Upcoming Shows

  • July 24, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • July 24, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • July 25, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • July 25, 2014 7:30 pmFirst Fridays w/ Interrobang
  • July 25, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • July 25, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • July 25, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • July 25, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • July 26, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • July 26, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • July 26, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • July 26, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • July 26, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • July 31, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • July 31, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • August 1, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • August 1, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • August 1, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • August 1, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 1, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 2, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • August 2, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • August 2, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • August 2, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • August 2, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
AEC v1.0.4

Comedy Love Letter – from Kristen Schier to Improv 101 Students

by Kristen Schier

Here is why I love you, Improv 101 Student: You are embarking on a huge adventure even if you aren’t aware of it yet. Your willingness to discover and to try something new is courageous and inspiring. I wait with anticipation to see how you will change the face of the scene in Philly as you become more involved–and you will become more involved, because improv is a sort of cult. Ok, improv is definitely a cult—but don’t be scared, because it’s a benign cult. But definitely a cult. (One more time: “cult.”)Some level one students sign up without any idea of what they are getting into. Some are returning to improvisation/acting or a creative endeavor for the first time in a long time. Some of you have loved improv for years, but this is your first time giving it a shot in a brand new city. No matter what, you’re on an adventure, and you’re making new discoveries, and for that I admire you. At the risk of sounding cheesy, a sense of discovery is what it’s all about, isn’t it? I love watching people discover/rediscover how much fun it is to play. I mean, it’s darn-right inspiring.

Also, the willingness of the new improv student to jump into the unknown and be game for anything is a great reminder for more experienced improvisers of how they’re supposed to play. I suppose someone could make the claim that this doesn’t apply to all level one students, and that my portrait of the level one student is somewhat idealized.  And to them I say, “Yup, you’re probably right. But some of them do exist, and those are the ones I care about.” I think that a beginning student’s sense of adventure is a model for those who have been improvising a while longer, and consequently have a bit of a stick up their bum about it. Improvisers who have been working for a long time develop a somewhat understandable sophomoric skepticism about the work. They start to close themselves off from possibilities. Not everyone—just some people. And these are the exact people who need to watch a level one class, and see that the students in there are trying things that are brand new, and playing in a wonderful, earnest way.

As an experienced improviser, I’ve learned from my level one students to always try new things—which is a great way to prevent myself from developing a myopic view of the world. Being around level one students is one of the reasons I recently forced myself to sign up for a dodgeball group, even though I pretty much suck at dodgeball. Level one students, by their example, continuously encourage me to venture outside my comfort zone.  Of course life is and should be about more than just improv—but I guess it’s strange that a group of people signing up for an improv class reminds me of that, and reminds me that I should always be looking to try something else – something new, different and definitely uncomfortable. I can’t wait to see what I sign up for next. (I’m thinking some sort of martial art. Yeah, that ought to do it. So, thanks for that, too, level one-ers.)

And here comes the creepy cult-like part: I remember when I first started hanging around improv shows and falling in love with improv, and how the people I met became my really good friends—and I like that I see that happening with you students who are just beginning now. I hate to think that any of you will stay shy and/or intimidated in such an open and accepting culture. We can appear to be a closed group at times, but none of us are perfect, and I can assure you that at one point in time all of us were “new.” But it did not take long for this community to absorb us. So—see you around!

Kristen Schier is one half of the Philadelphia-based improv duo The Amie & Kristen Show/The Kristen & Amie Show, as well as a Philly Improv Theater instructor; improv instructor at University of the Arts; director for PHIT House Team ZaoGao; and Artistic Director for the short-form Philadelphia improv group The N Crowd.

Want to write a Comedy Love Letter to your favorite comedian, theater, improv team or sketch group? Email alison@witout.net!

Full Schedule for The 8th Annual Philadelphia Improv Festival

Below you can find the full schedule for this year’s Philadelphia Improv Festival. All shows take place on the second floor of The Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut St. Philadelphia). Tickets for the event are $10 for a single block of shows, $15 for a full night (Wednesday, Thursday), $20 for a full night (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), or $60 for a full festival pass and can be purchased online.

