Here’s a clip from CBSPhilly.com featuring AMIE ROE, KRISTEN SCHIER and MARY RADZINSKI talking about being female in comedy, many of their inspirations coming up, and what their ideal audience might look like.
Directed by Matt Holmes
Directed by Kristen Schier
There you have it folks. A hundred plus hopefuls, and PHIT has two new and very dynamic teams. We’re all excited to see how they come out of the gate…
– Get tickets for STAGE FRIGHT on the cheap. Tickets will be available through the run of this Hitchcockian tribute, but instead of paying top dollar at the door, get them before March 24th and save 50%.
4 – Get tickets for the N CROWD Anniversary Show. Nearly every show in 2011 has been sold out. The six year celebration at the RUBA Hall on April 22nd shouldn’t be any different. Get them before they’re gone.
3 – Submit to DÜOFEST. March 22nd is the absolute last day to submit to this one-of-a-kind comedy festival. Get your stuff together and get it in. T-minus six days.
2 – Confirm your PHIT house team audition slot. The Philly Improv Theater is looking to expand their ranks with two new teams under the direction of MATT HOLMES and KRISTEN SCHIER. Slots for the open audition on March 27th are still available but limited.
1 – Get tickets for the Roast of MEG FAVREAU. Forget Trump or Hasselhoff… Philly comedians know how to roast their own, and if last year’s roast of Kent Haines was any indicator, then Meg will be taking some big hits and snapping back strong before she departs for LA. This will be packed. Period.
In the short time since its inception, the ladies of the AMIE & KRISTEN SHOW have garnered a nice little following and high praise for their organic, rooted-in-the-now playing style. After cutting their teeth playing around the East Coast, AMIE ROE and KRISTEN SCHIER are now westbound… for the SEATTLE FESTIVAL OF IMPROVISED THEATER (SFIT).
To offset some of the heavy cost burdens associated with doing a trans-continental journey for a comedy show, they are having a fundraiser show tonight at the ACTORS CENTER in Old City. They will be joined by improv friends MEDIC and IRON LUNG for a few hours of laughs, from which the proceeds will appreciatively help them “not be broke.”
I had a chance to chat with the ladies about tonight’s fundraiser and their impending trip.
PHILLYIMPROV: With both A&KS and MattAnd performing at SFIT, this is the first time Philadelphia has been represented there. What are you looking forward to?
AMIE ROE: Wearing flannel shirts and listening to grunge! They still do that there, right?
KRISTEN SCHIER: We’re proud to be a selection… Mostly looking forward to going to the fest for the first time. I know only a few of the acts, and if they are any indication the festival will be a lot to watch and learn from.
PI: What about your show are you most excited to share with audiences?
KS: I am excited to share knowledge about the talented Philly scene…
AR: …bring a tiny piece of the amazing improv and comedy scene that’s developing here in Philadelphia to another city. It’s an honor whenever you’re selected to appear in any festival, and a real privilege to be an ambassador for Philly comedy.
KS: And have a blast doing our girlish romp of a show!
PI: Anything you can share about tonight’s show?
KS: (Tonight) is about being thankful for anyone who is willing to come and see our show… Any money we raise will be received with much graditude.
AR: We’re going to look really hot. I’ve been running a bunch and exfoliating… plus I got a hair cut two weeks ago, and I know my girl Kristen has been rocking the WiiFit.
KS: It’s about showing of some of Philly’s newest improv acts.
AR: We’ll be joined on stage by Medic, a collection of some of the most talented PHIT house team members, and Iron Lung, a brand new team that formed out of a PHIT level 201 class that I just taught.
KS: Iron Lung and Medic will be fantabulous!
The Amie & Kristen Show (Fantabulous) Fun-draiser Show begins tonight (2/11) at 10PM at the Actors Center, 257 N Third St. Tickets are $10 at the door. Additional information available here.
Some improv groups are born out of classes or pieced together through auditions. Others are spin-offs from existing groups. Even still, some are quickly cobbled together in the spirit of experimentation. Rarely, however, is there an established group whose cast is not known at curtain time.
MATT HOLMES (of Rare Bird Show fame) is half of the improvised duo m@&. The other half of the ensemble is still somewhat of a mystery. M@& (pronounced Matt, and…) features Holmes and a random audience member attending that particular performance. At the top of the show, he asks the audience if there’s anyone who’s never seen improv before. Someone pipes up or raises a hand and just like that, they’ve found themselves the unwitting star of the show.
Here and there he may encounter a small audience that’s entirely improvisers, and even in those few cases, he’s managed to find someone who might have taken a class, but has yet to take to the stage in a show. “There’s at least a few people who’ve been brought by a friend or family member” says Holmes, “and they don’t quite know what’s happening.” Many would agree with him, that this comedy amongst strangers makes things little more dangerous and exciting.
The name came about before the concept, as Holmes was looking to work with improvisers he’d met both here in Philadelphia and along his travels. Then, as it sometimes happens prior to creating new and interesting works for the stage, somewhere in the back of his head, he got the idea for an experiment.
While attending Cabrini College, Matt spent the earlier days of his comedy career running and performing with On the Spot, a weekly short-form show. He’d always loved the interaction with audience members that short-form thrives on. So when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped in head-first.
“Matt is the only person I know with the balls and ability to do it alone.” Michael Harris is the Artistic Director of Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) and producer of the Baltimore Improv Festival, which recently featured m@&. “For Matt to be the lone improviser and balance the dual responsibilities of carrying the show and supporting a novice takes a skill and generosity that precious few improvisers possess.”
