New improv production company Figment Theater kicks off their season this Thursday with the first edition of the Vagabond Sessions, a show that’ll be put on every two weeks, but never in the same place twice. Here’s Figment Artistic Director Maggy Keegan with more about this show as well as other plans for the theater.
WitOut: What do you think are some of the advantages of doing a series of pop-up shows like this, as opposed to a regular show at a set location?
Maggy Keegan: One of the reasons we chose to do pop-up shows is that we liked the idea of improv being ephemeral; something that we create for a moment and then it’s gone. So we wanted that concept to echo throughout everything we did from our venues down to the name of the theater itself. It’s the idea that what we do—from our longer-running season to our one-night shows—all have this sense of being in the moment.
WO: Will the format for the Vagabond Sessions always be the same—AD Showcase, then a special guest, and then the Table?
MK: We wanted the Vagabond Sessions to be a place for improvisers and ensembles to take risks so the structure of the line-up hopefully pairs risk-taking and exploration along with really fun, strong work. For the Table, I wanted to bring together a group of improvisers who I really admire and who I thought might work well together in a particular form to anchor the night. And the AD Showcase is the Artistic Director’s Showcase, which essentially is just me playing with different people each time. There are tons of improvisers in Philadelphia that I really would love to play with so the AD Showcase is my selfish wish to do that in action. I don’t know that this will always be the same structure. Mostly I am in for whatever makes sense for the night and whatever is feeding that sense of pushing the boundaries of what we think we can do and how it can make us better at what we do.
WO: The group you’re playing in for this session’s AD Showcase is Rowbit. Was that a group formed just for this show, or do you guys plan to perform regularly?
MK: Luke Field, Alex Newman, Emily Davis and I formed Rowbit because we all love game-based improv and we wanted to put together a group that could study it together. We have our first performance Thursday and then we are going to get to perform again in May at PHIT. I am incredibly excited. I have admired the three of them for a long time in terms of their intelligence and moves they make on stage and so I can’t wait to play with them.
WO: This is the first official show for Figment Theater. Can you describe the mission of the theater, and some of your long-term plans?
MK: The official mission statement of the theater is: “…to cultivate and nurture quality improvisational theater with artists and audiences through shared experiences rooted in fearless performance and nimble innovation.” We see comedic improv as an art form so for us this means that we want to provide a place for improvisers to explore whatever this art form means to them through different improv forms (such as the Deconstruction or Close Quarters), with people they’re interested and excited about working with, and within constructs that we find interesting to us, such as an Improvised Slasher Movie or by pairing improvisers we would love to see together with our Courtship Series in the Summer. I would also have to add that for me the audience is an integral part of why we do what we do. So, with all the risk-taking and boundary-pushing we’re interested in doing, we’re equally interested in creating work that is accessible to the audience. I am proud to be an improviser and I would like to introduce more people into that. It’s one of the major reasons I moved back to Philadelphia from Los Angeles.
WO: What are some other things coming up for Figment that you’re excited about?
MK: I’m really excited about some of the projects improvisers have sent me for the Vagabond series. There is some really cool innovative stuff that is happening. I also am excited for our season; Matt has some wonderful things planned for that in terms of the summer and fall. I can’t wait to see and be scared by the improvised Slasher movie.
But mostly, I have to say that I am incredibly excited to be working with some wonderful people. Matt Nelson, who is the Managing Director for Figment, is an incredibly talented producer and he’s wonderful to work with. We have a wonderful Board who has been helping us shape who we are more fully—Mary Carpenter, Jen Curcio, and Brian Rumble and their thoughts and insights into how we do what we do have been really important. We also have Hilary Kissinger and Kate Banford helping us with Marketing and Kate Banford and Cait O’Driscoll have been finding us really fun spaces to play. The fact that they take time out from what they’re doing to be a part of this is incredible and what they bring has been integral to the launch and the vision of what we’re doing. Theater is a collaborative art and being able to work with talented, committed people is what energizes and excites me about the theater.
Figment Theatre’s first ‘Vagabond Sessions’ is this Thursday, March 28th at Fleisher Art Memorial (719 Catherine Street). Show starts at 8PM. Admission is $5.