WEDNESDAY, NOV 7TH

7:30PM
Rintersplit - Philadelphia
Nielsen - Philadelphia
Hot Dish - Philadelphia

9:00PM
Gross Butler - Philadelphia
Chaperone - Philadelphia
Beauty School Dropouts - Toronto
Davenger - Philadelphia

THURSDAY, NOV 8TH

7:30PM
N Crowd - Philadelphia
Firth&Arjet - Austin
Soiree - Philadelphia

9:00PM
Iron Lung - Philadelphia
Photobomb - Baltimore
King Friday - Philadelphia
Briami Sound Machine - Chicago

FRIDAY, NOV 9TH

7:00PM
Mister Licorice - Baltimore
Popular Science - Los Angeles
ZaoGao - Philadelphia

8:30PM
Adrift - Various Cities
Wisdom Teeth - Philadelphia / Los Angeles
‘Til Death Do Us Part - Philadelphia

10:00PM
The Imposters - New York City
BWP - Philadelphia
Rich Uncle - Boston
Grimacchio - Philadelphia

SATURDAY, NOV 10TH

7:00PM
Birthday Milk - Boston
Lekker - Baltimore
Junior Varsity - New York City

8:30PM
Hey Rube - Philadelphia
ImprovBoston - Boston
BillyHawk - Los Angeles

10:00PM
Live Nude Improv - Austin - AGES 18 & OVER W/ ID

11:00PM
PHIF All-Stars - Various Cities
Rare Bird Show - Philadelphia / Los Angeles
Vox Pop - Brooklyn / DC

SUNDAY, NOV 11TH

7:00PM
Population: Six - Baltimore
Double Date - New York City
Suggestical - Philadelphia

8:30PM
Mayor Karen - Philadelphia
Scoresby - New York City
Amie & Kristen Show / Kristen & Amie Show - Philadelphia
ShawnMikael(s) - DC

Discussing a Bit with Matt Holmes – I Decry All Improv Rules

by Matt Holmes

The biggest hurdle for good improv is the rules for good improv. Most rules are phrased as strict negatives. Few tell you what youshould do. Many are vague, optimistic tips for how to handle stuff, instead of how to create stuff.

These all swirl around in people’s brains, along with the mechanics of performing. It can be confusing, frustrating, and counter-productive, especially when coupled with a freewheeling, everything-is-good attitude.

People seem to like rules and want a clear do or don’t, but they can be problematic.


Yes And
My problem with the concept of “Yes And” is that it’s tailored for how to respond. Improvisers first need something to say yes to, yet this second step is often the first rule you learn. Giving this as the be-all/end-all number-one rule of improv leads to boring scenes that go nowhere or obnoxious scenes that go straight to insanity.

This rule also leads to beginners who literally say “yes” to everything, no matter how awkward. They then become experts who follow in any and every direction that happens, instead of picking a track and staying on it.

“Yes And” leads to scenes that are all beginnings, with no middles or ends.

Agreement
Players need to agree upon the facts of a scene, because improv doesn’t use props or costumes or sets to convey information. Hesitation and resistance can stall an improv scene, so players should be willing, but that’s a different concern.

However, the concept of agreement can be confusing and lead to characters that only ever say yes to things and a backlash against anything other than an explicit “yes” in a scene.

I think a better term is “accepting.”

  • Improvisers can accept the fact that there’s a table in the room, but decide whether or not their character agrees that it’s pretty.
  • Improvisers can accept the fact that their partner’s character wants to rob a bank or go to a movie, but decide whether or not their character agrees that it’s a good idea.

No Questions
This rule sucks, and it’s often one of the first taught. In life, people ask questions. Theatre is a reproduction of life. Similarly, life involves strangers, teachers, and transactions (also outlawed), no matter how tricky it can be to do a scene with them.

It’s fine to clarify the difference between demanding stuff from your partner and offering it, but making a rule out of it just leads to stressed improvisers thinking about the rule instead of playing.

Plus, if you can do a scene that’s only questions (a thing people do), then you can certainly do a scene with one or two questions.

Take Your Third Idea
Improvisers don’t have time to come up with an idea, judge it negatively, and repeat. Improvisers should take anything and make it work.

Play to the Height of Your Intelligence / Don’t Think
The phrasing of these two rules, especially when learned in conjunction, is the zenith of confusion. How do I use my intelligence if I’m not thinking?