It would seem that festival producers are apt to agree with Harris. M@& has been featured at festivals and comedy shows in places like Atlanta, Baltimore, Minneapolis and State College, to name a few. And he doesn’t show any signs of slowing. After his current run of six shows in the Philly Fringe Festival, he’ll be featured here in his home city at both Duofest next month and the Philadelphia Improv Festival in November. Kristen Schier, a producer for Duofest, thinks it’s pretty easy for folks to enjoy the show. “M@& is effortless joy. Holmes’ simple approach is they key to his brilliance.”
Indeed, simplicity would seem to be a driving force behind the whole project for Holmes. “I have this big, open loose thing where I can do whatever I want on stage.” He adds, “and what I want to do is have fun, make it easy for me and for my partner, and have it be funny for everyone watching. If my m.o. were more complicated, I couldn’t do this show.”
With never knowing who he might pull up, each night is gamble… where the only thing that’s certain is that the volunteer will be as much a part of the show as he is. “We’re a team up there. I’m not trying to make fun of them of just use them. We’re playing together.” Even with the more reluctant audience members, Holmes makes an effort to keep them in the show. During one performance, he had a girl who wasn’t quite playing along and was unsure of what to do. He could tell she wanted to leave the stage, and then she finally did. “(So) I do a scene where she’s back in her seat in the audience, but I’m serenading her.” It’s these different sort of moments that create fun challenges and take shows into interesting places. “I want the audience volunteer to think it was something fun that they liked doing.”
Sometimes the volunteer finds huge success on stage in the process. In Minneapolis at Brave New Workshop, the man pulled up had never seen an improv show before. In a scene where Holmes was a gunfighter, he’d accused the man of using his mother as a human shield. The man came back with a line about how he really didn’t technically kill her. Suddenly they found themselves in a chain reaction where the volunteer was indirectly responsible for all these deaths. “He found this really funny game for us to play… that was all him.”
That sort of playfulness seems nearly instinctual. “Once in a while a non-performer will come up with a killer line or know just how to play along.” Holmes has had people not believe that he doesn’t plan at least some of what happens. If the audience member is good, he’s heard people murmur about whether they were a plant. He also likes to use the suggestion in a very obvious way so that the audience can see it couldn’t be planned unless he was paying someone to sit there and yell it at him. “I’ll usually try to start something at first, at least to get us going… but I’ve started scenes later on where I’m just sitting there, letting my partner push us in a direction… I’m not plucking out improv geniuses or diamonds in the rough… It’s not a conspiracy, we’re just playing pretend.”
It’s said that one of most equally frustrating and complimentary things an improviser can hear after a show is that the audience doesn’t believe it’s made up. Recounting the recent m@& show in Baltimore, Harris attributes choice and openness as factors in making it seem so effortless. “Matt’s character choices not only drew the audience in, but led his scene partner out of his shell and into active participation… it was one of the highlights of the Baltimore Improv Festival.”
Nathan Edmondson and Alexis Simpson have been improvising with Holmes for the better part of a decade in their highly acclaimed group, Rare Bird Show. They’ve witnessed firsthand how easy he makes it to work with them. “Matt has (an) insane natural talent as an improviser and is a true student of comedy,” says Edmondson. Simpson agrees, “he’s like a wind up toy… just give him a word and let him go. He is probably the strongest game improviser I know.” They both feel comfortable and confident sharing scenes with him. Edmondson adds, “when you’re on stage with him, you can rest assured that the funny will happen.”
With any luck, we can rest assured that the funny will continue to happen. Holmes sees himself continuing this for some time. “It’s nice to have something that really challenges and excites me… I haven’t had any terrible, awful, shameful shows with this project.” He’s got a run of shows coming up here in Philly, and something tells me we’re likely to see him on the road again as well. “The show is just really easy to do while I’m visiting someplace, ’cause it’s just me… the audience is already there.”
Who knows who his next scene partner might be. “If an audience member can bring their 80-year-old grandmother or their 16-year-old cousin or their blind date and maybe see them up on stage in a comedy show, I think that’s an interesting night out.”
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?
Hangs her hat in: West Philly
Stomping Grounds: Lived in Chardon, OH up to 4th grade (about 9 years or so). I went to Unionville High School, however, I have lived in Philly longer that I have lived anywhere else in my life
Pays the Bills as: Teacher/Actor – Yea that’s right, I am trying to make a living at this stuff
Other Hobbies: I love to play the ukelele (though I am not very good at it yet), karaoke (which you don’t have to be good at), dancing (I am VERY good at) and clowning (weeeee). I also love to go out to eat and I love to go shopping even though I don’t have any money. I like when there are a lot of people around. I am a social creature.
Oohh geez, you had to ask that, didn’t you. I love to do improv because it is a big beautiful empty space to create theater and play with people. It is a place where I can take huge risks that have no real life consequences. I love improv because in ways to complicated to talk about now, I believe it makes you a better person. I love performing for people and making people laugh. I love collaborating with other people. It is probably the closest I will ever get to being a rockstar – unless I get a lot better at the uke.
See Kristen in these upcoming Fringe Festival shows
9/3, 9/7 & 9/15 @ 8:30PM | 9/10 @ 11:30PM | 9/12 @ 5PM
9/2 & 9/11 @ 8:30PM | 9/5 @ 5PM | 9/7 @ 7PM | 9/10 @ 10PM
Real Housewives of Philadelphia
9/3 & 9/16 @ 10PM | 9/6 @ 8PM
9/10 @ 8PM | 9/17 @ 8 & 10PM
If you know someone who you think should be profiled, we’d love to hear about them.