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

Posts Tagged ‘musical improv’

Wednesday October 12, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

annie-moor-podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Visual artist and Magnet performer, ANNIE MOOR, is on the podcast talking with Louis about improv and how her art, no matter the medium, always trends toward storytelling. They dive deep into how narrative shows come together and even discuss how jealousy can be a great motivator. Aside from performing at Magnet with Wonderland, Premiere: The Improvised Musical, and Object Work, Annie is also a Magnet instructor, an early childhood educator, a teaching artist, and a visual artist who will be selling her incredible works of art at the Union Square Holiday Market from November 17th to December 24th! So many ways to enjoy Annie Moor, so little time! (But at least this episode will live online forever.)

Annie recently started teaching Level One Musical Improv at Magnet, so Louis begins the podcast by asking her what she thinks is the mark of a successful Level One class. He also wants to know how teachers help students who have zero musical awareness – how to bring them to their voice? Annie find that sharing her own anecdotes of “not knowing” with students often puts them at ease. Louis comes up with a cool analogy about cutting tomatoes with a dull knife that relates to staying sharp and keeping things fresh when performing. As he is wont to do when musical improvisers are across from him, Louis asks about the use of narrative structure in musical improv. He and Annie get into how narrative shows differ from traditional longform and how picking an antagonist is really hard! Annie has been doing improv since 2008 but it took her four years to find musical improv, which has truly been her love. She’s been doing theater her whole life though and made the jump to studying animation when she went off to college where, Annie claims, she was the worst animation student NYU has ever had! More recently, her primary non-musical improv experience has been performing with Object Work, an improv show which uses real objects. Louis and Annie talk about playing out real life on stage and they ask, does a good kind of jealousy fuel us appropriately? Annie talks about how all of her artistic pursuits trend towards storytelling and narrative moments. She says that storytelling starts taking shape for kids around four years old and that she loves getting to see that development on a regular basis in her work teaching one through five year olds. To end the show, Annie and Louis play a rousing game of monologue hotspot! Sadly, due to a recording error, we lost this episode’s edition of A Serious Scene With A Jar Of Pickles. Only Annie, Louis, Evan, and Grant will ever know how truly delightful it was!

Wednesday October 5, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

beth-slack-podcast Subscribe with iTunes

A star on both Magnet and UCB stages, BETH SLACK, stops by to talk with Louis about her love of opera, how 9/11 changed her career plans, and why musical improv rules. Beth tells us all about her long relationship with stage performance and, how after taking a break from it for nearly 10 years, she came back to the stage by finding improv. She and Louis get to know each other and she does a wonderful scene with jar of pickles! See Beth weekly at Magnet with Premiere: The Improvised Musical, The Cast, and at UCB on Harold Night with Foxhole. Plus! This coming week she performs a live radio play with The Broadcast (10/10) and as a part of the New York Musical Improv Festival with Hansbury & Slack (10/13).

As a fantastic musical improviser, it might not surprise anyone to find out that Beth was originally trained in opera! She first moved to NYC about 15 years ago, three days before the events of September 11th took place. Understandably, her plans to “make it” in the big city were put on hold and she moved back to Ohio. Beth later returned to NYC to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, after which, she stopped doing anything artistic for about 10 years. She tells us all about getting into opera and vocal performance and how she went to boarding school for a year specifically to study voice. With her extensive knowledge, Beth enlightens Louis as to the differences between opera and musical theater. About four years ago, almost exactly 11 years after first moving to NYC, Beth signed up for an improv class and her world was changed again. She and Louis discuss how narrative plot functions in different styles of improv and they mull over the differences between tangible art and performance art. Digging further into improv theory, they discuss the pitfalls of over-agreement in scenes and how it’s perfectly okay to ask questions. Plus, Louis and Beth play some two-person hotspot and Beth performs A Serious Scene With A Jar Of Pickles!


Sunday October 2, 2016, 9:48am - by Megan Gray

Musical Megawatt - Musical Improv

The Magnet Theater is thrilled to announce the new teams and additions to its Tuesday night Musical Megawatt lineup. New teams will debut this Tuesday, October 4th. Shows start at 7pm!

New Team Kriss
Adam Campbell-Schmitt
Andrew Davies
Russ Feder
Charlie Nicholson
Ali Reed
Erin Richardson
Shalini Tripathi

New Team Kross
Chris Bell
Samara Breger
Alex Marcus
Maryann Menzies
Adam Payne
Jackie Skinner
Cian Smith