Sometimes, people can get ahead of themselves. They start planning instead of playing. Sometimes, people will do lowest-common-denominator comedy that doesn’t challenge themselves or their audiences.

Teachers, directors, and coaches can clarify the situation without turning it into a rule that people can fail at. People can play sloppy and stupid sometimes; help them not do that without stressing their minds.

Get the Who/What/Where/Names/Relationship in the First Three Lines
Firstly, this tip leads to scenes that start with too much exposition and go nowhere. Secondly, improv scenes aren’t about facts.

Scripted scenes also aren’t about facts. Whether it’s in a ballroom or a prison, you can get the feel of the scene without worrying about the details, especially not all at the beginning. You can do a lot more with a lot less stress if you focus on showing instead of telling.

There’s nothing wrong with details; they can make all the difference and be really fun. But they should be the icing, not the cake. Also, some details don’t matter.

Make Your Partner Look Good
My big problem with this is how vague it is. It’s nice to nudge players towards helping each other and point out behaviors that aren’t “playing well with others.” But how and when exactly are do you make your partner look good? This concept gets warped into people forgetting about themselves and playing sloppily because they’re worried about someone else.

A lot of improv techniques are lovey-dovey and hippie-dippie and end up being helpful paradigms for working together, but let’s remember that you’re performing for an audience. Otherwise, it’s not art; it’s art therapy.

Thou Shalt Not Shine Above Thy Fellow Players
While you don’t want somebody hogging the limelight or screwing somebody over to get a laugh, you don’t want to discourage people from doing their best. I’d rather have to keep up with someone great than herd mediocrity.

Making a rule for this topic leads to players afraid to stand out, try hard, or take risks. Talk about it, but don’t make it into a commandment.

Don’t Pimp
Pimping is making your partner do something. The label of pimping can be slapped onto anything in improv, and you could say that everything any improviser does or says demands something from their partner.

The best ensembles have members who trust and support each other through anything that comes up and have fun creating together. Even if they pimp their partner, it’s not a problem.

  • If you know that your partner has your back, you’ll let them do anything to you.
  • If you have your partner’s back, you’ll never let them suffer (too much).

Listen
This seemingly clear word can be used vaguely in improv, and the accusation of not listening can happen at any time, from literally not hearing something to not getting what somebody intended or wanted to just not being on the same wavelength as your partners. Focusing on listening can be great, but boiling it down into a rule that you violate is not helpful.

Don’t Wimp
Wimping is making a weak offer or not doing enough with what you’re given. This issue phrased as a rule leads to improvisers afraid to do anything simple or realistic. Any and every choice can work.

Don’t Try To Be Funny
I think it’s a mistake to shift gears away from comedy in the form of a tip or guideline. People get into improv because they are or wish to be funny or fun or interesting.

It’s better to show people how to be funny (via the acting and writing that improv is) and explain what else is being created, rather than just telling them not to try to be funny.

Make The Active Choice
There’s nothing wrong with being active, but it’s just one option. Making it a requirement is like telling all painters to always only use blue.

I think the hesitation seen in improvisers is a symptom of the overwhelming and confusing nature of improv rules (as well as just warming up to playing), rather than being a disease of its own.

If your character is shy about jumping off the diving board, making the active choice destroys that choice. Of course, you shouldn’t play every scene as someone who is hesitant, shy, or disagreeable.

Create Conflict
This might be the rarest rule, but perhaps the most damaging. The majority of improv education is about reducing conflict between players, but then there’s a faction that says every scene needs conflict between the characters.

Again, it’s one choice of what could happen in a scene.

Don’t Talk about the Past, Future, or Anything Not on Stage

If there can be a scripted show about waiting for someone who never arrives, then there can be an improv scene where two characters reminisce.

If you start a scene about two people complaining about their boss, I want more of that, not to blow the scene’s wad by jumping immediately to seeing the boss.

Be Changed
This is another good option that shouldn’t be forced. Characters are interesting when you see them develop, but let’s earn it.

If you’re going to make a rule, at least make it something like “Be Capable of Changing If You Want That To Happen.”

Find the Game of the Scene

Determining what ‘game’ is and how you play it is a blurry, moving target for even the best players. Game becomes a spiritual feeling, instead of anything pragmatically achievable.

