop by Magnet for shows. Keep an eye out for more of George’s work.

Wednesday December 4, 2013, 11:32pm - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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Mail’s here! Jon Bander (Aquarius), 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:

Hey Magnet!

Greetings from beautiful “the sea”! Though I miss New York and all you lovely people, I’m really enjoying my time aboard the ship. Things are really different on the ship from New York. For example, I can afford to eat dinner and drink beer in the same day! Godlike, I know. Life is really fun when you can afford it!

It’s amazing how quickly things become routine on the ship. New crews board on Sundays, a few days later we do our shows, and by Thursday we’re being aggressively booed until we dock again Sunday. The shows have been great. We do sketch shows in a theater that holds around 1000 people! Usually the house is packed, unless we’re in any port at all, and then it’s empty. I mean, we’re funny, but we’re not DRY LAND funny.

We rehearsed in Chicago for a week, where we drilled sketches over and over until they were in our bones. Second City treated us very professionally, giving us an excellent director, producer, and support from their entire staff. I felt incredibly well taken care of. They even got me one of those hot dogs with a pickle on it! Eh.

It’s pretty amazing rehearsing on that same stage where so many of my heroes have played. We get to watch the old reviews on DVD, and it’s amazing to see both how comedy has evolved and see people I now know in their original SC revues. Plus they all had hair!

We’ve been to some really beautiful places. Bermuda, Aruba, and Barbados to name a few. But even though we’re far away, it’s still easy to feel like I’m right back in America. For examples, I still avoid the sun. And everyone hates me!

We’ve done some pretty great activities on and off the boat. We’ve been to breathtaking beaches. I had monkeys running around on me, macaws on my shoulder, and a woman hated a bit I did so much that she said, “You guys still here?!” in a contemptuous tone. So it’s all my dreams come true.

Life on the cruise ship can best be described as a combination of summer camp and college, minus the shows. Our cast really gels well and hangs out all the time, which makes things much easier. It’s the first time in close to a decade I’ve had a set group of friends that I do everything with. We eat together in the cafeteria, we hang out together, we cry together. It’s like family! We’ve become fast friends with the other performers, especially the dancers, who make us feel self-conscious at every beach. The nice thing is I get to snuggle with Ross Taylor every night and feel good about myself.

In all seriousness, it’s been a completely fantastic experience so far. I’m very grateful to Second City for giving me the opportunity, and to the Magnet for the training and support that allowed me to get this job. I do miss you, Magnet, and all your wonderful people and shows. I especially miss seeing my Phookas and playing with Aquarius! I miss doing and seeing the great work we all do so much, and I can’t wait to come back to see and play with you all. You’re all my best friends, colleagues and inspirations! So keep it up.

See you in the new year! Check Facebook for occasional photos through which I will try to make you jealous.

-Bander

Monday December 2, 2013, 10:04pm - by WillyAppelman

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We’re very excited to announce the next round of The Circuit, which will begin Friday, January 10th, 2014!

The deadline to apply is Friday, December 13, at noon. Applicants will be chosen by lottery. If chosen, you will be placed on a team of 8 improvisers and assigned a coach. You will rehearse with your coach and team once a week, with rotating performances on Friday nights at 10:30PM at the Magnet Studio Theater.

If you have completed Level 3 of Magnet’s Training Program and are not part of a Magnet house improv team, you are eligible to apply.

The Circuit is a great way to gain experience in being in an improv ensemble. We highly encourage those who are eligilble to apply. To apply, please fill out this form.

If you have any questions or comments, please email us at circuit [at] magnettheater [dot] com.

Wednesday November 13, 2013, 11:47am - by WillyAppelman

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During November, Alex Marino directs the latest installment of The Director’s Series, The Wake. Every Thursday night at 9pm, The Wake takes you on an adventure inspired by an obituary. I interviewed Alex via email to discuss The Wake and his inspiration behind the form.

What is The Wake and why did you choose this form?
The wake is a form I started thinking about when i was taking classes in LA. I was feeling kinda frustrated because we had been working on the invocation, which I found really interesting, but a lot of my classmates were really dismissive–they’d roll their eyes if they didn’t think the suggestion was cool, they seemed a little bit mocking of improv itself. It was LA and they were just too cool for it. So I started trying to think of a way to approach the invocation that would force performers to at least have a little bit of respect for the suggestion… and I figured “what if you had to do an invocation of a person who had just died… in a room full of people who loved them.” So it kinda stayed in my head gestating for a while. Then when Magnet first opened I was approached by a practice group, it was one of the first groups I’d coached in New York, and that was Louis Kornfeld, Megan Gray, Charlie Whitcroft, Jon Bander, Corey Grimes, and Kelly Buttermore. And after working with them for a little bit I asked if they’d like to experiment with this form I’d been thinking about and they were totally game. What we arrived at was a modified invocation of someone in that day’s obituaries, inviting them to come into the theater and share their story before they go. I heard, and this may be apocryphal, that the practice of holding wakes came from a period in Ireland where they disinterred a lot of old graves and found scratch marks on the inside of the coffins. They realized that something like 1 in 10 people were being buried alive. So they decided to leave the dead out in for a period of time after they passed to give them one last chance to wake up. So the Wake seemed fitting as a name for the form. I kinda liked the notion that this show is one last chance for the dead to come back.

I chose it for this Director’s Series because it had been a while since I’d seen it done and I wanted to work with the original cast again. A couple years ago I taught a class in The Wake, and those bozos have been asking me when they were gonna get to do it again, so I thought I’d invite them along too.

