Duofest begins today

09/30/2010

Tonight marks the start of the first ever DUOFEST, hosted by the PHILLY IMPROV THEATER and taking place at the Shubin.

This weekend explores the joys of duos… two person improv that until now has never appreciated this level of attention. Kudos to the producers for locking in on a unique theme and creating a playspace for this abundant but underdeveloped corner of the improv world.

Audiences have four days of twosome love to take in, and there’s a lot of talent that’s going to be represented on stage through the weekend. You’re likely familiar with a lot of the local ones… the longtime partnership of Whipsuit, the organically fresh Amie & Kristen Show, the one-man duo with an audience member M@&, the newly retitled Rosen & Milkshake and even an old school reunion of Holmes/Maughan. All of the acts promise to be excited and fun-filled, but because weekend passes are long since sold out and I love lists, I’m giving you my picks of new, exciting and different duos you may not know about but probably want to make a point of checking out this weekend.

THURSDAY PICKS

Toy Soldiers
Kelly Vrooman & Alan Williams

Kicking off the list and performing tonight are Toy Soldiers. These are two local improvisers very dear to my heart, not only because I’ve played with both of them regularly through the years, but more so because I’ve been in the audience watching them. They’re individually fun to watch, and I’m really excited for the debut of them together in a premise that plays exceptionally to their strengths.

Gay Boy / Straight Boy
Steve Kleinedler & Dana Bein

Closing out opening night is this duo from Boston. As the title might suggest, one is gay and one is straight, but most importantly, both are hilarious. I’ve been able to play with Steve on numerous occasions, and he’s always a delight. Although I haven’t climbed on stage with Dana, he’s a joy to watch and makes some surprising choices. I’ve been waiting to catch them together in this show, and tonight I finally get to.

FRIDAY PICKS

The Cascade
Rick Andrews & Jenny Dunne

Rick is a Duofest producer and brings with him a long history of improvised stage work, starting out at ImprovBoston and continuing up through his current work with Magnet, where he met Jenny. Although she’s newer to the craft, she’s had the opportunity to dive in and train with some of the best NY has to offer. Now watch as these two carefully explore the nuances of perspective and change, reliving a single moment over and over, discovering how subtle choices define consequence.

Grandma Hates Technology
Mike Weiss & Jessica Weiss

A father-daughter act that is as quick and clever as it is adorable. They brought the house down and wowed audiences at PHIF last year, and since that time have been on a streak, killing stages at festivals all across the country. Anyone that has any doubts about Jessica’s age surely hasn’t seen that girl take on solid adult personas and bust out shadow characters with the best of them. Truly a unique show not to be missed.

SATURDAY PICKS

Scout and Handsome Rob
Marcy Jarreau & Rob Penty

It’s no secret I’ve had an improv crush on Marcy for years, from her days conquering UCB’s Project Improviser, clear up to the present, as her all-female ensemble Bombardo continues to be a highlight of PHIF each year. In this show, she reunites with Megawatt Team X co-star Rob (sending out some Imposters love) for a duo that’s sure to be filled with strong characters and bold moves.

Snake Pitt
Jake Schneider & Jonathan Pitts

One’s part of Improvised Shakespeare and The Reckoning. The other created Storybox and runs CIF. These are two Chicago greats, just doing what they do best. Sit back and soak it in.

IMP
Asaf Ronen & Karen Eleanor Wight

Local audiences may be familiar with Asaf and his work he’s brought to Philadelphia in the past. A wonder on his own, when you put Karen in the mix for IMP, you get something that really jumps a few levels. Mostly devoid of spoken words, this commedia inspired clowning duo communicates more effectively with glances and gestures than many improvisers could hope to do with an arsenal of verbal language. Fluid character archetypes, combined with often poetic and always hypnotic visual storytelling creates something that isn’t improv… because it defies description.

Landry and Summers
Shaun Landry & Hans Summers

This duo are married to the stage and to one another. Both Second City Alums, both determined to show California how it’s done… first in San Francisco and now taking up residence in LA. 25 years improvising together is no small feat, and here’s a rare chance for folks on the east coast to see what that kind of shared skill, knowledge, intimacy and trust can create on stage.

SUNDAY PICKS

Hodapp and Rothwell
Dan Hodapp & Natasha Rothwell

Two fantastic and funny people who NY is very fortunate to have. They won Magnet’s Improv Duo Tournament in 2009. They won my heart long before that.

