Duofest begins today


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


Comedian Profile: Kelly Vrooman


Editors Note: In this segment, we step away from the stage and take a look at comedians in the Philadelphia area… Learn a little more about where they come from, what they do while not performing and of course the question we all ask ourselves… Why do we do it?


Might have seen her in: ComedySportz, Ladies & Gentlemen in Rodgers & Hammerstein Are Dead

Hangs her hat in: South Philly (Point Breeze)

Stomping Grounds: Mansfield, OH

Pays the Bills as: Actor. Yeah, that’s right mom, I’m doin’ it.

Other Hobbies: Painting, gardening, dancing, singing,  stopping my cat from scratching the furniture.

Why Improv?

An old boyfriend told me he didn’t think girls were funny.  I took that as a personal challenge.  Improv introduced me to some of the funniest women I know… and maybe I’m funny too.   Why improv?  Because girls are funny, because boys are funny and when we all work together to create something out of nothing, it’s genius.  My life has taken so many interesting detours because I’ve simply said, “Yes, and…”!

If you know someone who you think should be profiled, we’d love to hear about them.

Opening Tonight: Rogers and Hammerstein Are Dead


Tonight marks the long-awaited opening night of Ladies & Gentlemen: Rogers & Hammerstein Are Dead, presented by the Philadelphia Joke Initiative.

Ladies & Gentlemen aims to create full-length completely improvised musicals, with each new run of shows paying homage to noted composers and songwriters of musical theatre. Future runs may well be inspired by the songs and lyrics of Irving Berlin, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber or Gilbert & Sullivan.

First up however, are the darlings of the golden age, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein – known for such Broadway classics as Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King & I, Carousel and The Sound of Music.

Over the last few months, the cast (under the direction of Jason Stockdale) has been completely immersed in the world of the famed songwriting duo, studying everything from song structure to character archetypes to dance styles – making sure that what they belt out is not only on key, but also on point. Every night will be a different musical, yet the goal is to have each one ring true to the musical tropes that R&H became so famed for throughout the 40s and 50s.

Ladies & Gentlemen features: Kennedy Allen, Mark Bringhurst, Olivia Brubaker, Olwyn Conway, Rob Cutler, Apple Milkshake, Joe Sabatino, Kristen Schier, Kelly Vrooman & Alan Williams.

The show opens tonight (May 13th) with a grand reception, and continues through May 29th.


Blitzkrieg of Talent


Tonight the audience decides the fate of nine hopefuls in the Season Two Finale of Troika.

Who will go on to challenge PonyCoat in the Grand Championship? Will it be ‘Z’ For Effort (Jason Stockdale, Jay Brenner & Kelly Vrooman), with their stylized backwards format? Perhaps The 12 Seed (Gregg Gethard, Todd Schaffer & Cubby Altobelli standing in for Kristin Mellor) with their retrospective conversations? Or will it be Knots Gordian (David Dritsas, David Warick & Thomas Highland) with their song extravaganzas? Only time and the audience will tell…

Last season we had some stiff competition and methinks tonight will prove to be little different. With such a myriad of talent, backgrounds and approaches, this is going to be a fun night.


Troika Season Two Finals
Tonight, 8pm
The Actors Center | 257 N Third St
Tickets $10 at the door

ComedySportz Rookies Debut!


After months of intense training, the city’s mainstay gives the seal of approval on its newest competitors.

ComedySportz Philadelphia has been entertaining audiences for well over a decade with their “quirky, irreverent [and] impossibly funny” improv skills. (Source: The Metro)

Starting this Saturday, July 7th, you can catch their newest round of recruits join the ranks of this comedic institution. Debuting over the next two weeks are Alli Soowal, Kelly Vrooman, Kennedy Allen, Kristin Finger, Olivia Brubaker, Olivia Ciacci, Sean Roach & Susannah Beckett.

ComedySportz Philadelphia – Rookies Debut
Saturday 7/7 & 7/14 @ 7:30 & 10:00pm
Playground @ The Adrienne | 2030 Sansom Street
$15 General Admission / $12 Students / $7 Improvisers