Upcoming Shows

  • September 4, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 4, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • September 5, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 5, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • September 5, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 5, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 5, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 6, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 6, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 6, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 6, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 6, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • September 11, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 11, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • September 12, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 12, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 12, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • September 12, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 12, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 13, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 13, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 13, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 13, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 13, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • September 18, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
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Thrones fans — Check out Mike Marbach’s “Stark Raven Mad” recap podcast

Stark Raven Mad

Monday morning, following this weekend’s season finale of Game of Thrones, visit MikeMarbach.com for an new episode of Stark Raven Mad. This cleverly titled podcast recaps each week’s episodes and features a panel of comedians from the Philadelphia improv scene.

Consisting of some book-readers and some TV-only viewers, the panel of mega-fans will break down each episode and select the episode’s winners and losers. Care is taken not to spoil yet-to-be-broadcast plot-lines; much gratitude to the well-read Westerati. The TV-only fans will make predictions, including Marbach’s Stone Cold Lock of the Century of the Week.

“My stone-cold lock of the century of the week from last week’s show was quite detailed: [editor's note: If you are caught up on the show, the following predictions will not spoil anything. However, if you ARE NOT up to date with the TV show--as of the June 8th, 2014 episode--these predictions may spoil quite a great deal. Just to be safe: **SPOILERS**] This week we will see the end of House Clegane. The Mountain will be shown to still be alive, but quickly deteriorating not just due to the wounds inflicted by Oberyn Martell but also because the spear was coated with poison (there was a scene in that episode kind-of maybe sort-of showing that). The Mountain will die. Hopefully painfully. The Hound will die, not from his infection from the Biter’s bite, but by Arya in an act of “mercy”. The specifics here I’m not certain on… whether the Hound asks her to end his life because he knows he was on her list, or because Arya has just become so desensitized that she sees this as the best thing to do regardless of his wishes. End result is the same, she takes him off the list and then heads for Bravos to find Jakan Hagaar.”

This upcoming Monday’s episode will feature guest pannelists Frank Farrell, David Donnella, Whitney Harris, Corin Wells, Rob Alesiani, Kevin Pettit and Lizzie Spellman.

The Sideshow Moves to PHIT

sideshowMike Marbach’s two and a half year old improv and variety comedy showcase The Sideshow is moving from The Arts Parlor on Broad Street to the new permanent Phit location at the Adrienne Theater.

Writes Mike Marbach on his website, “Two of the reasons I started Sideshow are now no longer relevant. The first is Beirdo has scattered to the ends of the Earth with occasional (and awesome) shows. The other is that starting later in January 2014 The Philly Improv Theater will have a permanent home at the Adrienne Theater with shows 52 weeks a year! So the need for The Sideshow to fill in the gaps of PHIT weeks will no longer be there and as [Philly Improv Theater's] Education Director I didn’t want to be running a “competing” effort. So, after some talks- The Sideshow is moving to PHIT starting January 23rd!” (You can read the full article at MikeMarbach.com).

brewery comedy

Meanwhile, The Sideshow’s space and time will be filled at the Arts Parlor with a new showcase called The Brewery (visit the facebook event page here).

The Brewery will be run by a local improv group called Bill Parks, which is comprised of current PHIT students (Erin Coffey, Erica Paradisi, Adam Perkins, Sofya Piro, Stacy Sanseverino, Rajiv Sharma, Adam Steiger, Sean Sullivan, Joe Tuzzi) and directed by Alex J. Gross.

Members of Bill Parks told Marbach, “Our view of the show is that it will emulate a brewery in more than name alone. Experiment, collaborate and enjoy the results. In general, the show will be similar to the Sideshow. Established comedic talents and budding new acts will take to the stage, bringing a consistently great show to the Arts Parlor twice a month.”

The first Brewery will be on Friday, January 11th at 8pm.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Singin’ with the Cast of ‘The Sideshow Musical Revue’

This Thursday, The Sideshow continues on its mission to get performers to try new things and venture out of their comfort zones with a musical revue starring a cast of local improvisers—most of whom have little musical theater experience beyond karaoke at O’Neals.”Trying different things is how I feel I’ve gotten better,” says Mike Marbach, Sideshow creator and producer. “The more experience you get outside of improv, the more you’re going to bring into your improv.”