Adventure Squad
Kaci Beeler & Valerie Ward

I’ll be honest that I’ve heard nothing about this show, nor am I familiar with the improvisers. But the show description alone has my interest genuinely piqued. Closing out Duofest, these ladies play awkward, quirky pre-teens living through a single day of school. Nostalgia and cringing humiliation are apparently on the lesson plan, and attendance is mandatory.

There are dozens of other acts running throughout the weekend, and you can get the details on all of them on the Duofest website.

FIRST ANNUAL DUOFEST
PHILLY IMPROV THEATER @ THE SHUBIN
407 BAINBRIDGE ST, PHILADELPHIA
SEPT 30TH – OCT 3RD


But What About The Ty In Tybrus?

04/04/2008

Sure we got Jon Gabrus’ take on Philly, but what about Justin Tyler? Oh, we’ve got that too:

By my count this is your sixth run of shows in Philly. What’s your favorite thing about the city?

JG: You guys keep inviting us back, and that is more than enough. We love the city, it is a 20 dollar Chinatown bus ride away and always a good time. (Greg) Maughan puts us up and puts up with us, and being able to do that is enough to make that guy a saint in the Tybrus bible.

JT: Our favorite thing about Philly? Besides official Tybrus mascot Brandon Libby? That’s tough. Something about Philly brings out the best in Tybrus, maybe it’s the crowd, maybe it’s how accommodating you guys are to us, or maybe it’s the whiskey that keeps sliding into our hands down here.

You’ve done a lot of different divergent comedy with Tybrus – in addition to your sketch show, You’re Out Too Far, we’ve seen everything from monoscenes to complete freeform improv. What can audiences expect on this run?

JG: Great question, and probably something we can’t answer just yet. We will definitely be doing improv, as to exactly what form we do… That is a decision to be made on stage. We like to just go up there and see where that particular set takes us. Sometimes it is just a matter of ‘wanna do a monoscene tonight?’ ‘Yeah.’

JT: I completely agree. Most sets we just make a decision right before we go onstage, whether it be monoscene or some other specific form. Then we do our Panda Warm-up and then we’re on.

You both have other popular projects you work on – Pig Brooch, Fwand, Sidecar, UCBW, writing and acting… what is it about Tybrus that brings you back?

JG: Justin is my writing partner/neighbor/one of my best friends (and I just say ‘one of’ in case he doesn’t call me his best friend I don’t want to make things awkward). We are always hanging out together, he lives a block away in Brooklyn, and we are constantly working on writing projects together, and a plethora of drinking projects. We have all these other projects going on but they are side projects. We know where our bread is buttered.

JT: Michael Delaney of Stepfathers here in New York once referred to Billy Merritt as his ‘improv wife’, and that is the best way to describe the relationship Gabrus and I have. Which one of us is the wife is a matter for public debate. Gabrus is my best friend (Things are not awkward), we truly do live about a block from each other and see each other on an almost daily basis. The first improv scene Gabrus and I ever did together was a race between Superman and The Flash. That’s a cosmic alliance if I’ve ever heard one.

We see a lot of pretty crazy characters come out on stage. But when watching it’s clear there’s a level of personal investment – you own those characters as a piece of yourselves. Do you see a lot of your character work being autobiographical?

JG: It is safe to say that both of us are pretty crazy people on a very basic level. So all we have to do on stage is let our mask of sanity slip a little bit in a certain direction, and you have a fucking nutso character that is grounded in reality. Justin is a really talented actor and makes it look great/easy up there. But there is definitely a lot of ourselves or each other in our character work.

JT: To make a character real there has to be at least a little piece of them inside of you, even the ones that wear other people’s skin on their faces. Gabrus is two kinds of machines, optimized for your benefit: an idea machine and a commitment machine. Our characters can get crazy because of the unique and grounded environments that they live in.

We’ve also seen a lot of crazy coming out off stage. How much of what you do on stage carries with you when you leave?

JT: It all comes off with you and Gabrus and I have made it our personal quest to live out every improvised moment we create on stage. Especially our characters drink a lot and then take off their clothes.

JG: To be 100 percent honest this question can pretty much answer every other question. Why do Justin and I work together because we both are fucking nuts. It is so rare that you bump into someone in life whose sense of humor lines up almost totally with yours, and then also their outlook on life, and how they act in public is very similar.

JT: We’ve both performed with a lot of different people but we always come back home. Someday we’ll both live in a tiny bungalow in Key West, watching re-runs of Dawson’s Creek all day, writing a joint memoir that involves jail time. And our wives will be there too.

JG: We were meant to perform together or at least fight each other in a bar.