Underlying all the games, patterns, deals, motifs, routines, and breaking of routines is the simple concept of repetition and doing more of something that everyone has invested in.

That’s all you really need: a track to follow. A good education in improv should highlight what works and how to get there. Creating a label for success, instead of a method, leads to formulaic scenes and limited players (or frustrated people who gave up).

Justify
In improv, you’re creating an entire universe with its own reality. Whatever you say is true. You don’t need to explain. You don’t need to derail everything to follow that tangent.

Everyone is accepting that you’re an octopus lawyer; they’ll accept that this jury has 13 people. Don’t get distracted trying to make sense of things. Don’t explain away the interesting thing that’s happening. Don’t destroy what someone else is creating because you feel like you’re on a tightrope; you’re supposed to feel like that.

Don’t Deny/Cancel/Bulldoze/Steamroll
It’s easy to screw your partner over in improv. You can ignore them and even disintegrate what they’ve created. This creates confusion for everybody.

The problem with these as rules is that you can accuse anybody of doing any of these. It shouldn’t just be a violation; it should be a discussion.

Of course, a good teacher can clarify rules, explain away any confusion, put things into context, and give real examples.

Of course, people can misunderstand anything and create a rule in their head even when it’s not presented as one.

There are bigger, deeper issues that improvisers could work on if they get past the few, limited, basic-level rules for making stuff up together.

Improv education seems to be especially rules-based, more than other things you could learn. Perhaps it grew out of the history of improv as games with rules of play. Perhaps it’s because improv is so ephemeral that we’re drawn to anything solid and certain. Some rules were more helpful 10 or 20 years ago, but now they’re immortalized in a book. Some things that weren’t a strict rule got edited down into items on a list.

Rules aren’t inherently bad, but you can really do a lot of damage with them, and they can really get in your way.

My work in improv focuses on reducing fear and doubt and judgments. I try to get people to play, to make any choice and then make that choice work by doing it more and bigger.

If you’re trying to make something out of nothing, you want a small number of clear, simple, pragmatic things to do (instead of what not to do). In something as free as improv, you shouldn’t let any “rules” hold you back.

Matt Holmes is an improviser in Philly. He performs a full improv comedy set with a complete stranger from the audience in Matt& (“playful and winning” –TimeOut Chicago). He also teaches improv and co-founded Rare Bird Show (“Top Shelf” –The Apiary, “Philly’s homegrown ‘enfants terrible’” –Inquirer, “Seven Thumbs Up” –Phil, “arguably the best improv group Philly has ever produced” –AV Club).

Look for the next installment of “Discussing a Bit,” Matt’s monthly WitOut column, on December 1st.

Have a comedy issue or theory you’d like Matt to examine? Email alison@witout.net.

 

Comedy Around the Web, Vol. 5

Splitsider and Billy Merritt illustrated the Six Different Types of Improv Students.

Comedy Central revamped their Jokes.com page, where you can watch classic clips and highlights from the latest stand-up specials and series, read about stand-up, tweet about stand-up, live, breathe, dream stand-up.

Creative fans have the chance to win a walk-on role in the new season of Arrested Development.

They gave away some Emmy Awards for comedy at the Emmy Awards.

Bill Burr talked to Splitsider about his new special, his alt-room statements, false outrage, and more.

Here’s an anthology of animated GIFs from South Park. Why not?

Chris Parnell and Deon Cole reveal the iPhone 5′s secret sexy feature on Conan. Chris Parnell makes everything better.

The Return of…Asteroid’s B-Movie Teaser

All through the month of October, Philly Improv Theater House Team Asteroid will present their B Movie format – an improvised tribute show celebrating the fun of the low-budget sci-fi/horror films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The group has released this second teaser video for their shows.

Asteroid’s B Movie runs all through October at Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St. Philadelphia). Tickets and schedule for PHIT shows can be found online.

8 Simple Rules for Dating Someone in Your Improv Group

By: Greg Maughan

1. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
2. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
3. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
4. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
5. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
6. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
7. If you are considering dating someone in your improv group and you are both straight but of the opposite sex, consider talking yourself into having gender reassignment surgery. If that doesn’t work, convince the person you are interested in to undergo the sex change. This approach also works for homosexual improv group members who are both of the same gender at the beginning of the attraction.
8. Don’t date someone in your improv group.