What do you find funny?
All kinds of stuff. Smart stuff, dumb stuff. Deep stuff, light stuff. Lots of things are funny. To me, the funniest thing to think about is that we’re all just a huge biological accident that learned how to wear clothes and comb its hair. That shit is hilarious to me. We’re a mostly bald, mostly flimsy, slow moving animal, with small, dull teeth and worthless claws. We can barely climb, we can’t fly, or hold our breath very long. We have bad backs and lethal allergies to peanuts and shellfish–but not all of us, so you don’t even know if someone is allergic until they just almost die. We eat and drink through the same hole we use to breathe and speak, and somehow we’ve survived long enough to figure out space travel, novelty t-shirts, iPhones and art that goes on your fingernails. It’s incredibly funny to me just how we spend our time.

Do you find death funny?
Death is not funny, no, but everything around death is funnier because of it. Death is the ultimate straight man. I think to have laughter there needs to be a break in tension, which means there needs to be tension to begin with. The more the tension and the bigger the break, the more satisfying the laugh. The uneasiness people feel when they’re faced with death is a great primer for laughter, and that kind of laughter makes it easier to live with death.

What is the future of improv?
I dunno. At some point enough people are going to complain loudly and correctly enough about not getting properly recognized and compensated for content they improvise for commercials and movies… so probably a union will come out of that. And you’ll see “additional content improvised by” in the credits of films which will be good, but things will be weird… or maybe they wont. Maybe the improviser union will be chill. Eventually there will be an improvised show that is so undeniably good that it will get a run on Broadway. Eventually there will be an improvised show that wins a Tony. Some people will be upset by that… or maybe they wont. Maybe Broadway will have relaxed a bit by then. Someone is going to bring a true and honest, disinterested study of improvisation with all its techniques, history, and various applications to the university level, build a curriculum around it, and just like performance studies and jazz you’ll be able to get a college degree in improvisation. I would like to think that degree in improv would be worth more than getting a degree in performance studies or jazz, but it probably won’t be… and after four years, it definitely won’t make anyone a better improviser than performing in every black box and bar that will let you… but, no matter how much actual experience you may have in the field, you’ll need to have a degree in improv to be able to teach improv at the university level… So that will be a nice little scam.

The Wake plays every Thursday in November at 9pm. Make Reservations Here!

Monday June 10, 2013, 1:02pm - by WillyAppelman

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The Magnet Theater is proud to announce the newest members of Magnet Sketch Teams! Thank you to everyone who applied! Sketch teams perform every Sunday at 9 pm.

FAT KIDS
David Sewell
Chet Siegel
Becca Schall
Andrew Mills
Robert Ramsey
John Kitsis
Sebastian Conelli
Billy Bob Thompson
Megan Meadows

DISPACHO
Ruby Marez
Alex Marino
Todd Shaeffer
Adam Twitchell
Ingrid Ostby
Robert Kern
Steph Garcia
Pat May
Emily Johnson
Marcus Brunt

RISKY BOTTOM
Janie Stolar
Gretchen Poole
Jana Schmieding
Matt Antonucci
Lauren Olson
Matt Wassung
Rob Webber
Joe Lepore
Kevin Lalka

JACKTOWN
Shalini Tripathi
Alan Fessenden
Joe Miles
Sean Taylor
Kelly Warne
Gwen Mesco
James O’Connell
Kate Emswiler
Darrel Haynes
Matt Alston

Wednesday April 17, 2013, 9:14am - by WillyAppelman

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Thanks so much to NYC Tourist for this wonderful review of The Magnet Theater and of Trike featuring Ed Herbstman. If you’re interested in taking a Free Magnet Class or seeing an affordable show, check out our website! NYCTourist.com is a travel site dedicated to all the best things to do and places to stay in New York City, check them out!

Thursday April 11, 2013, 9:15am - by WillyAppelman

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“The Sleep Over” is the newest installment of The Director Series, a 4-week series of performances wherein a Director selects a cast and presents a different form. This month Kevin Cragg is directing “The Sleep Over.” We conducted an interview with director Kevin Cragg via email about the show.

1. What is The Sleep Over?
The Sleep Over is largely a mono-character improv form that was developed in the early 2000s by then Harold Team Mother. Over the duration of the current Sleep Over incarnation, Kevin Cobbs, Megan Gray, Will Quinn, Amie Roe, Jamaal Sedayao, Emily Shapiro, Caitlin Steitzer, and Kristy Wesolowski introduce us to eight characters and take us on a journey through the world they inhabit.

2. Why are you directing it?
My interest in the Sleep Over stems from the long history I have had with the form. I was lucky enough to be present to watch Mother workshop the form at a tiny storefront theater and it has been one of my favorite forms ever since. By directing it, I have a reason to gather eight of my favorite improvisers and let them loose on one of my favorite forms.

3. What is your favorite type of improv?
Since I have performed improv for quite some time and I have watched improv even longer, I would have to say the type of improv that is my favorite is that which surprises me. For four Thursdays in April, I will be watching my favorite improv.

4. What is the future of improv?
Another realm for product placement.

The Sleep Over performs every Thursday in April at 10pm at The Magnet Theater. The cast features Kevin Cobbs, Megan Gray, Will Quinn, Amie Roe, Jamaal Sedayao, Emily Shapiro, Caitlin Steitzer, and Kristy Wesolowski.