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

Posts Tagged ‘new york musical improv festival’

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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Wednesday October 7, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

TJ Mannix Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Musical improviser, gifted actor, and flat-out handsome man, T.J. MANNIX stops by the podcast to talk about pursuing his dreams in NYC, the craft of acting, and the upcoming New York Musical Improv Festival [NYMIF]. This is our 60th episode and we’re excited to share it with one of Magnet’s beloved instructors and long-time performers. T.J and host, Louis Kornfeld, discuss T.J.’s wide range of experience as an entertainer, everything from DJing for college radio to getting the right take on Law & Order, and of course, Louis opines on NYC’s romantic appeal. Give it a listen, kiddos!

Hear about T.J.’s time spent as a middle-of-the-night college radio DJ and about how Louis didn’t start listening to music until college. Find out what Louis’ first two cassette tapes were and what songs kept T.J. connected to English while studying abroad in Germany. Plus, Louis talks about his years in “local local broadcasting” on Staten Island.

T.J. moved to NYC in 1997 from North Carolina, where he had lived for a few years. He was working for Blockbuster Video and acting on the side, but was finally convinced by visiting actors from New York to give his dream a shot. He subsequently moved to NYC and got a job at the Jekyll & Hyde Club, which he explains was a very different place when he worked there. He talks all about all the fun the staff had and what it was like having it as his first gig in New York. Louis gives his thoughts on surveys, which we know you want to hear.

It’s been about 10 or 11 years now that T.J. has been a performer without a “day job,” so Louis wants to know, “What is it like to be a working actor?” Amongst the advice T.J. bestows, he says you’ve got to “9-to-5 it” because you’re the CEO of your own company. He gets into the life of a working actor and he and Louis end up disucussing NYC neighborhood culture. Next, Louis wants to know, “What’s the strangest job you’ve had in recent memory?” You’ll get to hear all about that, but [spoiler alert] it wasn’t playing Santa Claus at Radio City Music Hall, but he talks about that fun experience as well, even giving away some Rockettes stage secrets.

Without a doubt, T.J. loves the process of acting. He talks about learning on your feet as an actor and tells of his experience working on Law & Order: SVU. He embraces and cherishes the challenge of just about any acting job and recognizes both the strengths and weaknesses in different kinds of actor training. He and Louis talk about small moments on stage and dealing with auditions. Plus, T.J. gives a great tip for playing villains.

Finally, the episode concludes with a discussion of the upcoming 7th Annual NYMIF, Oct 15-18 at Magnet Theater. Working with co-producers Robin Rothman and Michael Lutton, the festival is in its 7th year and has 215 performers coming to the stage. T.J. talks about what the festival has meant to the musical improv community and he shouts out some returning favorites that he’s looking forward to seeing!

Thursday October 31, 2013, 3:38pm - by WillyAppelman

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October was a wonderful month at Magnet! From a surprise Mike Myers show, to new ensembles, to Magnet performers in The NYTVF, a lot happened. To begin, Mike Myers dropped by for a special duo show with Magnet co-founder Ed Herbstman. After Jason Mantzoukas was unable to make the widely coveted Mantzoukas Brothers Show, the 3rd Mantzoukas Brother (Mike Myers) showed up to save the day. Herbstman and Myers had incredible chemistry, flawlessly weaving in and out of characters and scenes. Their show, just over an hour, was full of high energy sharp characters.


We had lots of new teams! Musical Megawatt (College, Wonderland), Megawatt (The Flood) and Magnet Sketch (Party., American Wormholes, Baby Shoes, Cash, The Misses) all had debuts this month! Congrats to the new players and be sure to check out these teams in November.


The 5th Annual NYMIF came and went with over 100 performers from as far as Toronoto and as close as Broadway! We had an incredible 5th Anniversary Festival which featured Baby Wants Candy, The Improvised Sondheim Project, and a closing night benefit for Gilda’s Club NYC. Thank you to performers, audience members and our wonderful volunteers, we’ll see you next year!


Happy Birthday to Armando Diaz! Our fearless leader in improv and sketch turned a whole year older this month. His birthday was kicked off with a little Halloween celebration with spooky juice, haunted candy and scary birthday candles. Cheers Armando- thanks for making us all better at what we love to do!

Tuesday May 31, 2011, 1:44pm - by admin

Dates are set for the 3rd Annual New York Musical Improv Festival hosted by the Magnet Theater. Tuesday November 1st through Sunday November 6th, 2011.