JT: We may be doing both this weekend.

Come witness the love yourself… tonight @ 10pm & tomorrow @ 8pm.  

Justin Tyler is a writer and actor in New York City, and a member of the late UCB Harold team Havana Clambake. He is a founding member of sketch/improv groups Cubicle and Sidecar, which perform regularly all over New York. Justin is a monthly contributor to Jest Magazine and the artistic director of Pig Brooch Inc., a New York based theatre company, which produced his play, Happy Mundanes, in the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival.


Putting The Brus In Tybrus

04/04/2008

It’s once again Shubin week for the Philly Improv Theater and this month’s special guest is the NYC improv duo, Tybrus. I recently chatted with Jon Gabrus on their impending trip to our city.

Jon, by my count this is your sixth run of shows in Philly. What’s your favorite thing about the city?

You guys keep inviting us back, and that is more than enough. We love the city, it is a 20 dollar Chinatown bus ride away and always a good time. (Greg) Maughan puts us up and puts up with us, and being able to do that is enough to make that guy a saint in the Tybrus bible.

You’ve done a lot of different divergent comedy with Tybrus – in addition to your sketch show, You’re Out Too Far, we’ve seen everything from monoscenes to complete freeform improv. What can audiences expect on this run?

Great question, and probably something we can’t answer just yet. We will definitely be doing improv, as to exactly what form we do… That is a decision to be made on stage. We like to just go up there and see where that particular set takes us. Sometimes it is just a matter of ‘wanna do a monoscene tonight?’ ‘Yeah.’

You both have other popular projects you work on – Pig Brooch, Fwand, Sidecar, UCBW, writing and acting… what is it about Tybrus that brings you back?

Justin is my writing partner/neighbor/one of my best friends (and I just say ‘one of’ in case he doesn’t call me his best friend I don’t want to make things awkward). We are always hanging out together, he lives a block away in Brooklyn, and we are constantly working on writing projects together, and a plethora of drinking projects. We have all these other projects going on but they are side projects. We know where our bread is buttered.

We see a lot of pretty crazy characters come out on stage. But when watching it’s clear there’s a level of personal investment – you own those characters as a piece of yourselves. Do you see a lot of your character work being autobiographical?

It is safe to say that both of us are pretty crazy people on a very basic level. So all we have to do on stage is let our mask of sanity slip a little bit in a certain direction, and you have a fucking nutso character that is grounded in reality. Justin is a really talented actor and makes it look great/easy up there. But there is definitely a lot of ourselves or each other in our character work.

doorbkgrdb.jpeg

We’ve also seen a lot of crazy coming out off stage. How much of what you do on stage carries with you when you leave?

To be 100 percent honest this question can pretty much answer every other question. Why do Justin and I work together because we both are fucking nuts. It is so rare that you bump into someone in life whose sense of humor lines up almost totally with yours, and then also their outlook on life, and how they act in public is very similar. We were meant to perform together or at least fight each other in a bar. Also Matt, I think the question could be even worded as how much of what we do in life carries with us on stage? Either way, we are excited for this weekend. I know personally I am going to ensure that Maughan doesn’t sleep at all.

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Tybrus performs tonight at 10pm and Saturday at 8pm. They’ll be joined by Holmes/Maughan, Tongue & Groove and the Ninjas. They will also be teaching a workshop on Saturday entitled Finding the Game.

PHIT @ The Shubin
407 Bainbridge Street
Fri @ 8pm: Tongue & Groove with Holmes/Maughan
Fri @ 10pm: Tybrus with the Ninjas
Sat @ 8pm: Tybrus with Holmes/Maughan
Sat @ 10pm: Tongue & Groove with the Ninjas
$10/show

Jonathan Gabrus is a writer and actor living in Brooklyn. He has studied improv under Michael Delaney, Paul Scheer, Billy Merritt, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser and Matt Walsh. He is a current member of UCB harold team fwand. He performs sketch and improv around NYC and beyond with Justin Tyler as part of Tybrus, their sketch show You’re Out too Far ran at the UCB for seven months. His other UCB credits include: Sketch Cram, Hot Sauce 4th Floor Walk-up, UCBW, The Documentary, and Glue Trap Theatre. Gabrus has written for Spike TV, Heavy.com, Collegehumor.com, Toyfare Magazine and ClipsQuips.com. He has appeared on Late Night with Conan O Brien, Best Week Ever, I Love 80s/90s/Toys, Spike Video Game Awards and many Internet shows. He can also be seen in a bunch of commercials and promos, usually as the slacker or shirtless slacker.

The Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) is the only longform improvisation theater in the Metro Philadelphia area. Founded in 2005, PHIT is a nonprofit theater company that embraces the art of improvisation as an end rather than a means – creating and producing improv, sketch, and alternate comedy shows in the tradition of theaters like Chicago’s Second City and New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade. To further this philosophy, PHIT offers it’s own take take on the theories and concepts behind good improvisation in a full curriculum of classes for performers of all skill levels taught by local talent and through master classes with distinguished performers and teachers from all over the world (including Impro author Keith Johnstone, Joe Bill and Mark Sutton of The Second City, and former SNL writer Ali Farahnakian). In addition to performing as part of PHIT’s weeklong residency at The Shubin Theatre each month, local improv troupes produced and presented by PHIT have toured extensively on the East Coast and performed in festivals throughout North America.


New In Town? This One’s For You

04/02/2008

Our latest advice question comes from a newb to our city – looking for the lowdown on longform. No worries, Alexis has your back!

Q: I’m not sure if you or “the asshole” still respond to these questions, because anything that I’ve found on the internet or improv resource center about Philly improv seems slightly outdated. No offense to Philadelphia, but much offense to the internet. My question is simple. I am originally from Austin, where I was involved with the short form scene there for a few years, after which I moved to New York and got a heavy addiction and a hearty obsession with long form at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre. Now, I’m living in Philadelphia for two months and I’m having wack ass improv withdrawals and I can’t seem to find what I need. Can you help me? Can you tell me where to score some good improv? Do you know a local improv dealer, preferably specializing in long form, but short form will definitely give me my fix.

Please help. It’s going to be a long 8 weeks with no improv!!

Your friend in improv land,
– S

A: Dear Junkie, awww shit. Welcome to the 215!

I do answer these questions, but it takes some thought and I am a slow thinker. The monkey in my brain is a silverback gorilla. However, your question is easy, and since you will only be here for several weeks, your question will quickly become outdated. Congratulations, improv junkie! I AM YOUR ENABLER!!!!
The Philly Improv Theater hosts a week of shows at the Shubin every month. If you are reading this April 2nd-6th, why we are having a week of shows this very week! This week we have Tybrus coming down from NYC to perform Friday and Saturday, as well as some quality local groups (Holmes/Maughan and Tongue & Groove). Check out www.phillyimprovtheater.com, for showtimes. PHIT also offers classes; they are posted on the internet, too.

If you are looking to play in, why don’t you try the Incubator (sometimes known as the Fakeout). It is run by a very nice man named Rick Horner; and it meets almost every Sunday at some place. Want more than just vague ideas of where things happen? Check out this post on the IRC.

– Alexis


From The Archives: Spotlight on Rare Bird Show

02/02/2008

In our ongoing feature revisiting the archives of PhillyImprov.com, we take a look back at the stories that make up our past here in Philadelphia’s improv scene. It’s great to see how some things can change so much, and others seemingly never do.

——————————————-

Spotlight on: Rare Bird Show
Contributed by: Matt Nelson
Originally published: January, 2006

One of Philadelphia’s premiere longform groups chats with PhillyImprov:

The Rare Bird Show is quickly becoming one of Philadelphia ‘s most reliable and highly demanded improv groups. The group combines clever and innovative ideas with a raw, natural talent for comedic timing. The format and competence in which they present their improv makes their shows incredibly versatile, and they are counted amongst the community as one of the more consistent groups in the area.

rbs-audience.jpg

In addition to their combined skills, each member is individually passionate about sharing their art:

Matt Holmes is a staff instructor for the Philadelphia Improv Theater (PHIT) and regularly conducts workshops and classes, sharing his experience and skills with people of all ages and backgrounds. He is also one half of the longform duo, Holmes & Maughan. [Ed Note: Matt’s information remains the same]

Alexis Simpson is heavily involved in many non-profit projects which promote not only improvisational comedy, but varying arts programs. She is a board member and organizer of the Philadelphia Improv Festival (PHIF). She is an instructor for PHIT, a member of ComedySportz and Hypnotoad and also coaches other improv groups. [Ed Note: Alexis continues ComedySportz, and is now the Education Director for PHIT and is a member of Illegal Refill. Although not officially disbanded, Hypnotoad has not performed in over a year.]

Nathan Edmondson is also a board member and organizer for PHIF and a member of Hypnotoad. In addition to coaching for PHIT, he has also been tapped as coach for Philadelphia ‘s first longform tragedy group, HellBaby. [Ed Note: HellBaby disbanded in early 2007]

All three are actively involved in the promotion of improv groups across the region, and creating collaborative projects that merge improvisers, comedy and community awareness.

