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

Posts Tagged ‘theater’

Wednesday January 13, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Elena Skopetos Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Champion of sketch and improv comedy alike, ELENA SKOPETOS, joins us on the show to talk about clowning, characters, ComedySportz, and the new J&L Presents! You know her from The Cast, The Executives, AVALANCHE, and her many appearances in other shows, but this is Elena’s first tell-all-interview-podcast with Louis Kornfeld so we suggest you strap on in before you’re swept away to Flavortown. This party is starting and you’re still at the door, buddy!

If you think Louis is messing around to begin this episode, you’re dead wrong. He immediately questions Elena about her experience studying abroad in Italy and leanring commedia dell’arte. Sadly for Pantalone and Arlecchino, commedia has never been very high on Louis’ list. He’s able to put his disdain aside though for the sake of this podcast as he discusses stock characters with Elena, in which they describe the practice of exaggerating familiar archetypes and the fun which can be had with specificity. How does Elena bring herself and her theater training to sketch comedy? Though she began seriously acting in college at Marymount Manhattan, she really started out as a performer singing in elementary school. Despite her education, she says, she really found herself in the comedy world.

Louis asks Elena what she does to prepare for a show and she also describes the experience of taking in the audience as it differs between sketch shows and the theater world. She and Louis both discuss dealing with emotional preparedness and self-confidence in performance. Then Louis spits vitriol on mirror games and, this is mysterious, claims that 80% is good enough sometimes.

Lately, Elena has been working on playing closer to herself rather than the diverse cast of characters she has commonly leaned toward. Louis talks about wanting attention but then disliking the feeling of being focused on. How does one create interesting characters with out stray too far from the self? Specificity over crazy! Getting into scripted work, Elena talks about the comedic logic behind making the funniest choice rather than simply a funny choice.  She tells us about bombing with a character and recounts a time when she thought everyone was being overly dramatic. Our two heroes examine the use of darker material and assigning inauthentic importance to melodramatic subject matter.

And did you know that Elena is a comedy machine? She does so much! Louis inquires about her experience doing ComedySportz, and they consider the benefits of doing short form, what one can take from that into long form, and what is something that long form improvisers are guilty for! He then asks her about taking over hosting duties, along with Ari Miller, of Magnet’s character showcase, Jana & Lauren Presents. They also discuss Elena’s Megawatt team, AVALANCHE, and finding a comfort with a team or group. And finally, Louis and Elena talk about The Cast (which is taking off!) and what is so special about the show and team that make it so great.

Wednesday December 30, 2015, 9:27am - by Magnet Theater

Chrissie Gruebel Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

We couldn’t get enough of CHRISSIE GRUEBEL on stage, so we had her on the podcast to talk about improv, acting, & everything else. A darling of Megawatt’s Metal Boy, Friday Night Sh*w, and Magnet Sketch Teams, Chrissie sits down with Louis and regales him with tales from Philadelphia, New York, and the theater capitol of North America, Scranton. Chrissie is one of our favs and we just know you’re gonna love this episode. May she live forever online!

To begin this episode, Louis claims he knows nothing about Chrissie and Chrissie claims she doesn’t have a Long Island accent. You’ll have to tune in to find out that both of these are lies! Though she may hail from Long Island, Chrissie went to school in Scranton and lived in Philadelphia for a number of years. Once in school, she found she wanted to be an actor and thus enrolled in Scranton’s theater department, which took a multidisciplinary approach to theater education. She talks about the “all hands on deck” experience of her program and how it made everyone more invested in the productions they mounted.