The theme of the show is love, from wanting it and trying to find it to hating it and decrying it.  We went to a recent rehearsal and got to talk to a few of the cast members about the songs they’ll be performing.

Kristen Schier (The Amie & Kristen Show, The N Crowd): One of the songs that I’m singing is the song “Alone” by Heart. I chose that one because I love to sing it in karaoke, but the reason I love to sing is because I’ve always wanted to be a rock star. But I never had the confidence to. I know this sounds corny or whatever but honestly doing comedy over the years and learning about confidence and teaching people that it’s all about confidence has given me the confidence to sing the way that song requires and the other songs in the show require. I’m not the best singer, but I love singing and I’m still confident in what I can do. I don’t think I could do it the same without having been taught that in the improv classes that I’ve taken and it’s good to be able to step into a different medium, so to speak, and just run with it.

Erin Pitts (ZaoGao): I’m doing “There are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease. It was a song I could sing decently I guess [laughs]. There will be a little bit of comedy throughout the show. In mine I think I’m just going to be singing—I hope people don’t laugh at me if I’m trying to be serious about it! But as far as improv goes, I don’t know if I’m really borrowing anything from improv, just the acting part and the being comfortable in front of people part.

Brett Knobloch (Asteroid!): I’m singing a song called “Making Love Alone.” The song is about loving yourself. I figured everyone was going to be doing songs about someone else, so I thought it would be nice to do a song about yourself.  It’s a song that was written for Bernadette Peters, and she did it on Saturday Night Live. It’s sort of just a straight-up cabaret piece, and that’s how I’m going to do it. It’s almost like this pretty ballad—it’s more suggestive than it is lewd. And that’s why I like it, the humor comes from the subtlety.

Chris Caletta (Hot Dish): I’m doing “Earth Angel,” from Back to the Future. I think it’s a great movie. I am going to break down at some point [like in the film], and hopefully we can come up with a twist on it too, I’m not quite sure. I just wanted to try something different. I do music stuff too, so it’ll be neat to bring it into the comedy realm and see how that goes.

Milkshake (Asteroid!): I don’t have any musical theater background whatsoever. I’m singing “Love Stinks,” which is more of a classic rock song. It’s very disparaging of love I suppose; very teen angst-y. Mike thought it was really appropriate for me to do because of I guess when Asteroid! does [the improv singing game] “Hot Spot” in warm-ups. I’m not a J. Geils fan…but I guess I mock it well? I’m not mocking it but I can affect that in games that we play and comedic situations. I think what I’m supposed to do is break out of the very theatrical musical number [which precedes my song] and just sauce it up and be with the audience.

The Sideshow Musical Revue: She Loves Me, He Loves Me Not + Hot Dog is this Thursday-Saturday (April 11th-13th) at the Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad Street). Show starts at 8PM. Admission is $5.

“I Allow People to Do Whatever the Hell They Want to Do” – Interview with Mike Marbach on Plans for ‘The Sideshow’ in 2013

by Pat Reber

The Sideshow is a real gem. It’s the epitome of the local, DIY, low production/high entertainment experimental variety shows that we comedy nerds go crazy for. I attended last Friday’s The Sideshow: Happy New Year featuring Malone, Gross Butler and Daring Daulton. The show was already packed when I arrived, with audience members filling every seat and standing against the walls of the cozy studio. More impressive than the audience’s number, though, was how truly engaged we all were from start to finish. Our laughter rolled consistently throughout the entire two-hour show, and turned from chuckles to outright squeals during each set. We were treated to seamless and hilarious improv from Malone and Gross Butler, awkwardly brilliant sketch comedy from Daring Daulton, and a fantastic reading by host Luke Field of a rambling 12-page apology letter to Claritin written by Sideshow creator Mike Marbach.

Marbach is clearly very passionate about this show, and with good reason.  After the show, I caught up with him to find out what exciting plans he has for The Sideshow in 2013:

Spellbound (January 12th)

“The twelfth is going to be pretty different.  Kristen Schier is going to be doing clowning.  There’s an improv trio that formed out of the Sideshow Troika last year, called Chaperone. Lizzie Spellman, who is a local improviser but also sings and plays ukulele, is going to be the host/musical guest of the show, so she’ll be doing different songs throughout the show, in between the other acts.  And then the Necrosexual, which is Jimmy Viola’s thing. I’ve never seen it, I really don’t know what it is, which just goes to show I’ll allow people to do whatever the hell they want to do. I’m sure it’s going to be a good time.”