Thursday September 8, 2016, 12:56pm - by Magnet Theater

Musical Megawatt - Musical Improv

Announcing Musical Megawatt Auditions

We are excited to announce that Musical Megawatt auditions are coming up! To submit for an audition slot, please fill out THIS FORM! Please note that only people who have completed Musical Improv Level 3 at the Magnet Theater are eligible to submit.
This season, auditions will take place on Sunday, September 25th, from 6:30pm to 10:30pm, with callbacks on Saturday, October 1st at the same time.  Both rounds of auditions will be at the Magnet Training Center, located at 22 West 32nd Street on the 10th Floor. We will do our best to accommodate everyone’s schedules, but please understand that we can’t guarantee anyone a particular audition time. 
Submissions must be received by Monday, September 19th, and emails with assigned audition times will be sent out on Wednesday, September 21st.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email Michael Lutton at mjlutton@gmail.com.
We look forward to seeing you at auditions! 
Monday April 4, 2016, 11:01am - by Megan Gray

Musical Megawatt - Musical Improv

The Magnet Theater is thrilled to announce the new teams and additions to its Tuesday night Musical Megawatt lineup. New teams will debut tomorrow, Tuesday, April 5th. Shows start at 7pm!

New Team Creedence
Ryan Dunkin
Shacottha Fields
Will Jacobs
Olivia Petzy
Roman Pietrs
Laura Yoder Witt
Gregg Zehentner

New Team Clearwater
Alissa Alter
Sean Bartlett
James Bruffee
Jacob Horn
Mike Kuplic
Lane Kwederis
Kiki Mikkelsen

New Team Revival
Von Decarlo Brown
Jennette Cronk
John de Guzman
Joe Hendel
Tim Levine
Jennifer Peng
Jillian Vitko


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!)

Tuesday March 8, 2016, 10:00am - by Magnet Theater

Musical Megawatt - Musical Improv

Announcing Musical Megawatt Auditions

We are excited to announce that auditions for the next season of Musical Megawatt will be held the first weekend in April!

The first round of auditions will take place on Saturday, April 2nd, from 6:30 to 10:30pm, with callbacks on Sunday the 3rd at the same time. Auditions will be held at the Magnet Training Center.

To schedule an audition time, fill out the form HERE!

We will do our best to accommodate everyone’s schedules, but please understand that we can’t guarantee anyone a particular audition time. 

Submissions must be received by Wednesday, March 23d, and emails with assigned audition times will be sent out on Friday the 25th.

Please note that only people who have completed Musical Level 3 at the Magnet are eligible to submit.

We look forward to seeing you at auditions!

Wednesday November 11, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Alexis Lambright Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Magnet All-Star performer, ALEXIS LAMBRIGHT, chats with us about The Wrath’s 4-year anniversary, representation in improv, and her various hilarious scripted shows. You can see Alexis all around the Magnet performing with The Wrath on Megawatt, with The Cast on Saturday nights, as host of The Griot Show, as a member of The Stank, and with Rebecca Robles as the soul-singing duo Cocoa Dreamz. This week, she sits down with host Louis Kornfeld to talk about all manner of things related to comedy and we’re excited to have her as a guest!

With The Wrath’s 4-year anniversary having just passed, Louis inquires as to what makes The Wrath work so well – why is this team so amazing? Alexis talks about the team’s dynamics and the importance of having her ideas justified and embraced right away. Louis says that he often references Alexis as an example of someone who plays with their own style yet is never hindered by it. Pretty cool, right?

Stemming from their discussion on The Wrath, Louis and Alexis talk about the pressure she feels to represent not only woman, but also people of color, when she’s performing. This leads into a discussion on diversity in improv, Rita Chin’s recent essay, and some of the things Alexis came to expect as she began improv classes. She stresses the importance of having all voices be heard (and accepted) and answers the question, “Do you work on your own stuff or do you keep trying to fit in [to the theater system]?”

Alexis began taking class at Magnet in late 2008 and she tells us about what brought her to improv in the first place. Her first formal improv training was a weekend-long Second City workshop which she took after being inspired by watching SNL. Louis talks about new students’ ability to convert fear into power and asks Alexis how The Wrath has managed to keep the romance alive after 4 years. Hear about how they’ve spiced it up recently and what Alexis has to say about their foray into musical improv!

Going further back, Louis talks to Alexis about her family, moving around as a child, and where she feels most at home. He also asks about her friendship and artistic relationship with Rebecca Robles. As Alexis puts it – they’re like the Odd Couple. Although they maybe have different energies, they have very similar work styles. She talks about their act Cocoa Dreamz, which is a Motown-era singing duo, and how that show allows her to channel her mother and aunts. On an unrelated note, Louis talks about finding inspiration in sad people and taking what you don’t like about someone and choosing to make it what you love about them.

Finally, they wrap up the episode discussing Alexis’ one-woman-show, The Alexis Lambright Tell-A-Thon: Combating Adult Virginity, which has enjoyed runs at Magnet, NY Fringe, and Hollywood Fringe. They talk about the origins of the show and the writing of it, as well as the attention it received as a result of an NY Post article, which wasn’t without its compromises. Louis opines that coping with scary things allows you to move forward and become who you are. We think he’s probably right.

Enjoy this episode. It’s great listening.

