Posts Tagged ‘Russ Armstrong’
On Wednesday, December 18th, I (Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller!) got to interview Magnet’s own Russ Armstrong about growth in improv, understanding the makings of a good team, and how to be a good teacher, director, and improviser. Below is the transcribed interview.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Michigan. I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan.
How did you get involved in improv?
I started improvising in high school. I was watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? with my friends and started an improv group to play short form games. The Pioneer Comedy Troupe from Pioneer High School. It was my junior year of high school. We thought we were the coolest people in the world and we didn’t know we were actually the lamest people in the world.
You went to Northwestern yes? Did you do improv in college? What was the improv there called.
I did. Yep. It was the Mee-ow Show. It was billed as 1/3 improv, 1/3 sketch, 1/3 rock ‘n’ roll. Lots of short form stuff. It was great, super fun. It was a blast.
And you studied in Chicago as well? At iO and Second City? How does the training there compare to the training you learned in NYC?
It’s all the same stuff just different approaches to it. I think Chicago tends to nurture you finding your voice a little bit more. They give you a little more time, marinates in a way that Chicago does with everything, with theater and music and food. Because the spotlight isn’t on it as much, there’s less pressure to produce immediately. New York tends to have a little more pressure because it is New York. And it’s more expensive. I think they are both awesome attributes. It’s good to have that pressure. I love that about New York.
“The Kubler” 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 Russ Armstrong is directing “The Kubler.” We interviewed Russ via email to learn more about the show.
1. What is The Kubler?
The Kubler is a best-of-both-worlds improv show. It allows great actors to chew up some big, intimate scenes and intersperses those with large group scenes from a strong ensemble. It’s inspired by the Kubler-Ross model (umlaut, please!) which folks are more familiar with as “the five stages of grief.” The Kubler-Ross is a hypothesis that humans process difficult news by progressing through these five stages in order; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Starting with a suggestion of some bad news someone has received, we take the audience through the five stages and throw in large group games in between. It rocks. But mostly it rocks because of Rick Andrews, Laura Grey, Sean Taylor, Lauren Olson, Dru Johnston, Desiree Nash, Jordan Klepper, Jana Schmieding, Alex Marino and Chet Siegel.
2. Why are you directing it?
I’m directing the Kubler because it gives me an opportunity to force great improvisers to work with me and offers a format that can really showcase top-notch players working together. Also, I was told I would receive intern credits.
4. What is the future of improv?
Everyone knows this but I’ll rehash it anyway. Improv will be solved in 2019 at the yet-to-be-formed Dungeon Fungeon in Staten Island after an inspired triple-Harold performed by the East Coast’s best ensemble, John Mack’s Warrior Punchbowl (Starring Brad Tomey!) It won’t be the best show, and it won’t be the last show, but their director, and the audience will insist, “That’s what improv is supposed to be.”
It’ll be that or slowly we’ll all move back to Chicago and crawl back up the vagina of The Compass Players, spin around there for a couple years in some swirling black hole of callbacks and then get spewed out across the continent once more not unlike this ever-contracting-and-expanding nutsack of a universe. Intern credit, please!
The Kubler opens this Thursday, March 7th at 10pm! MORE INFO!
Congratulations to the new Magnet Sketch Teams! Magnet Sketch Teams are the sketch comedy equivalent of Megawatt, our house improv teams. Sketch Teams are groups of writers and performers who will work with directors to create a run of sketch shows. Thank you to all those who applied, we’re excited to introduce these incredible teams! The first show is Sunday September 16th at 9:30! See you there!
This Thursday at 10pm is the debut of “The Weave” directed by Rick Andrews! The show is the latest installment of the Magnet Theater’s Director Series, a monthly series of performances where a director presents a different improv form with a completely different cast. The only rule is that there are no rules. Watch Magnet’s best improvisers perform organic freeform improvisation in two mind blowing parts! Featuring: Russ Armstrong, Peter McNerney, Chet Siegel, Alan Fessenden, Frank Bonomo, Alex Marino and Special Guests!
For more information, take a look at our Facebook event!
Join us afterwards for a special opening night party at Smithfield!
The Interview featuring Willy Appelman, Russ Armstrong, Laura Grey and Kevin Cragg. Special thanks to the crew Riley Fields, Tom Capps & Reed Tereski.
Russ started improvising during high school in Ann Arbor Michigan. There, he and his friends formed a group that they believed to be very “high brow,” but looking back, they are now pretty sure they mostly just made up fart jokes and mocked their principle. Since then, Russ has come a long way, honing his craft at iO and Second City in Chicago before making The Magnet Theater his improv home base.
As a teacher of long-form, Russ tries to keep it positive. He emphasizes physical and emotional focus. His objective is to get everyone on board and be okay with playing together. Russ also likes to incorporate tons of metaphors into his teaching. For instance rather than just tell you to “follow the fear,” as most improv teachers might, Russ, a native of Indianapolis, might quote racecar driver Mario Andretti. “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
Russ is currently teaching Level 2: Intro to Longform improv. Check out a listing of our available classes on the Magnet Theater website.