This is a love letter to Philadelphia, and by extension, to the comedy scene that you have all created here and welcomed me into.
Philadelphia is where I actively chose to live after considering a wide array of options. Performing as a vistor in PHIFs, a Troika, some N Crowd shows, and several one-off shows exposed me to what Philadelphia has to offer. Inexpensive rehearsal and performance spaces mean that anyone with an idea and the drive can start a production. In addition to the established companies, numerous successfully produced shows in bars, empty store fronts, galleries, and the like, make Philadelphia’s scene reminiscent of the theatre scene in Chicago in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Discussions with Mary Carpenter, Greg Maughan, Matt Nelson, Alexis Simpson, Alli Soowal, Kristen Schier, and Jason Stockdale spurred me to move to Philadelphia 16 months ahead of schedule, and I’m glad I did.
The creative spark here is very strong. Across numerous companies and troupes, hundreds of people perform regularly. Groups of like-minded friends can form troupes (like Iron Lung, Malone, and Nielsen did) and what’s more important, they can get gigs. The structural framework of PHIT, ComedySportz, the N Crowd, and other existing companies in combination with the opportunities provided by the producers of Polygon, Comedian Deconstruction, Sideshow, and the Grape Room, to name just a few, means anyone with an idea or drive can get stage time. There aren’t that many cities that allow for this kind of opportunity—space is just too expensive in most cities—and people who take advantage of everything there is to offer have helped create a comedy calendar where something is happening almost every day of the month.
People have remarked with sadness about how many colleagues are moving to New York or LA. This is not a bad thing. This means the scene is doing its job. In the 25 years I lived in Chicago and Boston, I saw scores (probably hundreds) of colleagues moving onward. Philadelphia is no different. People are always coming up through the ranks. PHIT’s education program under the aegis of Mike Marbach, the ComedySportz education program, and the Incubator under Rick Horner have taught and nurtured hundreds of eager improvisers, writers, comics, story tellers, and so forth. For every talented person we lose to the coasts, at least three are breaking ground. This means this city has vitality. The sheer talent present in the 120 people who auditioned last year at PHIT made it very difficult for Maggy Keegan and me to narrow it down to 18 people. And I suspect this coming year, there will be even more people auditioning and an even tougher decision for whoever will be directing the new teams. (And that’s just looking at improv – I’ve barely touched on stand-up, sketch, story telling, cabaret, and every other genre of comedy that can be found here.) There’s so much opportunity for both people who stay around for life and for those who elect to move on.
It is such a thrill to be able to coach, direct, and teach here. I am honored by how quickly you all allowed me to become a part of the scene here, and I look forward to giving back for many years and seasons to come.
Steve Kleinedler started doing improv in 1982 and studied and performed off and on in the 1980s and 1990s. He began performing at ImprovBoston in 2001 and teaching and directing there in 2004. He performed with IB’s Harold Team Marjean for three years. Steve directed numerous improv troupes and shows at IB, including The Family Show (2004-2007), Backstory (a ‘Memento’-inspired improv show, which he reprised with Hot Dish for the Philly Fringe festival in 2012), and IB’s sketch ensemble The Ruckus (2007-2010). He’s directed numerous one-person shows and scripted plays. At PHIT he currently directs PHIT house team Hot Dish and has appeared onstage in numerous guises, including Half-Life with Nathan Edmondson. He is also a founding member of Shattered Globe Theatre in Chicago.