Wednesday November 4, 2015, 7:42am - by Magnet Theater

* Subscribe with iTunes

Justin Torres is all over the Magnet Theater these days, performing with GOATS, Heartbeat, and Premiere, and now, he’s a guest on our podcast! In this episode, we learn about Justin’s experiences studying at the four major improv training centers of NYC, how he approaches different shows with different teams, and his advice for people looking to get into voiceover work. It’s a truly wonderful episode that will surely put a smile on your face. Listen in!

Right off the bat, Louis asks Justin how he has quietly become the hardest working man in improv. In just the last few years, Justin has studied improv at every theater in the city and currently performs or rehearses fives days a week. He talks about being on a new team and how it’s necessary to have a positive outlook and energy with each other. Drawing on his house team experience, he discusses the interplay between veterans and newbies in an ensemble. What are his favorite things about improvising? He loves putting a smile on his teammates’ faces and he’s really into group mind. If you’ve ever watched him improvise, you’ll recognize too that he is not afraid of doing something that “breaks” the show, which is just a part of his pursuit of playing in order to surprise himself. He also has a particular fondness for dynamic stage pictures.

What are Justin’s approaches when playing with his three different groups? He tells us about GOATS’ love of getting crazy together, hearing the heartbeat of Heartbeat, and being the guy who is always putting Premiere on the brink of failure. From there, Louis gets into how gracious Justin is prone to being. Not only is Justin incredibly thankful about his improv life, but he’s very specific about his gratefulness. As he tells us, we’ve only got so much time with these teams, so you’ve got to be grateful for it. Louis talks about being on both sides of getting cut and how people respond to it. In particular, he admires Justin’s non-attachment to results. How does a team react to being cut and what does it tell us? Improv is a great way to be constantly working with your fears and insecurities. Justing thinks it can help you realize yourself in the time you have available. It’s all about doing improv as a corollary for life. What do you want to do? You can do it in improv.

Louis gives a shoutout to Justin’s improv blog, Improv, NYC and asks Justing to provide advice for a new improviser coming to NYC. He talks about what the four different theaters have to offer a new improviser and then provides advice for people going through different schools at the same time.

Finally, Louis asks Justin about his career in voiceover work. He gives very concrete advice for people looking to get into it, including: “Who to take VO classes from?” “What should you keep in mind before jumping in?” and “What does one need to get started?” Justin’s voiceover archetype is “Honest Everyday Guy,” and while we agree wholeheartedly with the first part, we’re convinced he’s far more than just an everyday guy.

Saturday October 17, 2015, 12:00pm - by Magnet Theater


In 2009, musical improv was still a relatively new form. The Magnet had two musical teams performing on every-other Friday – and the weekly Made Up Musical.

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Having been a part of so many improv festivals over the years, I thought the time was right for one that focused just on musical improv. When I pitched the idea of the first annual New York Musical Improv Festival, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I went to the two musical teams and asked if anyone wanted to volunteer. Two hands went up, Robin Rothman and Melanie Girton. We became a producing team (eventually including Mary Archbold, Lisa Flanagan, and Michael Lutton) and organized the first festival in November 2009.

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It was two nights long and featured NYC teams, Broadway performers, and “BASH” from Chicago – Blaine Swen’s incredible one man improvised musical provoked the first spontaneous standing ovation I ever saw at the Magnet. (The photo [to the right] is from the Tara Copeland’s “NYMIF All-Star Show.” Notice the old wooden chairs.)

2010 included performers from Chicago, Minneapolis and Washington DC, and cast members and musicians from Broadway’s “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

We sponsored our first benefit performance for Gilda’s Club New York City – featuring our first Tony Award winner (Cady Huffman from “The Producers”) and Tony nominated guest performers.  This has become an annual event raising money and awareness for Gilda’s Club NYC. We also celebrate the comedic legacy of Gilda Radner with an all-female musical team “Generation G.”

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It also featured over-doing it, forgetting to eat, and not sleeping – as one of our producers was carried from the Magnet office into to a waiting ambulance.

2011 may have over-expanded. It was six nights long and had a producing teams of 16 people. Since then, we have enjoyed a four night festival with three or four people on the producing team and over the years, the festival has featured hundreds of performers from across the U.S. and Canada, and even Australia.

From the beginning, the goals of the New York Musical Improv Festival have been clear:

1. Treat the performers like gold.

2. Promote Musical Improv as a form in NYC and across the country.

3. Promote the Magnet Theater.

4. Feature every performer and their home theatre – even if it’s down the street from ours.

As the festival grew, so did the musical improv program at the Magnet – from one level to four, from two musical megawatt teams to as many as nine. Other musical improv programs in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and across the country grew every year. Chicago now has MCL – Music Comedy Live – with musical improv shows seven nights a week.

Performers return to the Magnet year after year for the NYMIF, meeting, performing, watching shows, exchanging ideas, talking theatre upkeep and mortgages, arranging to perform at each others theaters – and relaxing at the annual performers brunch. 

As we head into our 7th annual festival, we can proudly say that the NYMIF and the Magnet are recognized as national leaders in musical improv.

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