PI: How do you feel about the progress that Philadelphia has made in making a name for itself in the improv world?

NE: I feel great about the progress that Philly has made in the last year or two in making Philly Improv known to outsiders. F. Harold was a great way to bring attention to the local improv scene to Philadelphians and the Philly Improv Festival was a tremendous success bringing in groups from New York , Chicago , North Carolina and some other places that I forget. The real success of the festival was the feedback we received from other improvisers. They were impressed at how smoothly and efficiently our festival ran considering that it was our first festival. They also were witness to the talent that exists here, as well as the enthusiasm that Philadelphian performers maintain for Improv.

MH: Three years ago, when I graduated from college and was looking for improv, I found only a few groups and none of them really fit me. You have to pay homage to those groups that were doing improv for years; ComedySportz, Lunchlady Doris, Polywumpus, etc. Now there are several groups, a lot of communication and collaboration among the groups, and a growing community doing a lot of interesting things. I think someone looking now is much better off than I was. There are a lot of different kinds of improv for different audiences and a lot of new people getting involved.

AS: It’s pretty fucking sweet.

PI: What could the local scene do to increase its audience base?

NE: I don’t think there are any quick fixes… Advertising and promoting shows is important. Offering interesting events instead of just “improv show”… Play with themes for shows or nights, mix it up… See Mike McFarland … happy hour improv is a good idea, so is dressing your group up like inmates in orange jumpsuits.

AS: Be brave and awesome!

MH: All Philly needs to do is keep putting on the best possible improv shows and never stop trying to perfect their craft. If people see a really good show, they’ll want to see more and bring their friends. A dedicated improv theater would be good, too.

PI: How does Rare Bird Show fit here? Is there something unique the group brings to the table?

NE: I think every group brings something unique to their shows that differentiates them from other groups out there. All three of us have strong performing backgrounds that are pretty different from one another; and as a result, we approach improv in different ways which benefits the group as a whole. I think we all hold a high standard for our work so we’re always pushing to improve… We see how we compare to the greats out there, would like to get there; but we also see where we stand compared to our first day and appreciate our development thus far. I don’t necessarily think that any of that is unique to the Rare Bird Show, but I think it helps us stay humble enough to know we still have a lot of work to do and that we might not always know what the solutions are. Man, once you think you know something, that’s when you spend several rehearsals and a show making stupid, remedial fuck ups.

AS: If your intention is to create the best work, it is a bad idea to stay in your own small world and be satisfied… To risk failure is to know brilliance.

MH: I think that we try not to restrict ourselves.

NE: How do we fit here? Pretty easily, three people don’t take up much space.

PI: At one of your recent shows, I witnessed a wonderful moment of agreement when a game of tug over a chair turned into a giant Ouija board. It was a beautiful example of organic discovery of a physical environment.

AS: That was my favorite part of the show.

PI: Do you think this kind of discovery lends itself more to establishing a stronger foundation for scene work?

AS: YES… organic shit is awesome and a fundamental part of scene work!

NE: The lesson… was trusting that the answer will arrive…trusting your scene partners… committing to whatever the fuck is happening on stage. Man-handling the work can often keep the genius moments from happening that come out of nowhere and are little, surprise gifts. I remember thinking…”shit, we’re just fighting over a chair …who’s gonna get it?” But I knew that was a very simple way of looking at what was happening. No one said anything for a second and a more interesting thought occurred to Alexis I think….”S” From there, we all just agreed and once we had a few letters, we had a word. From there, it was just important to react honestly to how you felt about that happening as your character of course, Stalin’s name being written on a Giant Ouija Board.

MH: We go wherever the scene takes us.

PI: Can you think of some other “untypical” ways you like to explore characters and environments?

MH: When Ryan Locante, from Dirty South Improv, asked us to describe our personal improv styles in one word, and Alexis blurted out Robot, Pirate, Ninja. I was surprised at how astute that observation was. It was so true that we included it in our Fringe Festival show description. I’m the robot; very methodical, almost like I’m trying to find a code for funny. Alexis is the pirate; she attacks the scene and smuggles the funny out. Nathan is the ninja; he’ll stealthily go in and surprise you with something amazing. I think one of the great things about Rare Bird Show is the combination of three different kinds of energies.

PI: Can you each give me one word that best describes a great improviser?

MH: Playful

NE: Responsive

AS: BRAVE!!!