Greg Maughan is the Executive Director of Philly Improv Theater, currently in their first of a six week run of shows at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St. Philadelphia). You can find their schedule and purchase tickets online.

Asteroid’s B Movie Teaser

All through the month of October, Philly Improv Theater House Team Asteroid will present their B Movie format – an improvised tribute show celebrating the fun of the low-budget sci-fi/horror films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The group has released this teaser video for their shows.

Asteroid’s B Movie runs all through October at Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St. Philadelphia). Tickets and schedule for PHIT shows can be found online.

Fringe Festival Preview: Davenger

By Hilary Kissinger

I felt compelled to write in to WitOut to share my feelings. I like to write, and I have a lot of feelings. Lately, a lot of my good feelings have been happening on Wednesday nights, when my Philly Improv Theater house team Davenger rehearses.

I recently moved to Brooklyn because my husband got a fancy new job there. But because of my feelings, I just couldn’t leave this group of people or give up the incredible experience of learning and performing with them. Here’s what keeps me coming back on a crowded Megabus, and what we will strive to share with you during our Fringe Festival run:

1. Our good friend Harold. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be seeing the word “classic” cropping up next to this long form structure. Well-known in the improv community, the Harold has a long history stretching back to its development by Del Close in the 1960s, but it still felt revolutionary to me when I was first introduced to it in 2006. I feel like it is an excellent vehicle for a team to develop its skills and craft a cohesive performance, and I am really happy that Davenger has chosen to explore the Harold’s challenges and satisfactions. Our director Maggy Keegan has an excellent eye for both the macro and micro levels of attention that the Harold demands, and she encourages us to reflect on our work not only as collected bits of comedy but also as thematically-linked commentary. She also likes when we make creepy faces.

2. Chemistry. (You know, like on Breaking Bad.) Another thing Maggy’s done for Davenger (every time I drop her name I get to take the suggestion for another show) is really focus on the unique strengths of each individual on the team. We’ve done two rounds of “clinics” in rehearsal, where we’ll spend 15 minutes or so working with one particular improviser on something he or she has identified as a personal challenge. I love this. It’s really liberating to get to proclaim, “I think I’m bad at this!” and to have the group say, “We’ve got your back. Let’s play about it!” Maggy (+3) has created a really supportive space that encourages a lot of feedback. Usually that feedback is – “Fuck you, Dan.” This is a big compliment.

3. The Warm-Up. You won’t actually see it at a Davenger show, but somewhere, probably in the basement beneath your seats as you settle in with a PBR, it is happening. A manic, incomprehensible goulash of circle games is devolving into bits, and patterns are becoming infected with patterns in an ever-repeating comedy fractal. Ok, so basically we point at each other and clap our hands at the same time. But you can expect it to sound something like this:

You – Yes – You – Yes – Rusty – Yes – Bear – Yes – clap clapclap clapclapclap – zoom – zoom – oilslick! – zoom – ERR! – zoom – Reasonable Beets! – Ladder Man! – clap clap clap clapclap clap clap – Run DMC – Yes – Method Man – Yes – NINJA SCREAMS – OldTimeyProspectorsYeeeeHOOOOO!pewpewpew

Just know that everything you see on stage is informed by this ritual. Sometimes there are Stallone impressions.

4. Memes. Because Davenger is a thing, that means it needs a “social media presence.” That means that I have an outlet to create and share pictures with words over top of them. Here’s one that Alex made:

Topical.

5. Cupcakes & Nicknames. At our first rehearsal, we selected nicknames for one of the circle games in our warmup. It looks like we’ll have them forever. We also really like cupcakes. Cait made these cherry limeade beauties for our potluck team dinner:

And Jess made these nickname-cakes back when we were still codenamed “Westmarch”:

Anyway. Be jealous of our cupcakes.

I seriously love improvising with Davenger, and I want to share them with the world. But not the cupcakes. I won’t share those.

Davenger is: Dan Corkery, Hilary Kissinger, Nicholas Mirra, Alex Newman, Cait O’Driscoll, Kevin Pettit, Brian Rumble, Jessica Snow, and Max Sittenfield. They are directed by Maggy Keegan.

