Little Plates, Big Tapas premieres this Friday


Building on the success of last year’s Fringe show, HOW TO SOLVE A BEAR, The GROUNDSWELL PLAYERS – (aka LEO CALLAHAN) are mounting a new production this weekend in cooperation with the PHILADELPHIA JOKE INITIATIVE entitled LITTLE PLATES, BIG TAPAS. Billed as a ‘darkly comic offering’ – the show is a scripted play, workshopped from improvisation, and then subsequently fine-tuned under the direction of DAN PLEHAL.

L to R: Scott Sheppard, Jack Meaney


Set in a pasta joint, newly handed down to a culinary trained son – the show explores the comedic clash between big city dreams and small town realities as he attempts to turn the little establishment into a high profile tapas eatery.

SCOTT SHEPPARD, JESSE PAULSEN, JACK MEANEY and ALISON KING brought their previous experiences from How To Solve a Bear into the production, this time joined by long time Leo Callahan collaborators NICHOLAS MIRRA and NICK KERR. Kerr’s character even sets the mood with some piano playing.

While improvisation is a tool utilized by many writers during the development process, for theatrical newcomers like Mirra, the experience of honing and performing that material is something very different indeed. “I came to (the show) with the perspective of an improviser and writer, not an actor… it’s been an exhilarating and challenging process.”

For Mirra, the work has evolved from something familiar yet fleeting, to a body of work with real sustainability. “We tend to appreciate and then forget, because it’s improv and inherently transient… trying to capture, define and repeat is not something I’m accustomed to worrying about.” And it’s in that repeated execution that the reward becomes evident. “Everything we do on stage is imbued with intention and forethought.”

And just what can we expect from this little labor of love? I think Mirra sums it up best… “(the show) is a small-town comedy located at the intersection of food, family, love, loss, ambition, and Himalayan fungi.”

Little Plates, Big Tapas runs just four nights, Feb. 11-14 at the LATVIAN SOCIETY (541 N 7th St). But if you’re looking to catch a glimpse of this limited engagement, you’d best move quickly. Friday and Saturday shows are already sold out. Tickets are available at the Philadelphia Joke Initiative’s website.

Comedian Profile: Nicholas Mirra


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 him in: Leo Callahan

Hangs his hat in: West Philly

Stomping Grounds: Tacoma, WA

Pays the Bills as: Non-profit Fundraiser

Other Hobbies: ultimate frisbee, creative writing

Why Improv?

My introduction to improv was in college as a fall-back plan upon not being accepted into a campus sketch comedy group.  Improv comedy was fun, creative, collaborative, and a good way to meet people.  When UCB’s “Dillinger” performed at Haverford, my eyes were opened.  I think I laughed harder at their show than I had ever laughed at a movie, play or sketch.  What’s more, I was deeply impressed.  Their show made me realize improv’s sophistication, complexity, and capacity for deeply satisfying humor.

I have been doing longform improv for about seven years now.  Obviously, getting on stage and putting on a great show is a wonderful feeling.  I keeping doing it, though, because I still find improv deeply challenging and frustrating.  To me improv is a very intellectual activity, and one I enjoy thinking and talking about with my friends.  There are so many ways of approaching a scene and a show, and so many very smart people who have tried to articulate the essence of the cooperation that makes improv successful.  Improv can be frustrating to perform, because you never know how a show will go, and so much of the difficulty is hidden behind the curtain, so to speak.  An audience, particularly one not familiar with improv, may not realize all that’s going into the performance.  But when it works, oh boy, it’s a wonderful thing to watch and be a part of.

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

Friday: Leo Callahan with Rare Bird Show


Local rising improv group LEO CALLAHAN is all set to storm the Arts Parlor for their first show of 2010. The night will feature the debut of their newest member, JACK MEANEY, as well as a guest performance from the much exalted RARE BIRD SHOW.

For those of you not yet familiar with Leo Callahan, the group is a fairly recent addition to the scene that is rapidly growing in popularity… Featuring all Haverford Alums, three of whom were former members of Illegal Refill (RIP), these comedians are fast, smart and obviously a tight bunch. I’m excited to see what newcomer Jack brings to the stage and group dynamic.

L to R: Nick Kerr, Nicholas Mirra, Ali King, Scott Sheppard, and Jesse Paulsen. Not pictured: Jack Meaney