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

Posts Tagged ‘Michael Lutton’

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

OneHitWonder_475x273

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!

Wednesday March 27, 2013, 12:51pm - by catherinewing

poster_beees

BEEES!!! turned 2 earlier this year! They are celebrating with a Two-Year Anniversary Show this Friday, March 29th, at 7pm, and you are all invited!

Formed in late December 2010, BEEES!!! gathered for the first time as a team at Mooncake, a few doors down from the Magnet Training Center.  Over dinner and cheap Sapporo beers, they got better acquainted with one another.  Some had taken the Magnet musical improv classes together, and were nervous and excited to be placed on their very first house team; others were seasoned performers, with years of improv and stage experience under their belts.  What they all had in common, was their musical improv training under the brilliant Tara Copeland and Frank Spitznagel.  BEEES!!! hit the Magnet stage for their first show on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011.

The meta show, November 2011.  Photo by Keith Huang.

The meta show, November 2011. Photo by Keith Huang.

(Team Trivia: Michael Lutton came up with the team name, which won the majority of the votes, over gems such as “7 O’Clock,” “The Richard Cheddar Show,” and “Employee of the Month.”)

Inspirado winners!  Dumb challenge ("Beethoven"), February 2012

Inspirado winners! Dumb challenge (“Beethoven”), February 2012

Since then, BEEES!!! has performed regularly on Magnet Musical Tuesdays, survived two hurricanes (Irene and Sandy), won five Inspirado challenges, and performed in theaters and improv festivals throughout NYC and along the East Coast, including The Depot Theatre, Boston Comedy Arts Festival, North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, NYC Improv Festival, and the New York Musical Improv Festival.

Harold Night at ImprovBoston, March 2012

Harold Night at ImprovBoston, March 2012

The Depot Theatre in Westport, NY, July 2012.

The Depot Theatre in Westport, NY, July 2012.

BEEES!!! is happy and proud to call the Magnet Theater home. Come this Friday, March 29th, at 7pm and join them in celebrating 2 years of making beautiful musical improv together.

The BEEES!!! opening, artistically rendered by Desireé Nash

The BEEES!!! opening, artistically rendered by Desireé Nash

BEEES!!! is: Jamie Cummings, Michael Lutton, Desireé Nash, Steve Whyte, Catherine Wing.

Sleepytime at Chateau Whyte, North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, February 2013.

Sleepytime at Chateau Whyte, North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, February 2013.

 

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 15, 2012, 9:07am - by catherinewing

As New York City Pride kicks off this weekend, the Magnet Theater is proud to present Pride Night 2012!  We’ve got a sparkly line-up of shows tonight that highlight LGTBQ issues and LGBTQ performers, with lots of sketch, music, and improv. Let’s take a walk across the rainbow, shall we?

At 7pm, we have the one-man show, Cock of the Walk. Written and performed by Athos Cakiades, and directed by Kelly Haran, Cock of the Walk introduces you to five characters that explore masculinity and the male psyche in ways that will tickle your funny bone. It promises to be “pretty dirty” and “rather gay,” which is our idea of a good time at the Magnet Theater on a Friday night.  Also, it’s a Time Out New York Critics’ Pick!

At 8:30pm, Gay Bomb: The Musical returns to the Magnet stage for its June run. Check out all the media attention, from the featured article on the front page of EDGE New York, to the blurb in Chelsea Now. There are only four shows left, so if you haven’t gotten GAY BOMBed yet, it is highly recommended that you come see the show very soon. And (shhhhh!) we’ve got a secret discount code for $7 tickets. Please enter “POTUS Felching” when you buy your tickets here.

Friday, 6/15, 8:30pm
Monday, 6/18, 8:30pm
Friday, 6/22, 8:30pm
Friday, 6/29, 8:30pm (Closing Night)

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, TJ Mannix, Oscar Montoya, Dave Tomczak and Woody Fu.

At 10pm, we have a special Made-Up Musical with a cast of LGBTQ performers, all from Musical Megawatt house teams: Melissa Gordon, Oscar Montoya, Andrew Fafoutakis, T.J. Mannix, Michael Lutton, and Catherine Wing.   You can’t have a full night of LGBTQ comedy without musical improv, right?

The LGBTQ cast of tonight's Made-Up Musical

All the singing and dancing and Broadway jazz hands will get you nicely warmed up for the final show of the night.

At 11:30pm, There’s No Place Like Home presents a GLTBQ All-Star Improv Event.  Andrew Fafoutakis hosts a special night of homo hilarity with a cast of improv superstars: Bianca Casusol, Kevin Gilligan, Melissa Gordon, Scott Lawrie, Michael Lutton, T.J. Mannix, Michael Martin, Oscar Montoya, Louie Pearlman, Nathan Peterman, Emily Schorr Lesnick, Emily Shapiro, Steven Slate, Lauren Ashley Smith, Catherine Wing, and a Super Special Guest!  It’s a fantastic and fun way to end Pride Night 2012.  But don’t just take our word for it.  Check it out — There’s No Place Like Home is a Time Out New York Critics’ Pick!  Come on by and celebrate Pride with us tonight!

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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