Davenger performs Wednesday, September 12 – Saturday, September 15 on the Mainstage at the Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) Tickets can be purchased online.

Fringe Festival Preview: Myths and Monsters

Myths and Monsters director Nick Gillette

Philly Fringe is just around the corner. This annual festival brings the world’s newest and most cutting-edge cultural experiences to our city, amplifying the vibrancy of Philadelphia as a renowned cultural center. Philly Improv Theater contributes to this vibrancy with an entire month of special programing that will certainly entertain and entice, including the upcoming improv show, Myths & Monsters.

Myths & Monsters improvises theatrical tales by spontaneously performing stories of heroic transformation. The improv group moves and breathes in tandem. Each member depicts a monstrous beast or terrifying deity amidst trials and transformations.

This team finds inspiration in stories that trace back to King Arthur and beyond and have been reincarnated in films such as The Matrix and the Star Wars trilogy. The hero myth is a personal journey full of dragon battles, night sea journeys, impossible trials and supernatural aid. Each night of performance, the ensemble will reach deep into their collective unconscious and draw forth two new fantastical tales of heroism and adventure.

Directed by Nick Gillette, the cast of Myths & Monsters is: Ben Grinberg, Nikitas Menotiades, Brian Ratcliffe, Jess Ross, Kristen Schier, Molly Scullion, Adam Siry, Jess Snow, and Alison Zeidman

Director Nick Gillette is a local actor and PHIT instructor who began performing improv in 2002 with his Colgate University team Charred Goosebeak. He’s made appearances at Skidmore College’s National College Comedy Festival and the Del Close Marathon in NYC. He has studied under Armando Diaz, Keith Johnstone and Joe Bill and is currently improvising with several groups, including the unabashedly uninhibited gang, Medic. Nick is also a founding member of the PHIT house team, Mayor Karen.

Nick’s non-comedy adventures include performances with the 1920′s-inspired burlesque troupe Cabaret Red Light, giving tours at Eastern State Penitentiary and, his longtime hobby, playing 2nd edition Shadowrun, a science fantasy role-playing game where he pretends he is a cybernetically enhanced hacker hiding out in Central America. He’s currently a student at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training.

Nick took a little time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions about his upcoming show.

WO: The concept of Myths & Monsters is very smart and unique. How did you come up with it? What sparked the initial thought?

NG: This all came out of a conversation with Cubby Altobelli. We were talking about his work in Commedia dell’Arte and how there are these immortal archetypes for characters. It reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s ideas that there are immortal forms for stories too, and since I have improv on the brain almost constantly, the show sort of presented itself.

WO: Besides a clear influence for the performances narrative, what else makes M&M unique from your average improv show?

NG: The myth is the form, but the monsters are the crazy cool part of the show. We’ve spent a ton of time really working the ‘group mind’ of the performers. Moving as one, supporting a choice instantly without even knowing where it’ll lead. I have to hand it to the cast for the inventiveness and commitment to these creatures, some of them have been hilarious, some have given me true chills, all of them are incredible to watch.

WO: You mention Star Wars and The Matrix as modern examples of hero’s tales. Should fans expect to see some modern references as well?

NG: Nah. I chose those as recognizable examples of the hero story format, but I always feel like pop-culture references punch a hole in a show by winking and saying “hey, look at us improvising.” I want the performers and audience to get swept up in these stories, really drawn into the worlds, just in the way we can get sucked into a really good book and forget ourselves. If you want a film comparison, it’ll probably be closer to Jim Henson style stuff. Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, those sorts of fantasy worlds.

WO: You and your cast have been in rehearsal for some time. What has been your biggest challenge in putting this together?

NG: I don’t know how hard I can push my cast without being a bully. I want them to take real risks in performance. I want them to dig deep, to trust that they’ve got each others backs, to perform to their fullest. At the same time, I don’t know how much I can legitimately ask of them as volunteers. It’s a weird mix. We say things like “don’t go for the joke” and “truth in comedy,” but asking a performer to be honest and vulnerable on stage is another matter.

WO: As the director what has been the biggest surprise to you during this process?