The 2013 Improv Oscars Jam (February 22nd):

“This will be the third year we’ve done the Improv Oscars Jam, which takes place the weekend of the Oscars. People get dressed up and come out. They have the opportunity to play a bunch of movie-related short-form improv games, some with different multimedia connections. We’ll show a 30-second clip of a movie that came out in 2012, and then people do scenes inspired by that clip. We’ll do live sketches that are movie-inspired. People are encouraged to film different parodies of films that came out in 2012, and we’ll show those on the [projection] screen. There’s food, there’s drinks. This will be the third year, and each one has gotten bigger, and better attended, and it’s always a really good time.”

Freaky Friday (March 15th)

“There is one coming up in March, which I’m calling Sideshow: Freaky Friday, where a bunch of improvisers who haven’t done stand-up before, that’s their chance to do it. And then I want to grab a bunch of stand-ups who haven’t improvised before, and have them do that. So people will get a better appreciation of each other’s art, and how difficult it can actually be, and fun at the same time. So that could be really funny. Or it could be terrible, which is okay. Like I said, I allow people to experiment and do whatever the hell they want to do.”

Musical Revue (Date TBD)

“March or April will be probably one of the biggest things we’ve done with Sideshow. We’ve done one-acts, we’ve done the Oscars Jam, we hosted the Troika last year, but this is going to be a musical revue. It’s going to be a love/hate theme, where it’s going to mix Broadway songs, popular songs, and some original stuff thrown in there as well. It’s going to be all tied together through different stories, and personal things like that. The idea is to be funny, but there will be a lot of vulnerability in there, too. The cast is made up, so far—it’s not official yet, so I don’t want to say just who—but there’s stand-ups in the show, there’s sketch comedians in the show, there’s improvisers in the show. People will get to see them do things that they’ve done in the past, but may not have the opportunity to do now, being involved in the arts that they are. They can show off their singing, or their dancing, or anything like that. It’s going to be a good time.”


The next January dates for ‘The Sideshow’ are the 12th, 18th and 25th.  For more information, check out The Sideshow on Facebook.

Pat Reber performs sketch comedy with the Win Show, and also has his hands in a constantly shifting menagerie of other projects. He’ll be on twitter @patreberyeah and he thinks you’re nice.

Top 5 of 2012: Mike Marbach’s Top 5 New-to-Me Bits of 2012 + Top 5 Acts Ruined By Members Selfishly Moving Away To Explore Other Opportunities

As the year winds down, WitOut collects lists from comedy performers and fans of their favorite moments, comedians, groups, shows, etc. from the last year in Philly comedy. Top 5 of 2012 lists will run throughout December, and slightly beyond, if we deem it necessary–if you’d like to write one, pitch us your list at contact@witout.net!

Top 5 New-to-Me Bits of 2012

These are things that have been going on for a while here in Philly, but that I just had my first real experiences with this year. And I find myself, my life and my future better as a result.

5. John Kensil’s Joke Photos of People that Just Died. Like JUST died.
I don’t talk to John often. Actually, I’m not sure we’ve ever had a conversation. Maybe we’ll fix that this year in an episode of the GETTIN CLOSE PODCAST. For now though, we are simply friends on Facebook. It’s worth being his friend on Facebook just for the pictures he posts after someone with at least a moderate amount of fame dies. The pictures are usually close enough to be a mistake, but different enough to be on purpose. Most recently for Stormin Norman Schwartzkopf he posted a photo of Jonathan Winters which made me laugh out loud and for some reason feel bad about doing so. The pictures define “too soon” and somehow make me think I’ve waited too long each time a death report pops up.

4. “Not for Nuthin Podcast” with Tim Butterly and Mike Rainey
I was sitting in the Shubin basement before the theme show. While simultaneously using my script to study lines and swat flies something caught my ear. It was a sound that to me is as at once nails on a chalkboard and sweet mother’s milk at the same time: two super thick Delco accents. They were just kind of riffing on the “iggles” and whatnot for a couple minutes. I asked if they would want to do it as an act in an upcoming Sideshow at the Arts Parlor. They did a set where they debuted the “Not for Nuthin” podcast . And they killed. It was the perfect blend of sports talk, topical humor, ignorance of topics and racism. Brilliant.

3. Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez and Bing Supernova
I’ve heard about these two for a while, but it wasn’t until Friday night that I actually got to witness the spectacle of each. The stars aligned to get them in not only the same show, but the same set. It was equal parts hilarious and disturbing. The uniforms of each from beret to knee highs to glasses and grease(?) were enough to make people laugh, but also serve to soften the blow of the foul shit that each would say. These two really are the DEANS of comedy.

2. #Friendship
I’m sure this has been going on for a while with Aaron, but I had my first experiences with the chants this year and it’s happened several times since. The first time I remember is at the Friendship Labor Day picnic on the parkway. Each time a tour bus would go by Aaron led the “Friendship! Friendship! Friendship!” chant. It happened all afternoon. At least 6 times with different tour buses, but same tour guides who also came to enjoy it. The funnest time for me though was when the Friendship chant was heard not as a tour bus was passing, but an ambulance. If an ASTEROID! had hit Earth after that moment I’d have gone a happy person.

1. Roger Snair
HERE’S JOHNNY.

Top 5 Acts Ruined By Members Selfishly Moving Away To Explore Other Opportunities

5. Tap City
4. Half Life
3. Camp Woods
2. Camp Woods
1. Beirdo

Mike Marbach is the Education Director for Philly Improv Theater, director of PHIT House Team Asteroid!, creator and host of the Gettin’ Close podcast and producer of The Sideshow variety showcase at The Arts Parlor.

Creator Spotlight: Gettin’ Close with Mike Marbach of Gettin Close with Mike Marbach to Talk about The Sideshow

When he’s not logging hours as Philly Improv Theater‘s Education Director or piddlin’ away time on conversations with comedy unknowns like Rich Talarico (improviser and writer who’s worked on a bunch of stuff no one’s ever heard of like Saturday Night Live) and Greg Proops (from another show no one’s ever heard of, Whose Line is it Anyway?) for his Gettin Close with Mike Marbach podcast, Mike Marbach‘s other regular gig is producing The Sideshow at The Arts Parlor. We sat down before Mike had to coach a practice for PHIT house team Asteroid (yep, he does that, too) to talk about what goes into producing a successful comedy showcase, and what’s next for Sideshow this season.

Alison Zeidman: How did Sideshow start? Give me the origin story.

Mike Marbach: I [originally] wanted to do it in Chicago. In Chicago I was part of a group called Club Group Team, and we did a form that was very organic, very much like ZaoGao does now, a form called Punchline. And then there was also this form that somebody would do called Kumate, which was an improvised martial arts thing, and then what I wanted to do was have a revolving third spot, which would be something else that was completely different. It wasn’t picked up. So, when I moved to Philly, I still had the idea in mind and because PHIT only has The Shubin two weeks out of every month, and I wanted something to fill that space, because I teach a lot, and I had a lot of students in classes that weren’t seeing shows. There would be some weeks where there were zero improv shows to see, and I hated that. So that’s one of the main reasons I started Sideshow, just to fill the in the gaps between PHIT weeks, so there would be at least one improv show to see each week.

AZ: But the idea is that it’s its own entitity, too, right? It’s not just something to do because you can’t go to PHIT?

MM: Right. It’s not an extension of PHIT. Your [free student] pass is no good at Sideshow. Because one of the other reasons I started it is that I wanted to have a low-cost place that allowed me to just give the money back. I don’t make anything from doing Sideshow. The Arts Parlor costs very little to rent, and then any money above that goes right back to the performers, so it’s pretty much whoever they can get to come out, because I don’t do much in the way of advertising. Actually I didn’t used to, now I’m starting to do a little bit more, becuase of course the more people that come to the show, the more money the performers make.

AZ: So are those the primary goals? More opportunities to be able to see comedy and see improv, and also more opportunities for performers to make a profit?

MM: Yeah, and there’s a few other things to it too. There were groups that were popping up and premiering their act at places like CAGEMATCH or a festival, like the Philly Improv Festival or F Harold Festival or Duofest, and that’s cool and all, but if I was improvising in those gorups I would definitely not want my first show to be in a high-pressure environment such as a festival. I’d much rather do it in a more controlled, fun, supportive environment—not to say that those aren’t, but I mean, you can pack this place with as many people as you want, with your friends, with your family, and you have a lot less control like that at other shows.

AZ: So people can use it as a testing ground.