Chrissie moved back “home” to New York City after a rough break up and started taking classes at UCB in late 2009 because of a very expressive Facebook friend and because most of us are just trying to fill a void, right? CG Fun Fact: She did her first show before she was even done with 101 and it was at UCB Chelsea at 11pm, right after Harold Night! Despite (or because of?) this experience, Chrissie says it took her until the end of 301 to actually enjoy improvising. Coming that that slow introduction to being so invested in improv now, Louis wants to know what Chrissie finds exciting these days. For her, it’s a team’s energy that matters most. With a nod to legendary Harold team, Sandino, she talks about working with teams that always support you, team chemistry, and trust amongst ensembles. Louis believes that there is an addiction to beating yourself up after shows, which is probably why it’s so important to celebrate each other and keep the energy positive.

Louis digs into how and why Metal Boy is one of the great teams to grace the Megawatt stage. He also commends Chrissie for being able to call bullshit in scenes which might offend her real world views, and being able to do so in a way that only makes the show more enjoyable. What’s her secret? She says that part of it is getting to a point where you’re comfortable enough with your improv that you don’t feel thrown by bringing yourself into it. Speaking of things that matter to people, Louis launches them into a discussion about gender roles in the improv community. How are we doing right now? In answering, Chrissie talks about the makeup of her indie team, Mannequin Room, as something that helped her grow as an improviser. She also explores how we might be able to cut these issues of inclusion off at the pass rather than simply react to them. They get into talking about sophomoric humor, what it takes to be “funny,” and Louis says something that he will continue to say until the day he dies. Let’s hope that never happens! All hail Louis, The Immortal.

Wednesday December 2, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Quinton Loder Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Longtime performer and jack-of-all-trades, QUINTON LODER, joins his good friend Louis Kornfeld to talk about Topeka, The Boss, and being an improv hand-grenade. Not only does Quinton perform weekly with The Boss, but we is quite literally in charge of many of the Magnet’s day-to-day operations. Pretty cool, right? From Kansas to Chelsea, Quinton tells us about his improv life.

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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!

Wednesday March 25, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jeffrey Sweet podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Whoa boy — we’ve got an interview with the one and only Jeffrey Sweet! The famed playwright, historian, and author of Something Wonderful Right Away joins host Louis Kornfeld for this extended episode of the podcast. They start out by discussing the relationship between the Jews fleeing the Cossacks and the rise of satire in America. Jeffrey talks about the origins of improvisation with The Committee and Second City, highlighting some differences between the two as well as  commenting on folks like David Shepherd and Del Close. Time is spent discussing the six heavy hitters that the improv world lost in 2014: Sheldon Patinkin, Gary Goodrow, Ted Flicker, Harold Ramis, Mike Nichols, and Joan Rivers. They also get into the domino effect of Something Wonderful Right Away influencing Mick Napier and Charna Halpern to develop their theaters and how Jeffrey might be the illegitimate grandfather of the long-form improv scene in NYC. Jeffrey also talks about how Stephen Colbert and John Stewart are so important to the comedic and political landscape today and gives us his take on the modern incarnation of SNL. The interview continues to discuss the link between improvisational theater and folk art and how the satirists have now become a part of the system. It’s an episode filled with so much historical, political, and cultural discourse that Jeffrey pauses several times over the course of this interview to ask, “We are talking about comedy, right?” Indeed, we are.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #37 below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday February 18, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Brandon Gardner Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this episode of the podcast, we welcome UCBT performer, instructor, and improv nerd Brandon Gardner into the studio to talk about college improv, his class focused on creating improvised plays, and various elements of compelling improv. Our host, Louis Kornfeld, begins the hour getting into Brandon’s vast experiences working with college improv teams and bookends the 60ish minutes by taking it all back to those formative years. In the meantime, Brandon describes why he became interested in bringing elements of theater to the improv stage and how he challenges actors to improvise and improvisers to act. For all our fellow improv nerds out there, you’ll love as Louis and Brandon parse through topics such as displaying emotion versus emoting authentically; playing to the top of your intelligence versus playing to the top of your integrity; story versus plot; and dramatic comedy versus comedic drama. These two veteran teachers trade exercises and generally advise on what is essential to playing satisfying improv scenes. Check it out!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #32 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday February 4, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Poss Taylor Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Our host Louis Kornfeld sits down with Ross Taylor, director of February’s Directors Series: Shlongform, to chat about growing up in Missouri, touring with Second City, and doing comedy in NYC.  Having somewhat recently celebrated his five year anniversary of NYC and improv, Ross tells Louis about getting his start in hometown Missouri with speech and debate before moving on to do theater at Mizzou and later getting into comedy. Regarding his show Shlongform, Ross talks about why he’s marrying short form with long form and our duo discusses the historic attitudes towards short form in NYC. Having both done tours with Second City’s cruise ship ensembles, Louis and Ross dive into their experiences entertaining folks on Norwegian Cruise Line boats and how those experiences translate back to their work in New York. Ross also chats about working with his long-running team The Wrath and divulges how to keep a team strong and inspiring. Plus, Louis asks Ross about The Oakwood Boys, his religious country music duo, and the guys talk about the collegiate feel of the improv community. Tune in!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #30 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