NG: I was amazed at how quickly the cast got it. I would propose a kernel of an idea and see them pick it up and run with it in surprising and exciting ways. For instance, I saw Alison Zeidman, a not terribly imposing looking person, stare down and tame an enormous, threatening storm demon. It was epic, and I’m not using that word in its watered-down internet sense. I think maybe that’s the point of this show. We’re bringing epic back.

A PHIT production, Myths & Monsters can be seen as a part of the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe at the Adrienne Theater , 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103 at 7:30pm from September 6, 2012 -to September 9, 2012. Tickets can be purchased online through Leap Ticket.

Breakdown of a Bad Improv Workshop, Set to Run From Noon – 2:30

By: Matt Holmes

11:40:
The overly eager and overly early arrive to find a locked building with no signage. They wait.

11:50:
The regularly early arrive. Everyone meets everyone else and discusses the situation. They wait.

11:53:
Somebody arrives to open the door.

11:56:
The workshop instructor arrives, says hi to everybody and goes to the bathroom.

12:03:
The instructor tells everybody that they’ll start in five minutes and give people a little more time.

12:11:
“Well, I guess we’ll get started.”

12:11 – 12:13:
Roll call with three people not present

12:13 – 12:17:
Sitting in a circle as the first three people briefly introduce themselves, their complete improv background, an attempt at a joke, and a self-deprecating comment

12:17 – 12:19:
The fourth person in the circle goes into every last detail of her life leading up to this point.

12:19 – 12:20:
The rest of the people introduce themselves briefly.

12:20 – 12:25:
Instructor explains the plan for the workshop, now for the first time really thinking about it.

12:25 – 12:40:
A basic warm-up that’s overly simplistic for all but two participants who can’t grasp the mechanics or have like absolutely no rhythm or just can’t think of anything or have a really bad memory, so sorry everybody

12:33:
A late student arrives, complaining about traffic and parking, while carrying a coffee.

12:41 – 12:53:
Instructor explains in complete detail how the first exercise will work and how we’re pressed for time because most real workshops are at least three hours and this one, for some strange reason, is only two and a half, which really is not enough time.

12-53 – 1:10:
3-Line Scenes, alternating between jokey punchlines and confused arguments

1:10 – 1:17:
An open discussion about the previous exercise, trying to remember what happened, while highlighting problems and explaining rules of what never to do and what always to do

1:18 – 1:30:
An exercise focused on loose organic transitions and freeing yourself up to follow wherever it goes and being open

1:30 – 1:40:
An open discussion about the previous exercise, trying to remember what happened while highlighting problems and explaining rules of what never to do and what always to do

1:40 – 1:45:
Instructor asks everyone how they’re feeling about the work, everyone shrugs their shoulders and says they feel okay but wish they were doing better, and one student speaks at length about confusions and specific examples of “just not getting it”

1:45:
“Let’s take a ten-minute break to hit the bathroom, feed the meter, take a smoke break, etc.”

1:46:
One student has to leave early and thanks the instructor.

1:59:
“Okay, I guess we should get back to it. Let’s circle up and get warmed up again.”

2:00 – 2:04:
A children’s game with vague connections to theatricality

2:04 – 2:07:
Two students improvise a patient, engaging scene with an interesting point to it.

2:07 – 2:09:
Instructor points out that we didn’t know the characters’ names, if they were sisters or just friends, and that it wasn’t clear if they were in a restaurant or in somebody’s kitchen.

2:09 – 2:17:
Four more improvised scenes struggling to be coherent and interesting

2:17 – 2:22:
Instructor shifts gears into a series of scenes where students tag each other out.

2:22 – 2:25:
Students discuss the scenes, most citing that they were just about to do something good before they got tagged out.

2:25 – 2:34:
Another round of scenes with tag-outs; students now make quicker punchlines

2:34:
“Well, we’re a little over the time when we were supposed to end. Does anybody mind if we go a little longer?”

2:34 – 2:41:
Another round of scenes with tag-outs; instructor pauses each scene to discuss how truthful the scenes feel and then having them continue

2:43:
Instructor thanks everybody for coming and ends the workshop

2:43 – 2:50:
Casual discussion among students and instructor

2:45:
An overly eager student arrives for a workshop scheduled to start at 3.