MM: Yeah. And that was one of the main ideas especially at the start, definitely more experimental. I really envisioned it just being more of a show for performers, rather than a show for anybody else. I didn’t think it would grow the improv scene by any means, I just wanted a place where people could cut loose and do something that was different. Then that started growing pretty fast.

AZ: Have you ever had to turn someone down, if they pitched an act and it was just too weird?

MM: No, nobody’s ever been turned down. People have been postponed, because [it's become very popular], but I’ve never turned anybody down for it.

AZ: Since it’s an extension of the improv scene and a place to see more performances but also a place for people to workshop things, who would you say is the primary audience? Is it more insular, or open to the general public?

MM: At first the main idea was that it would definitely be an insular show for performers, but even after the first show I quickly learned that that wasn’t really the case. Maybe because of the fact that it all comes down to the money of things, that people know that the more people they bring to the show the more money they walk away with. But we definitely do get a lot of performers too, because as friends of each other we love seeing people step out of their comfort zones and do things that they don’t normally do, or be in a space that they’re not normally in.

AZ: Yeah it’s interesting, whenever I’ve come to a Sideshow it’s always been really packed, even though you’re saying historically you haven’t done too much marketing for it. But you said you’re starting to try to do some more of your own promoting, instead of just leaving it to the performers?

MM: I could, but I kind of like leaving it to the people. I mean I produce the show, and I book the acts with the help of the guys from Beirdo, but it started off mostly just people that were in the shows doing the publicizing, and it kind of remains that way. I like the producing of it, the booking, but beyond that I don’t really want to have that much to do with it. I don’t know, it’s done well so far without me pushing anything: We’ve gotten the attention of different papers, different online blogs and things like that, and we’ve been able to do partnerships with Troika that have been really successful…plus, there’s only so many chairs.

AZ: Can you talk a little more about what really goes into putting on your own show? What you’ve learned, or maybe what advice you might give to somebody who wanted to start their own thing?

MM: Find a place that’s cheap enough, because there may be nights when you’re not going to make the rent. Don’t pick a place where you’re going to consistently lose money—and that’s where the Parlor’s been fantastic.

AZ: How did you find this place?

MM: Asteroid has practiced here weekly for about two years, and there was a group I used to coach called Leo Callahan who used to do shows here about once a month before they split, so I just kind of picked it up after they were done. Um…what else…ask admission. Ask people to pay for your shows. Free shows are cool, but I really feel that what we do has value, and maybe I’m only putting the value of $5 on it, but that’s also because I want it to be super accessible. Plus it fits the space. This isn’t a theater; this is a converted, sweaty dance studio. And really think about what kind of show you ‘re trying to put on. Think about if you want to do a variety show, or if you really just want to do an improv show. And vary up the acts within that as well. On Sideshow I’m not going to book three duos in a row, not just because duos can bring in less people—that’s one of the reasons, sure—but also because I wouldn’t want to sit and watch three duos in a row. And just make sure it’s a good show, make sure it looks good. People that know me know that I’m very big on dress code. I’m not asking people to wear suits and ties when they come to a Sideshow show, but I want them to step up, I guess. Make it a production, just raise the production value. I have to do whatever I can do because of the fact that this is a sweaty dance studio, so I want to make sure that that atmosphere of a show overtakes the crappiness of the space.

AZ: Do you have any tips for somebody else who might be dealing with a crappy space? Does that come in with lighting, or hosting, or…?

MM: Yeah, hosting is huge. Make sure people can host. I’m not a good host, which is part of the reason why I don’t want to be up there. And look at what you can do with the space. If you can clean it up, clean it up. If you can flip some things around and make it so you can control the lights, do that. When they were doing shows in here before, there were no blackouts, everybody ended their own shows. I’m very big on light pulls, when I’m doing a show, [because] my sense of timing in a show is not good, and I don’t want to have that worry. So do what you can do with the space that way, as well.

AZ: What do you mean? Did you guys get the circuits moved or something?

MM: [Laughs] No, we just moved the space. Like when you look into the room, where the curtains are [on the side], that’s anticipated as the stage. And they have like six lighting switches on the far back wall [on the same side as the curtains], so we changed it so that when you walk in, all the chairs are facing the front [and then we have access to the light switches]. And I block the windows during the summer so that the sun doesn’t come in, and I have just the front two lights on. It’s a very cheap way to go about doing it, but when you walk in you wouldn’t really know that it’s a cheap way to go about doing it, you’re not thinking about it, it just looks better than it really is.