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

Lee Overtree Podcast magnetituneslogo-PODCASTsmall

Lee Overtree, Artist Director of Story Pirates and writer/director of FOUND The Musical, sits down with our own Louis Kornfeld for a discussion on effective education, how children are amazing writers, and his experience in adapting unconventional source material for the stage. Story Pirates is a nationally respected education and media organization founded in 2003 to celebrate the words and ideas of young people and Lee has been there from the very beginning. He and Louis discuss improv in the classroom and on the stage and Lee asserts that desire drives learning. He also shares how the Story Pirates get kids to have fun with expository writing and talks about the Story Pirates Podcast. True to his Story Pirates roots, Lee grants Louis “permission to get weird” in this episode and it concludes with a lively talk about FOUND The Musical, a new show based on Found Magazine, and how sometimes the best direction to take a project is the most obvious.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #26 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Tuesday December 16, 2014, 8:05pm - by Magnet Theater

Jesse Acini Podcast magnetituneslogo-PODCASTmedium

Sketch writer, actor, and improviser Jesse Acini sits down with host Louis Kornfeld to talk about getting his start in comedy, the growth of the Magnet community, and having more fun along the way. An active participant in the NYC improv and sketch scene since the early 2000s, Jesse talks about The Second City in NYC, discusses studying with Gary Austin, and otherwise litters this episode with tidbits about the olden days. Not to mention, he provides some solid advice for aspiring sketch writers! Jesse and Louis have  known each other for eight years and this is the longest conversation they’ve ever had — you don’t want to miss it!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #25 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Thursday December 4, 2014, 6:13pm - by evan barden

For over four years, Brick has entertained Megawatt audiences each week with their hilarious, multifaceted attack and undeniable originality and last night, the Magnet community gave them the send-off they deserved.

With a full hour at their disposal, Brick began their set with a slideshow capturing the chemistry of a team that has spent over four years together and retained six of their eight original members with two delightful additions along the way. (They even had former member Tim Eberle cheering them on from the audience, showing the support that helped define such a team.) After the slideshow, the lights dimmed, Helter Skelter dropped in, rising in volume as the cast banged against the backstage wall, and Brick finally entered to do what they do best — give one hell of an improv show.

The ensuing set from Brick’s Rick Andrews, Julia Hynes, Joe Miles, Branson Reese, Amie Roe, Jamaal Sedayao, Caitlin Steitzer, and Jed Teres was filled with hilarity and indicative of a team that not only knows how to have fun with each other, but are also experts of the form. As the show reached its anticipated climax, the lights came down and the audience burst into a display of appreciation. The praise continued for the rest of the night and we’re sure the conversations about them will continue for years.

From their beginnings as “New Team Brick” to their Oh Shit! INSPIRADO throwdown to their string of “new form” shows, Brick has been a darling of Megawatt and improv at Magnet, and they will surely be missed.

Check out the videos and photos below from last night!

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