AZ: So you said you’re trying to be hands-off with marketing and not really trying to make the show appeal to outside audiences, but it does seem like there’s a lot of thought and professionalism being put into this. Is that just because this is the way you want your show and these are your personal standards, or do you feel at any level that you have to compete with what else is out there?

MM: No, I’m not really trying to compete at all. It’s just something that kind of now has…it’s just kind of associated with me, so I just want it to be as good as it can be. When I say I’m hands-off for the most part, that’s the night of. But leading up to that I do everything I can to make sure the show is going to be good. And even though I say I don’t really do any marketing stuff I do make all the Facebook pages, and I contact different news people out there from time to time to try and get some things, but beyond that, not too much more.

AZ: We already covered this a little bit with the mission of the show and the benefits it has for performers, but is there anything you feel sets Sideshow apart from other shows in the city, even if you’re not necessarily trying to compete with them? Something that’s just a different element that you have, from the audience’s viewpoint?

MM: It’s going to be a well-balanced show. You’re going to see at least three different acts, whether that’s a stand-up, a sketch and an improv group, or three very different improv groups, you’re going to get a good sampling of comdy that night. There’s going to be something that you like. And it’s just the atmosphere in that room, in that sweaty dance studio, when it becomes Sideshow, which is so extremely supportive of people. We’ve had different teams debut there, we’ve had teams debut new forms there, and the mood is just kind of electric.

AZ: And where did the name come from? There are a lot of things that I could guess contributed to it, but is there an official backstory?

MM: Well, the original main idea was to show acts that you weren’t really going to see anywhere else, lots of new or weird things, almost like a carnival sideshow. People doing things they wouldn’t normally do, types of improv you wouldn’t normally see. Just weird concept things that people just wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else, that maybe aren’t quite right for PHIT.

AZ: Do you have an example?

MM: A lot of the Troika stuff. Troika in general—a lot of those things tend to be more concept-heavy, so that turned out to be perfect for Sideshow. So yes, it just goes back to seeing weird and different things. Which I’m still looking for. It’s not necessarily the prime directive anymore, so much as just giving people just another space to perform, and just making sure there’s a show once a week. We’ve been on a long hiatus because I also don’t want to take away from any shows that are happening. So when F Harold was going on I canceled a show, then PHIT had six weeks of shows, then we had Duofest, then more PHIT weeks, but now we’re back. And we’ve got the show this Saturday which I’m calling Short Attention Span Theater. You get up to 15 minutes to do whatever the hell you want to do. If you want to spin plates you can spin plates. If you always wanted to do a one-person improv set, or attempt stand-up, sing a song, whatever people want to do, they can do it.

AZ: What do you have scheduled as of right now?

MM: Right now it’s a little improv-heavy. I’m reaching out trying to get people to really vary up what we’re doing, to make sure we have some of that balance I was talking so much about.

AZ: From purely a producer’s standpoint, other than just scrambilng to fill in more acts right now, has there been any big challenge, or something that went wrong, that was a good learning experience? Or just a fun disaster story?

MM: Um, hm….not really. I guess I’ve been kind of lucky with things. It’s a very well-liked show, and there haven’t really been any problems.

AZ: How about any favorite moments?

MM: I’ve seen a lot of teams have their best shows here, which is awesome to be able to say.

AZ: Do you think that comes from the low-pressure environment?

MM: Yeah, I think that’s definitely one of the reasons, plus they get a crowd that’s full of people that they are bringing, so it’s all people who are there to support them. One of the days, if I remember the date exactly, it was November 18th, 2011—

Luke Field [coming in for Asteroid rehearsal]: Never forget.

MM: Yes, never forget. Iron Lung was debuting, there was the team Bed Savage having their first show, Get a Room also performed, and I think maybe Kristen [Schier] was doing some clowning. And there were about 100 or so people, and each team walked away with $85, and that was just the icing on the cake, because each team had awesome shows, in front of a fantastic crowd. So that was one of my favorite moments. Plus all of Troika, and I’m sure this Saturday and all of the rest that we’ll have will also be favorite moments.

AZ: Anything new that you’re planning for this season? It sounds like you’re really trying to push people to experiment.

MM: Yeah. We did a one-act play, Hidden in This Picture, which I directed last year, and this year I want to get some plays written by Philly people. That one was written by Aaron Sorkin, but I want to get some more original stuff so that we put on plays that were written, directed and performed by Philly comedians. So that’s one big goal this year to finally make happen, and also just to continue to put on some well-balanced shows and watch people continue to learn and grow. And to do whatever I can to keep Luke Field out of here.

LF: Did you get that on tape? He’s out to get me.

Look for updates on The Sideshow at http://www.facebook.com/#!/SideShowImprov and see the first show of the season TONIGHT (July 14th) at The Arts Parlor, 1170 South Broad Street (at Federal Street). As always, the show is just $5.

The Witout Podcast, Episode 8: Mike Marbach

Aaron is joined by Philly Improv Theater Education Director Mike Marbach to talk about the improv scene in Philadelphia. Mike talks about the PHIT core curriculum as well as their new Conservatory program. They also talk about Mike’s experience training and performing in Chicago as well as his approach to directing. Listen to this week’s episode below and subscribe on iTunes.

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Fringe Show Review: twenty-four

Twenty-four is an improv show in real time. There are no cuts or edits, no jumps in time or space. All of the action takes place in one location in the same amount of time it takes to watch the show. The format leads to the actors being able to portray rich characters and develop deep relationships in the twenty four minutes they are together on stage. Last night, the cast of this Philly Improv Theater Fringe production put those skills on display expertly.

Twenty-four is a two act show, with the cast performing two separate monoscenes. Last night’s performance featured two halves that showed off the cast member’s range of styles and characters. The first scene took place in a hospital where a cast of characters all waited for their mutual acquaintance, played by Emily Davis, to give birth to her child. The story revealed a busy career woman, eager for her baby to arrive so that she may return to work and the people in her lives effected by her lifestyle. Her sperm donor (Mike Marbach) was curiously present at the hospital, while it was later revealed by her sister (Cait O’Driscoll) that there may be something more than just a one time donation going on. The future nanny of the child (Jessica Ross) handed out balloons and worried if she would be a good fit to take care of the child. The “facilitator” of the sperm donation (Bobbi Block) continued her role in the hospital as she calmed people down and was there to lend a helping hand in all the madness. The mother-to-be’s assistant (Becca Trabin) came to deliver a present from the office, and ended up delivering something far more important (the baby!) All the action took place while an in-over-her-head candy stripe (Corin Wells) raced around a hospital she seemed to be the only employee of.

The strengths of the first act were in the strong character choices made by the cast. Each improvisor brought their own idea to their character and stuck with it to the end. Emily Davis showed the non stop work ethic of her career driven character even in the last moments of pregnancy. Mike Marbach did his best to remain supportive of the mother of his child even while those around him questioned their relationship. Corin Wells was overworked and exhausted as the seventeen-year-old candy stripe just trying to get community service hours so she can graduate. Becca Trabin portrayed the do-all assistant of a powerful business woman hilariously, showing how prepared one would have to be to be the right hand woman of a non stop workaholic.

The second act begins with director Steve Kleinedler telling the audience that a character of their choice will return for the second scene, and all the other actors would portray someone new. Becca Trabin’s character was selected by one audience member, to cheers of approval from others. The second scene took place in a beauty salon while the patrons prepared for their prom, or “practice wedding” or were just there to have their hair done by the saucy salon staff. The first act of last night’s show had characters entering and exiting the scene fluidly, changing focus and centering on different relationships at different times while the second act had more convergence. The scene began will all but one character (Marc Reber‘s salon worker – who would soon enter) on stage. Most of the performers were all on stage and in the scene at the same time, and the cast members handled the crowded scene excellently. Most of the time the conversation took place between a few characters while the rest of the cast patiently waited, flipping through magazines, or styling hair – but a few times, the stage was full of action with multiple conversations happening at once. The performers were adept, not letting the conversations become just a jumble of noise, but speaking up and quieting down to let the audience key in on the funny parts of what they each were saying.

Twenty-four is a sharply put together show with a diverse, skilled cast of improvisors that will make you care about the characters, draw you in to this moment in their lives, and make you laugh along the way.

There are still three chances to see twenty-four, tonight at 5pm, Tuesday, September 13 at 7pm, and Friday, September 16 at 830pm. All shows are at the Mainstage of the Adrienne Theater. Tickets can be purchased online.